by Kumbirai Nhongo
Southern Africa is in the process of developing a common position on the use of biological resources for sustainable development.
The common position is critical to addressing some of the challenges facing the region, including over-exploitation and degradation of the environment, which has, in turn, reduced the quantity and quality of biological resources.
Biological resources are generally defined as any genetic resources, organisms or parts thereof, populations, or any other biotic component of ecosystems that have actual or potential value or use to humanity.
The SADC common position will serve as a guiding framework for the region in all its negotiations on biological resources.
Global negotiations on biological resources will be held during the forthcoming 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) to the Convention on Biological Diversity of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) scheduled for Egypt in November.
In addition to this, the Convention adopted two supplementary agreements -- the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization, also known as the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS).
SADC is expected to convene a regional workshop in June to develop its common position on the three global agreements that deal with biological resources.
The regional workshop is being held under the SADC Programme on Transboundary Use and Protection of Natural Resources that aims to improve the implementation of SADC protocols and strategies for sustainable natural resource management by regional and national actors.
A common position to CBD will enable SADC Member States to align policies and strategies for sustainable use of biological resources and sensitise each other on conserving such resources.
All the 16 SADC Member States are signatories to the CBD, which is also commonly known as the Biodiversity Convention, Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Nagoya Protocol on ABS.
In fact, all SADC countries have appointed National Focal Points for the CBD as well as for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and Nagoya Protocol on ABS.
First discussed at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 1992, the CBD entered into force in December 1993. However, the Convention was only adopted during COP10 held in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan.
The CBD aims to promote the conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from utilization of genetic resources.
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.
The Nagoya Protocol on ABS aims to ensure that the sharing the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way.
In this regard, the forthcoming COP 14 of the CBD provides an opportunity for the global community to jointly come up with strategies to mitigate the adverse impact of human activity on plant and animal life, including their ecosystems.
Biodiversity issues are a top priority for SADC. In fact, the region has a rich natural heritage of global significance to the world’s climate and biological diversity.
According to the SADC Regional Biodiversity Strategy, more than 40 percent of the region’s species are endemic, only found in their existing location.
South Africa ranks as the third most biologically-diverse country in the world, while in Madagascar, the richness of endemic species relative to the land mass area is unparalleled.
Lake Malawi/Nyasa/Niassa and Lake Tanganyika contain very high numbers of freshwater species while the Central Zambezian Miombo woodlands in Zambia and Tanzania are a centre of bird and butterfly diversity.
Botswana has Africa’s largest elephant population while Tanzania hosts the largest remaining population of lions.
Biological resources such as plant and animal products, timber, and wildlife tourism also account for a significant proportion of the Gross Domestic Product of SADC and are a source of livelihood for the majority of the citizens of the region.
In spite of this biological wealth, the region continues to face challenges of economic development largely due to difficulties that are frequently experienced in equitably and sustainably harnessing natural resource capital.
To address these challenges, SADC has developed various strategies to ensure that its biological resources fully benefit the peoples of the region.
The region also recognizes that successful conservation and sustainable use of the biological resources of the region depends on trans-boundary cooperation between Member States and beyond.
COP14 will be held 10-22 November in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. – sardc.net.