He keeps a close lookout on biodiversity wherever he goes, keeping an eye out for changes to ecosystems, which he hopes, are for the better.
Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf travels from country to country spreading the word and here’s why. The Executive Secretary of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) thinks that environmental issues including protecting indigenous species and ecosystems should be the job of leaders not just at national levels. "We need to act at regional levels as biodiversity knows no boundaries. Birds have no passport to cross borders," he quipped.
In town for a lecture at the invitation of the Singapore Environment Council in January 2008, Dr Djoghlaf spoke of regional cooperation within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to implement decisions, training and work plans. The Secretariat of CBD also initiated in Singapore a ‘capacity building’ workshop on national biodiversity strategies and action. This was the first of a series of workshops worldwide that’s targeted at regional and sub-regional levels to integrate biodiversity into national policies and planning. Around 40 Asian experts participated in this workshop in collaboration with the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity that also signed an agreement with the CBD to help implement its goals within the region.
The newest CBD member, Timor Leste, has already kicked in its strategies to align its national plans with CBD’s 2010 biodiversity target: towards a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national levels as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all lives.
Cities a Haven
Dr Djoghlaf quoted from an IPPC report that predicted up to 50% of biodiversity of Asia is at risk due to climate change while as much as 88% of reefs may be lost over the next 30 years.
"We are experiencing the greatest wave of extinctions since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. Extinction rates are rising by a factor of up to 1,000 above natural rates. Every hour, three species disappear. Every day, up to 150 species are lost. Every year, between 18,000 and 55,000 species become extinct. The cause: human activities," he said.
In 2007, urban population increased more than rural population, which Dr Djoghlaf describes as a "new paradigm with far reaching impacts". Yet, he is sanguine. "Human needs are real for instance the need for space and living. It is therefore important to conserve the environment for human beings, which also opens up a new way of appreciating nature," he said.
Dr Djoghlaf believes that sustainable cities can make major contributions to biodiversity to protect the development needs of the people and alleviate poverty. Creatures too benefit. "Animals are finding refuge in cities now due to the greenness there, for example in Munich," said Dr Djoghlaf.
Tourism a Driver
Tourism can directly help finance the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and sustainable planning and management are in the industry’s long-term interest. "The business of tomorrow is green business," said Dr Djoghlaf, explaining that investing in tourism the right way can make money.
This is how the CBD helps. The Secretariat’s tourism activities help facilitate the implementation of the Convention through programmes such as island biodiversity, marine and coastal biodiversity, forests, and invasive species which are crucial to tourism issues.
"The powerful forces that shape the essence of tourism, including the human urge to see and experience the natural world, must continue to be harnessed to support the achievement of the goals of the Convention," he said.
Why is biodiversity important? Go to Planet for some answers.
What is CBD
At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, world leaders agreed on a comprehensive strategy for sustainable development - meeting our needs while ensuring that we leave a healthy and viable world for future generations. A key agreement adopted was the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
This pact among the vast majority of the world's governments sets out commitments for maintaining the world's ecological underpinnings alongside the business of economic development.
The Convention establishes three main goals:
1. Conservation of biological diversity
2. Sustainable use of its components
3. Fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources
Visit www.cbd.int for more information.
Photos by Mallika Naguran and NParks