Forest action plan could be major step forward

April 19, 2002

Friends of the Earth International welcomed today's adoption of an action-oriented work programme on forests by the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the Biodiversity Convention. The work plan was adopted after 62 hours of difficult negotiations as countries like Canada, Brazil and Malaysia tried to water down the draft work programme recommended by the Convention's scientific body.

"Despite the fact that these countries blocked attempts to insert clear targets in the action plan,it is a crucial step forward in international forest policy", said Maria José Lopez, co-coordinator of the FoEI forest programme. "It provides valuable guidance to countries on how to
effectively implement the legally binding commitment of the Biodiversity Convention to conserve and equitably share forest biodiversity and it addresses the real causes of forest loss, such as overconsumption, lack of respect for Indigenous Peoples' land rights and corruption. Now the
challenge is to ensure the political will and financial resources are being made available to implement this work plan. The World Summit on Sustainable Development should give clear support to this", said Lopez, who is from Paraguay - one of the countries facing devastating rates of deforestation.

Corporations get away with biopiracy

Nonetheless, FoEI deplored that the Biodiversity Summit had not taken more firm steps to prevent biopiracy.

Biopiracy is a practice through which large biotechnology companies rob Indigenous Peoples and local communities in developing countries from their knowledge and genetic resources by unauthorized use of these genes for biotechnological research and the subsequent patenting of the products of this research. These patents increasingly prohibit local communities and Indigenous Peoples from using their own seeds and other genetic resources. While the voluntary guidelines on access to genetic resources that were adopted by the conference recognize the need to prevent biopiracy practices, the Parties failed to agree on the need for legally binding measures.

"This is a typical example where firm regulation of business practices is necessary to protect the rights and interests of local communities and Indigenous Peoples," said Simone Lovera, FoEI's biodiversity project coordinator. FoEI has called for the World Summit on Sustainable Development to adopt a legally binding framework on corporate accountability.

Meanwhile, FoEI is alerting governments that negotiations within the World Trade Organization are increasingly undermining Biodiversity Convention negotiations on these and other matters. "The current trade negotiations related to agriculture, forest products, intellectual property rights and biosafety form a major threat for the effective implementation of the Convention," said Lovera. "The upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development should ensure that environmental agreements like the Biodiversity Treaty are fully respected by trade negotiators."

For more information contact:

Simone Lovera,
Coordinator Biodiversity Project
Ph: +31-6-10897827

Maria José Lopez,
co-coordinator forest programme
Ph: +595-21480182