World Biodiversity Day (May 22) – history, vision and theme for 2015

Establishment of the CBD (Convention on Biodiversity)

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had recognized the contribution of biodiversity to the humanity’s socio – economic development and of it being a ‘global asset’ of ‘tremendous value’ to present and future generations as early as 1988. The late 80s was also a time when statistics on extinction rates were pointing to an anthropogenic (produced by man) mass extinction event underway globally. Thousands of species were at risk of being removed from the face of the planet as a result of human industrial activities. The UNEP responded by convening a meeting of biodiversity experts that year to discuss the need to found a convention on biodiversity.

In 1989, a Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts was established to prepare a legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. This group came to be known as the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee by 1991. The landmark moment came on 22nd May, 1992, during the Nairobi Conference, during which the written draft for the Convention on Biological Diversity was officially adopted. 168 signatures later, the Convention entered into force by 29th December, 1993. The first meeting of the Convention was held in the Bahamas in 1994.

The establishment of the CBD is considered a major step towards protection of biodiversity, which gained worldwide momentum and unified efforts from countries the world over to act for the conservation of our animal and plant species.

World Biodiversity Day is appointed

The United Nations General Assembly passed the resolution 49/119 on the 19th of December, 1994 in which it appointed 29th December as International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD). On 5th January, 2001, it passed another resolution (55/201) wherein it reaffirmed the need for spreading awareness among the public through the medium of IBD, because it was deeply concerned about the rapid loss of biodiversity worldwide. It wanted the date of the IBD to be changed to give it more exposure, because most Western countries have their Christmas holidays during that time. The date was subsequently changed to 22nd May in 2002, to honour the date at which the Nairobi conference was held.

The CBD aims to spread awareness about the conservation of biodiversity through various campaigns and programmes, with the IBD being one and the others being the CEPA (Communication, Education and Public Awareness) campaign and the Global Initiative.

Post 2015 vision for conservation of biodiversity

The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD held a conference in Trondheim, Norway where it discussed the incorporation of biodiversity centric strategies into the UN beyond 2015 Development Agenda. There it introduced two main topics – the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (for more information on the latter, please visit our blog). It recognized the critical need for sustainable development and maintenance of ecosystem services (economic and commercial services rendered to humans through biodiversity), which was discussed during the RIO+20 meet and was mentioned in the outcome document, The Future We Want.

A detailed charter was written, which would make for ensuring that the member countries of the COP would essentially include protection of and assurance of welfare of ecosystem services providing species, sustainable management of natural resources, conservation of critically endangered species and other such points into the global development agenda.

The convention agreed that sustainable development is critical to the eradication of poverty worldwide and the holistic socioeconomic development of countries.

Sustainable Development is the theme for 2015          

Each year, World Biodiversity Day or International Biodiversity Day celebrations are centred on a theme. Over the years, various themes have been decided, from forest biodiversity in 2002 to island biodiversity in 2014. This way the CBD brings the spotlight on a different ecological community, helping raise issue specific awareness and reveal the trials and tribulations of that particular community as it is exposed to industrialization, urbanization and other human activities.

For 2015, the message is loud and clear. The development of a country and the protection of its biodiversity are tightly linked, since biodiversity provides many essential services and goods to the people, playing a critical role in its harmonious development and eradication of poverty. Biodiversity provides us not just natural resources like food and water, but medicines, local employment opportunities, revenue through ecotourism, environment cleaning services and even the opportunity for psychological rejuvenation.

We must then incorporate sustainable development practices into our national development agenda, practices that will ensure our natural resources do not get harmed or depleted in the process.

Take part in spreading awareness

With World/International Biodiversity Day just a few days away, we need your support in spreading the message. Please share this article and our blog post with as many friends, colleagues and acquaintances as possible. You may read more about it on the CBD’s website. We all benefit from the species of flora and fauna around us by various means. If we do not safeguard their existence, we threaten our won in the long run. Our own backyard forests are now threatened – the biodiversity of the Aravalis is desperately crying for our attention. Be informed and contribute to the campaign to save the forests of NCR, our lifeline. Click here to sign the petition to save the Aravalis at change.org.

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