Global experts call for a paradigm shift to head off future pandemics

24 Nov 2020

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Melissa Angel, (Bonn)

GLF Biodiversity Conference ‘One World—One Health’ outcome statement presents four pathways for transformative change

BONN (24 November) – In the world’s largest biodiversity conference of the year, the Global Landscapes Forum(GLF) brought together 5,000 participants from 148 countries for the GLF Biodiversity Digital Conference: ‘One World—One Health’ on 28–29 October. The online event cultivated a global dialogue on ways to ‘build back better’ from COVID-19 while tackling the climate and biodiversity crises, featuring 261 speakers from across the science, policy, corporate and civil society realms, including Elizabeth Mrema, Peter Daszak, Galina Angarova and Benki Piyãko.

Reaching 35 million people on social media, GLF Biodiversity is the latest milestone in the GLF’s mission of sparking a movement of 1 billion people around sustainable landscapes. The outcome statement for the event identifies four pathways towards a paradigm shift in conservation:

  • Building back better: GLF Biodiversity rallied participants to develop a globally coordinated response to the human and ecological health crises, integrating the One Health and landscape approaches.
  • Placing people at the heart of conservation: The conference placed traditional knowledge and expertise at the center of sustainable development, emphasizing the need to include Indigenous peoples and local communities in decision-making processes.
  • Meeting commitments: Speakers and participants advocated moving beyond pledges and integrating local and global action on biodiversity into international policy frameworks.
  • Passing the baton: GLF Biodiversity mobilized a generation of future leaders, including young professionals and students, to take on the biodiversity crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a direct result of human interference with the planet’s systems, speakers pointed out, emphasizing the urgent need to bridge gaps between scientists, policymakers and the public through a One Health approach.

“We need to tear down the barriers between the public health, animal health and eco-health communities,” said Dennis Carroll, Chair of the Leadership Board of the Global Virome Project. “Viruses don’t care about these artificial barriers.”

GLF Biodiversity aimed to break down these silos by facilitating an exchange of ideas and proposals between diverse stakeholders to inform global policy. With the release of 15 white papers, the conference made an informed, unequivocal call for more ambitious action, backed by a range of policy recommendations from organizations including CIFOR–ICRAF, Nia Tero, GIZ, IUCN and The Borneo Project to further inform the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and CBD post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

Central to these proposals was the need to place communities and youth at the center of conservation efforts. Indigenous peoples and local communities steward some of the planet’s most biodiverse and often fragile landscapes, and their traditional knowledge can provide valuable tools against biodiversity loss. Youth participants made up a third of attendees at GLF Biodiversity.

“The relationship between people and nature must be one of interdependence,” said Tonio Sadik, Director of Environment at the Assembly of First Nations of Canada. “Otherwise, we risk overlooking something that Indigenous peoples have known all along: that we are nature, and nature is us. Failing to see this simple truth is what has gotten us into this mess in the first place.”

“We have to think seriously about succession planning for biodiversity conservation and use,” added Mildred Crawford, from the Caribbean Network of Rural Women Producers. “Our youth plays a critical role in this area because when we retire, the baton needs to be passed on.”

Editor’s note:

The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) is the world’s largest knowledge-led platform on integrated landuse, dedicated to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement. The Forum takes a holistic approach to create sustainable landscapes that are productive, prosperous, equitable and resilient and considers five cohesive themes of food and livelihoods, landscape restoration, rights, finance and measuring progress. It is led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), in collaboration with its co-founders UNEP and the World Bank and Charter Members. Charter members: CIAT, CIFOR, CIRAD, Climate Focus, Conservation International, Crop Trust, Ecoagriculture Partners, The European Forest Institute, Evergreen Agriculture, FSC, GEF, GIZ, ICIMOD, IFOAM – Organics International, The International Livestock Research Institute, INBAR, IPMG, IUFRO, Rainforest Alliance, Rare, Rights and Resources Initiative, SAN, UNEP, Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation part of Wageningen Research, World Farmer Organization, World Agroforestry, World Bank Group, World Resources Institute, WWF International, Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL).

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