By Bradnee Chambers
The upcoming eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP11) has shaped up to have one of the most important agendas is recent memory. COP11 will not only address proposals for a record number of shark and ray species, and iconic species such as the African Lion and Polar Bear, for which Parties are seeking urgent protection, but also key proposals to strengthen the Convention and empower it to protect migratory animals across the globe more effectively.
These are issues that go to the very core of making any multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) work better. Key amongst these are proposals for a review - or implementation - mechanism to ensure that Parties are meeting their obligations, reforms of the Scientific Council to improve advice to the COP and a resolution to bring greater coherence to the CMS family of 7 Agreements and 19 MOUs to share common Secretariat services.
The COP has a broad agenda and policymakers will focus on several important draft resolutions on the table. These include a resolution proposed by Ghana and Monaco concerning transboundary wildlife crime. A great deal has been done on this issue including several Heads of State summits in 2014 and a draft resolution that will be put before the UN General Assembly; but Parties to the CMS are coming at this issue from a broader angle. They are looking not only at the illegal trade aspects, which are extremely important, and on which the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) and other partners have taken major steps to combat, but also at other aspects of wildlife crime such as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, improved enforcement, domestic regulations and cross-border cooperation. In addition, they will also address other, lesser known species that are highly threatened or even on the brink of extinction. Other important resolutions will include one on marine debris and a proposal for guidelines on renewable energy and the creation of a Party-led task force to see how to reduce the conflict between wildlife protection and the development of alternative energy sources.
Synergies will play a major role at this COP and policy-makers will also be keeping a close watch on the proposal for creating common services among the CMS instruments, particularly among those administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Bonn-based instruments such as the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA).
The CMS synergies process that is happening now, and which will require the further backing of the Parties, follows the examples of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions – the chemicals cluster of MEAs - and moves CMS forward towards a common Secretariat and joint services. The initiative is an answer by CMS Parties to the direct calls from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and the International Environmental Governance (IEG) ministerial process for MEAs to work together.
A question that has long been asked is how CMS with so many agreements can collaborate to strengthen synergies with other MEAs when it has not solved the coherence issues inside its own family - charity begins at home, as they say. A proposal by Switzerland to improve synergies among the biodiversity-related conventions will thus be an important contribution, and follows a resolution passed by CITES Parties at their COP 10. Over the last 2½ years, the CMS Parties have been very busy developing a draft Strategic Plan that is directly aligned with that of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Once adopted, the plan will be one of the strongest tools for synergies, ensuring that planning and implementation done from the broader level of the CBD will be aligned with CMS' domain of protecting species across borders. Having CMS fully integrated into the CBD's Aichi Targets will assist with the integration of its work into National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) and other initiatives to implement the Aichi Targets.
The COP will be kicked off by the first CMS Ministerial High-Level panel on 3 November. The topic to be discussed is one that goes to very heart of biodiversity policy. This is the global debate concerning the rights of nature and the green economy. At Rio+20, these two approaches found themselves pitched as competing issues. There is a need for much more dialogue to understand that these are in fact compatible, and are two absolutely crucial ways of protecting the environment - one from a legal approach and the other economic. Ministers will engage in this discussion and a declaration is expected as the likely outcome.
And where better for the debate to be hosted than in Ecuador; one of the few countries in the world to have a constitution that recognizes the rights of nature. We are expecting a good turn-out of ministers from around the world and many from the Latin American and Caribbean region. The panel will be presided over by Ecuador's Minister of Environment.
So Quito is the place to be from 3-9 November. From the opening of the COP by Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado, President of Ecuador, to the Chair's final hammer; it will be a packed and important agenda that is expected to make major inroads to strengthening CMS and its ability to protect migratory species world-wide. But once that hammer falls, the rumor is that many delegates won't be rushing back to the airport too quickly, as many are intending to stay on after the COP to enjoy the famous and colorful Ecuadorian hospitality, and for trips to the unique Galapagos Islands, the Amazon, the Andes or sightseeing in the historic capital of Quito.