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A spotlight on our mountain biodiversity

Pema Gyamtsho

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We’re keenly looking forward to the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to be hosted virtually by our member country China in October and in person in Kunming during April-May 2022. As you are probably already aware, our HKH region is an extremely important and special place for biological diversity and home to four of 17 global biological diversity hotspots in the Asia-Pacific. The deliberations and outcomes of CBD COP15 are therefore deeply significanct to us as a region.

COP15 is of particular importance because it will set directions and targets for the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which will have near-term implications for conservation efforts over the next decade and longer-term implications for decades to come. It is also of great relevance to us all since our region’s biodiversity hotspots are also centres of linguistic and cultural diversity. We have over 1000 living languages in the HKH, and they are a rich store of indigenous knowledge. It is therefore important for us to understand and push for biodiversity conservation to be viewed from a more holistic perspective with due importance to traditional ecological knowledge and everyday practice. At present, both the biological and cultural diversity of our region are threatened and we have to urgently remind ourselves and the global conservation community of this impending loss.

As part of our preparations for the COP15 meeting(s), we held a meeting on “Towards the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework: Retrospective reflection and setting priority actions for the mountains”, which brought together CBD focal persons and high-level representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan on 9 August 2021. The event served as a platform for delegates to share their respective countries’ successes in achieving targets and to take stock of what has been going well and where there is need for greater attention. This meeting also helped highlight where we stand as a region in terms of biodiversity targets and what areas we will need to prioritize and advocate for collectively.

Based on the discussions at this meeting, as well as our own analysis, it was clear that significant progress has been made in our region, especially on Aichi Target 11, which focuses on protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs). HKH-member countries have also made notable efforts in raising awareness among different stakeholders, especially local authorities, general public, youth, and school children. These are positive efforts, but there is still a lot more which needs to be done moving forward.

Of particular concern is our collective progress, or lack thereof, on Aichi targets 8, 9, and 12, which deal with protection of threatened ecosystems, management of invasive alien species, and protection of threatened species, respectively. These, together with all 21 targets proposed in the post-2020 GBF, will be extremely important for our countries and communities to address in the years ahead. More so, it will be important for us all to think about these targets not just at the national level, but also the shared challenges that these present to the HKH region as a whole.

As of now, the draft of the post-2020 GBF has not recognized mountains as a key and vulnerable ecosystem, similar to coastal ecosystems for example. Ensuring that mountains, their varied ecosystems, and biodiversity receive the necessary recognition and mention in this global agreement is an area that we will continue to work on collectively with our member countries. Our August meeting was one of the steps towards that effort, and it is looking promising.

Prior to this, since earlier this year, we have also been contributing to developing indicators for the post-2020 framework, took part in other related processes including the post-2020 gender action plan, and the involvement and participation of indigenous and local communities. Together with CBD Secretariat and UNDP India, we also published a Compendium on good practices in protected areas and other area-based conservation measures with 20 case studies from the South Asian sub-region. All of these engagements have been significantly important to put forth our regional perspectives as well as showcase our work at the global level.

In the coming months, we’ll continue to build on this momentum, which we’re confident will shine a spotlight on our mountains’ biodiversity and its importance for our planet.

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