“Mainstreaming” the conservation of shorebirds
By: Rob Clay, Director of the WHSRN Executive Office
In December, countries attending the 13th United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Cancun, Mexico, reached agreements on actions to integrate biodiversity in forestry, fisheries, agriculture, and tourism sectors and to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 13)
Rob Clay, the Director of the WHSRN Executive Office co-led a side event at this conference (together with Matt Jeffery of National Audubon Society, and Scott Johnston of US Fish and Wildlife Service), also known as the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 13), focused on shorebird conservation. The side event highlighted the development of the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative, the Pacific Americas Flyway Shorebird Conservation Strategy, and the Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative, as examples of the new ‘business’ or ‘conservation investment’ approach to migratory species conservation. Manomet has been integral to the development of all three initiatives.
Initially signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is dedicated to promoting the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. Today, 196 countries are party to the convention (the only exceptions are the Vatican and the USA!) and it represents the global forum for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. The governing body of the Convention is the Conference of the Parties, which advances implementation of the Convention through the decisions it takes at its periodic meetings.
COP13 was focused on “mainstreaming biodiversity for well-being.” Over 6000 people participated, including 4,300 delegates from 170 countries and over 400 organizations (including Manomet). High-level agreements were reached on actions to integrate biodiversity in the forestry, fisheries, agriculture, and tourism sectors and to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
Why is it so important to promote shorebird conservation at a convention which is such a broad umbrella for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development?
Firstly, the effective conservation of shorebirds (and nearly all migratory birds) requires action beyond any one set of political borders. This has long been recognized in the Americas: Last year, the USA and Canada celebrated 100 years of cooperation to protect migratory birds through the Migratory Bird Treaty. And in Washington D.C. in 1940, while the rest of the world was embroiled in an armed conflict, countries from the Americas signed the Western Hemisphere Convention “to preserve all species and genera of native American fauna and flora from extinction,” including a specific provision for the protection of migratory birds.
But crucially, shorebirds link people, cultures, and development and conservation issues, and offer an extraordinary opportunity for international collaboration, covering issues as diverse as species conservation, poverty alleviation and climate change. As such, shorebirds have the potential to be excellent ambassadors for the biodiversity mainstreaming promoted by the CBD. Reversing the decline in populations of shorebird species needs both coordinated work throughout the “flyway” (the entire area used by these birds over the course of a year) but requires “working across all sectors…establishing effective institutional, legislative and regulatory frameworks, and incorporating an inclusive economic, social, and cultural approach with full respect for nature and human rights (text taken from the Cancun Declaration, the commitment to biodiversity mainstreaming made by the CBD parties at COP13).”
Not only does shorebird conservation require mainstreaming into other sectors, but the conservation investment approach to shorebird conservation pioneered by the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative (and adopted and adapted by the Pacific Americas Flyway Shorebird Conservation Strategy and the Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative) greatly facilitates integrating the needs of shorebirds with those of other sectors. Focused on a set of well-developed actions that link funding to specific, measurable conservation outcomes, the approach enables shorebird conservationists to answer the question “How many shorebirds can I expect to save with my investment?.” More importantly shorebird conservationists are also able to answer questions about key co-benefits, including health and food security, poverty alleviation, prevention of natural disasters, and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
These shorebird flyway conservation initiatives are well-placed to provide a road-map to implement the political decision, taken at COP13, to promote the mainstreaming of biodiversity and, in particular, the agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism sectors—all key areas for Manomet’s work.