Waterbirds, the 2010 biodiversity target, and beyond: AEWA's contribution to global biodiversity governance.

AuthorAdam, Rachelle
PositionAgreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds
  1. INTRODUCTION II. THE AGREEMENT ON THE CONSERVATION OF AFRICAN-EURASIAN MIGRATORY WATERBIRDS A. Background B. Institutions 1. The Meeting of the Parties 2. The Technical Committee 3. The Agreement Secretarial 4. The Standing Committee C. Obligations of the Parties Under the Agreement D. Obligations of the Parties Under the Action Plan 1. Species Conservation 2. Habitat Conservation 3. Management of Human Activities 4. Research and Monitoring 5. Education and Information 6. Implementation of the Action Plan E. Implementation of AEWA F. Effectiveness of AEWA G. National Reports III. TOWARDS THE 2010 BIODIVERSITY TARGET: THE ROLE OF AEWA IN THE JOINT IMPLEMENTATION OF MBD A. AEWA as a Harmonizing Factor in Joint Implementation B. Challenges to MBDA Implementation C. Specific Obstacles to Implementation 1. Framework Agreements, Flexible Commitments, and Broad Scopes 2. Lack of Compliance Mechanisms 3. The Complexity of the Issue 4. Proliferation of MBDAs D. AEWA's Contribution to Joint Implementation of MBDAs 1. Conservation of Global Biodiversity is the Essence of AEWA 2. AEWA as a "Modular" MBDA 3. AEWA's Species-Focused Approach 4. AEWA 's Binding Commitments 5. Emphasis on Changing Human Behavior. 6. Monitoring Under AEWA 7. NGO Involvement 8. Migratory Species are Good Indicators IV. RECOMMENDATIONS A. Involvement of Civil Society B. Synergetic National Reports C. Use of Shared Indicators D. Joint Meetings E. Work of the Secretariats F. Alternatives to Compliance Mechanisms G. Use of Annexes Under the CBD V. CONCLUSION I. INTRODUCTION

    Tales of migratory waterbirds as depicted in the 2001 documentary film Winged Migration (1) transports the viewer into the little-known drama of the lives of migratory waterbirds as global migrants. Various species of waterbirds, including the white stork, the Eurasian crane, the red-crowned crane, the bar-headed goose, and the snowgoose, are accompanied on their migratory route by humans flying along besides them. The documentary depicts scenes of these strangely beautiful creatures both in flight and at their breeding and resting sites, hauntingly similar to us humans in so many ways--their devotion to their young and their anguish and desolation at their loss, at play and at war with each other, courting and family relationships, the intricate social structure of their fives as migrants. The film reveals the awe-inspiring migrations that millions of waterbirds undertake twice a year, over distances of thousands of miles from their breeding sites in northern lands to their wintering sites in the warmer southern lands, and then back again.

    The waterbirds' migratory path takes them over breathtaking, exquisite natural scenery in landscapes as diverse as the Arctic and the Amazon, as well as densely developed urban centers and heavily polluted industrialized areas. They are ignorant of the fact that the territories over which they fly and in which they rest throughout their long journeys are divided into separate political entities and their chances of safe passage have much to do with the nature of that particular political entity below. In addition to the long, exhausting migrations that can extend for thousands of miles, leaving the birds vulnerable to frigid arctic temperatures, storms, blizzards, and avalanches--all as unforgettably depicted in the documentary--the birds are also at the mercy of human created risks. They have to contend with life threatening situations: huge combines plowing agricultural fields on their breeding or resting sites, flying overhead only to be brought down with no prior warning by a hunter's bullet, flying through total exhaustion in search of resting sites that are no longer there, and, perhaps because exhaustion leaves no choice, coming to rest in a polluted industrial quagmire and stumbling into inescapable sludge. (2)

    Winged Migration contributes considerably to raising the public's awareness of the unique beauty of waterbirds, the wonder of their migrations, and their plight at the hands of man. Migratory waterbirds epitomize the concept of "global biodiversity": by virtue of their long, transboundary migrations they cannot be defined as national property or as a resource of any one nation, rather they are global citizens. (3) Exposed and endangered throughout their migrations to the vagaries of human behavior and to the changes that man has caused to the physical world, whether it be by hunting, agriculture, development, aviation, and more, we are accountable for the harm caused to them and thus the responsibility is ours to ensure their welfare and their continued existence.

    Approximately a decade ago the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds, or AEWA, (4)--a multilateral environmental agreement created specifically to conserve and protect migratory waterbirds--was adopted by the international community. However, despite its varied activities and its potential as a tool for global environmental governance in general and protection of migratory waterbirds in particular, AEWA is still a relatively unknown multi-lateral environmental agreement (MEA). (5) In light of multitudinous MEAs and the ensuing criticism of the existing fragmented structure, is AEWA yet another example of the phenomenon that could be called "treaty fatigue," created as a result of what appears in hindsight as the over-enthusiasm of the world community in the last three decades of the twentieth century in drafting, negotiating, and adopting a vast number of ineffective MEAs? (6) Or does AEWA's intentionally narrow and focused scope on protecting one component of biodiversity-migratory waterbirds--fill a gap in the existing governance system, and if so, how?

    The background against which this Article is being written is the issue of non-implementation of MEAs as linked to the September 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) (7) and its plan of implementation to achieve a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biological diversity by 2010. (8) The WSSD declaration was preceded in June 2001 by a statement of the heads of states of the European Union, which called for a "halt" to biodiversity loss by 2010 as part of a strategy for sustainable development, (9) and by the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biodiversity in April 2002, which called for a "reduction in the current rate of loss of biodiversity." (10) The 2010 target has become a globally accepted objective and in order to achieve it, biodiversity related MEAs together with forty-one governments and organizations have formed the "Biodiversity Indicator Partnership" to determine indicators to measure progress towards that goal. (11)

    The fact that we are not going to meet that target (12) does not detract from its significance; more than a target, the 2010 goal is a vision, shared by the global community and extending beyond 2010, that the biological and physical infrastructure for all life on our planet must be saved from the ongoing degradation that threatens it. And our vision will not disappear if we find in 2010 that biodiversity loss has not been halted; on the contrary, it simply means that we will fight harder.

    The purpose in writing this Article is twofold: both to raise awareness of AEWA and to examine its role in the existing network of biodiversity-related MEAs. This Article will address AEWA's contribution to the 2010 target of reducing biodiversity loss in the context of synergetic relationships among biodiversity-related MEAs and AEWA's contribution to a common strategy for biodiversity-related MEA implementation. (13)

    Biodiversity-related MEAs should be viewed as pieces of the puzzle of global biodiversity governance which fit together to disclose an intricate but entire picture of synergetic agreements, the harmonized implementation of which could perhaps contribute to reducing biodiversity loss. The issue is not a new one; extensive, elaborate, and intensive work on implementation harmonization has been done over the past decade and particularly today as part of the efforts to achieve the 2010 target, by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the biodiversity-related MEAs under its auspices. (14) A substantial number of bi-lateral agreements--Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs)--have been signed between MEAs as a means to achieve joint implementation. (15) Despite recognition of the importance of joint implementation, action has mostly concentrated on specific projects at an international or regional level while harmonized implementation on a national level has remained theoretical. (16)

    In light of the importance attached to implementation by the network of biodiversity-related MEAs and the challenges encountered in achieving it, (17) this Article proposes a "bottom-up" approach to biodiversity conservation. Some argue that the much-discussed problem of inadequate implementation of biodiversity-related MEAs derives from the nature of these MEAs as framework agreements meant to be implemented by "daughter" agreements or protocols, (18) or as "soft-law" policy instruments, containing a minimum of binding commitments and lacking compliance mechanisms. (19) Thus, a species-specific MEA like AEWA could be used as an implementer of policies by means of its detailed and binding obligations. This approach should be explored in the context of the present reality of inadequate implementation portrayed by the mind-boggling amount of literature that reflects the challenges and frustrations resulting from these inadequacies. (20) However, a caveat must be issued. The complexity of the issue of biodiversity and the consequences of its ongoing loss automatically rule out any one solution. Thus, this Article should not be viewed as a concrete proposal for harmonizing the workings of various biodiversity-related MEAs but rather as a "stone thrower" that will hopefully allow the reader to view the issue from...

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