|Objective 5.7 - Consider the potential impact on biodiversity, and in particular the invasiveness of species, in making import and export decisions.
The international trade may adversely impact biodiversity by introducing new species such as invasive alien species (IAS), GMOs or diseases that affect related species.
Many alien species enter Belgium unintentionally, for example through wood imports, or they are imported intentionally for use in many areas (agriculture, horticulture, pet trade, etc.).
It is crucial to consider the potential impacts on biodiversity when developing national legislation and regulations that deal with the trade in live animals or plants.
Besides biodiversity-related conventions, several international conventions and organisations are relevant when taking import/exports decision in order to avoid damages on biodiversity. For example, the issue of IAS is dealt by the following forums:
- The World Trade Organisation (WTO) was invited by the CBD, through its committee on trade and the environment, to take invasive alien species issues into account when considering the impacts of trade and trade liberalisation.
- The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is a multilateral treaty deposited with the Director-General of the FAO. Its purpose is to ensure common and effective actions to prevent the spread and introduction of pests and plants and plant products and to promote measures for their control.
- The FAO has compiled codes of practices to deal with alien species and has developed products such as the FAO Database on Introductions of Aquatic Species.
- The IMO International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (adopted in 2004) addresses the introduction of invasive marine species into new environments through ballast water, hull-fouling and other vectors.
- The CITES convention aims to prevent trade from having an impact on species by controlling movements of certain categories of endangered species. The CITES Animals and Plants Committees are working in collaboration with the CBD on the preparation of a list of potentially invasive animal and plant species to be included in the CITES appendices. The EC Regulation for the implementation of CITES within the EU provides a basis for controlling imports of certain species that are recognised as being invasive (Regulation 338/97, Article 4.6(d)).
- The ICES Code of Practice on the Introductions and Transfers of Marine Organisms sets forth recommended procedures and practices to diminish the risks of detrimental effects from the intentional introduction and transfer of marine (including brackish water) organisms (ICES, 2005).
There are opportunities for synergies between several forums and the CBD in dealing with the introductions of species that are potentially harmful for biodiversity.
On the other hand, experience gained (for example, experience gained under CITES in wildlife trade controls) could contribute to national and international efforts to avoid negative impacts on biodiversity.
|9. Invasive alien species prevented and controlled
|Objective 5.8 - Maximalise the advantages for health arising from biodiversity and ecosystem services and expand the collaboration between the interested organisations / public services.
Inadequate attention is being paid to the important contributions biodiversity can make to human health. The links between biodiversity and human health are complex because they are often indirect, displaced in space and time, and dependent on a number of modifying forces. Human health ultimately depends on ecosystem products and services which are requisite for good human health and productive livelihoods, such as water and air purification, the provision of food and medicines, pest and disease control, medical research.
Since 2011 the Belgian Community of Practice Biodiversity and Health (COPBH), facilitated by the Belgian Biodiversity Platform, tries to enhance biodiversity & health related science, policy and practice in Belgium. The Belgian Biodiversity Platform is a science policy practice interface related to biodiversity issues, and is funded by the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO).
In 2011, the Belgian Biodiversity Platform organized a Belgian Biodiversity & Health conference (Keune et al. 2013). This event was where the COPBH was founded. The COPBH facilitates an online expert registry and newsletter, and some research project initiatives emerged from bigger and smaller meetings of the COPBH. Apart from scientific partners, there is also collaboration with practice organization, both with policy institutions and NGO’s. Recently, especially connections to the health sector are strengthened with collaboration with a Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Province of Antwerp, with the launch of the Chair Care and the Natural Living Environment at the University of Antwerp. Within this collaborative context on October 4th a big networking event “Nature on prescription” (http://www.biodiversity.be/4035/) was organized with over 160 participants. Further, an advisory expert committee working within the framework of the Belgian Superior Health Council was initiated at the end of 2017, with support from the COPBH. The aim is to better connect to health care professionals and other relevant groups for collaboration. In 2016 the COPBH coordinated the organization of the European One Health/Ecohealth workshop in Brussels (see below). This is also an example of how the COPBH tries to enhance international contacts for Belgian experts and practitioners.
The COPBH tries to inspire research programs in relation to health and biodiversity topics, both at the Belgian and international level. An example is an overview of research needs and gaps which was produced before the start of a BELSPO research funding program called BRAIN, in order to inspire research calls regarding biodiversity & health; this overview was included as an addendum in the first BRAIN call where biodiversity & health issues were addressed. Further the COPBH works on mainstreaming & awareness raising by giving on demand introductory presentations, such as in 2017 in the Flemish Parliament, and support with state of the art overviews of scientific knowledge and practice projects. Finally, the COPBH also contributes to Belgian delegations to international processes such as Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystem Services (MAES), IPBES and CBD, focusing mainly on health-related issues.
Many species provide invaluable information for human medicine. By losing species, we lose the anatomical, physiological, behavioural information’s they contain.
Plants and microbes have long been, and remain today, an important basis for the development of medicines such as quinine, morphine, penicillin, etc. (approximately a quarter of all prescriptions are taken directly from plants or are chemically modified versions of plant substances and more than half of them are modelled on natural compounds). More recently, great attention has been paid to the potential development of important drugs from animals, some of which are often threatened by extinction.
By ensuring the sustainable productivity of soils and providing genetic resources for crops, livestock and marine species harvested for food, biodiversity also plays a crucial role in world food production and ensures a balanced diet (diversified agricultural agents maintain adequate food supply and prevent malnutrition). Furthermore, genetically diversified agricultural surfaces present a better resistance to environmental stresses, thus providing populations with greater nutritional safety.
Finally, accelerated biodiversity perturbations can have very negative impacts on the propagation of pre-existing transmissible diseases or even on the emergence of new ones, through modifications in vectors and/or target populations and in host-pathogen relationships. Studies of such relationships between biodiversity perturbation and increase in disease diffusion are starting to produce convincing results, as can be seen in the cases of malaria, schistosomiasis and also Lyme disease epidemiology.
There is a need to improve our understanding of the very strong existing link between human health and biodiversity, and consequently development. There should be particular support given to interdisciplinary research around these connected issues. The awareness of this link should be raised through educational programmes. Furthermore, collaboration between health and environment organisations and ministries should be improved to ensure that these issues are considered together when planning and implementing policies.
|14. Ecosystems and essential services safeguarded
|Objective 5.9 - Encourage the implementation of CITES with the aim of supporting conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity.
The aim of the CITES Convention is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Species that are, or in the future might be, endangered by trade, are listed in one of the three CITES annexes. If a species is placed on these lists, the trade in that particular species is subject to strict regulations. By continuous follow-up of the status of the population, trade in specific species-country combinations may be prohibited.
Belgium, as a Member State of the European Community, implements the CITES legislation through two EC Regulations together with the Belgian CITES Act of 1981. Different goals will be prioritised, with the goal of improving the implementation of CITES in Belgium in the short to medium term. In this way, Belgium has and will continue to explore innovative means of increasing capacity and improving enforcement for example by assisting in the exchange of knowledge and expertise at national and EU level.
Belgium has developed an online database system which allows clients to apply for CITES documents via the CITES portal website (www.citesinbelgium.be). This system is up and running since 2015 and facilitates the application for the clients as well as the handling of applications for the CITES Management Authority. A dedicated website is also developed which provides detailed information on the implementation of CITES in Belgium.
On the enforcement site a special unit has been set up that can undertake CITES investigations for the internal trade. This team comprised of 8 people not only covers the CITES controls but also those for the Invasive Alien Species Act as the European Timber Regulation, thus working in an efficient manner on linked legislations.
|4. Sustainable production and consumption
|Objective 6 - Promote and contribute to an equitable access to and sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources - ABS
The fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources forms the third objective of the CBD and is as important as the other two for the purpose of achieving the goal of halting biodiversity loss by 2020.
As access to GRs usually only involves taking small samples of material, its impact on biodiversity as such is relatively limited. However, respect for the ABS dispositions of the CBD and the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol once it comes into force, is of paramount importance to biodiversity as it could provide a direct incentive for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, in particular in the world’s biologically richer (but often economically poorer) countries.
Between 2004 and 2010, Belgium actively took part in the negotiations and development of a transparent International Regime on Access and Benefit-Sharing according to the mandate adopted at the 7th Conference of the Parties to the CBD. The adoption of the ABS Protocol in Nagoya at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the CBD on 30 October 2010, under the Belgian Presidency of the EU, was an essential part of the package that made this Conference a success (together with the adoption of an ambitious Strategic Plan until 2020 and of a Resource Mobilization Strategy) but it is also just the first step.
The Nagoya Protocol
In 2010, the Parties to the CBD adopted the Nagoya Protocol on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing arising from their utilization.
In the meantime, other instruments dealing with Access and Benefit-Sharing were also negotiated and / or entered into force, and are mutually supportive, as stated in the recitals and Article 4 of the Nagoya Protocol. Some of these are directly relevant to Belgium. For instance, Belgium ratified the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in 2007.
Belgium is bound by the relevant ABS provisions of the CBD, which provides the general framework for the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol, and has already taken several initiatives to implement the ABS dispositions of the CBD. This is done through its patent legislation and by developing a voluntary code of conduct to help countries comply with the requirements on Access and Benefit-Sharing for transferring microbial genetic resources (‘Micro-organisms Sustainable Use and Access Regulation International Code of Conduct, MOSAICC’). Furthermore, the Royal Botanic Garden of Belgium is a member of the International Plant Exchange Network (IPEN) programme of various EU botanic gardens for the exchange of plant material. IPEN allows participating gardens to exchange material for non-commercial purposes in accordance with the objectives of the CBD.
|16. Nagoya Protocol in force and operational
|Objective 6.1 - By 2014, raise awareness about the concept of ABS in the context of the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol, and widely disseminate information on ABS.
It is important to raise the level of awareness of users and providers of genetic resources on the CBD and related ABS provisions, including the Nagoya Protocol, as well as on ‘best practices’. As the ABS provisions of the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol are insufficiently known and can be ambiguous and difficult to understand for practitioners, it is important that more efforts are made to promote their understanding, explain their relevance and implications, and build capacities.
A first step towards an information campaign on ABS issues has been taken by Belgium by launching an analysis of Belgian stakeholders’ awareness of the ABS provisions, and the impact of these provisions on their policy towards the implementation of ABS principles. Following this assessment, Belgium has included several awareness-raising and capacity building activities in the Federal Plan for the integration of biodiversity in four key sectors (2009-2013).
Within the context of the national study on the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol, two stakeholder workshops took place in 2012. These stakeholder workshops had a dual purpose: raising awareness among stakeholders about the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol; and providing stakeholders with an opportunity to comment on the study and feed these back into the process of implementation.
An important supporting tool to exchange information on the CBD and its related Protocols is the Belgian Clearing-House Mechanism of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD CHM) which is part of an international network of CBD CHMs. It was set up to illustrate what Belgium is doing within the framework and the implementation of the CBD (Belgian CBD CHM: http://www.biodiv.be/).
In the Belgian development cooperation programmes related to biodiversity, which are implemented in the southern partner countries, support for the implementation of the national CBD clearing houses is a priority.
|16. Nagoya Protocol in force and operational
|Objective 6.2 - By 2014, ratify and implement the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization.
Belgium signed the Nagoya Protocol on 20 September 2011. On 27 October 2011, the Inter-ministerial Conference on the Environment confirmed that the “speedy ratification of the ABS protocol is a high priority for Belgium”. By 2015, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization was to be in force and operational, consistent with national legislation (Aichi Target 16). However in 2014, the first meeting of the Parties to the NP was expected to take place concurrently with CBD COP12. Given the long-term involvement of Belgium in the development of the Protocol, and its role as EU representative (2010-2014), it was politically important for Belgium to be able to participate as a Party to the first COP/MOP. It was therefore necessary to ratify the NP by 2014 and to start the process towards implementing it.
|16. Nagoya Protocol in force and operational
|Objective 6.3 - By 2020, have mechanisms in place to enhance national and global cooperation on ABS issues.
Access and benefit-sharing is a major CBD issue, but the issue of access, exchange and use of genetic resources is also of concern for other forums.
Some of the most important international forums addressing ABS issues are:
- The Food and Agriculture Organisation (International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Phytosanitary agreements)
- The World Trade Organisation (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights – TRIPS – agreement)
- The World Intellectual Property Organisation and in particular its Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore.
- The World Health Organization and more specifically, the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework for the sharing of influenza viruses and access to vaccines and other benefits
Better cooperation between CBD and these forums is necessary to improve effective implementation and ensure coherent and consistent positions in these forums.
There might also be a link between CBD and CITES on ABS issues where it could be relevant for CITES implementation authorities and CBD-related authorities to have a full understanding of ABS issues and how they might be affected by CITES implementation and vice versa. A better understanding of ABS issues could ensure that decisions taken under CITES and CBD are coherent so as to avoid misunderstandings or misinterpretations.
At Belgian level, coordination mechanisms under the Coordination Committee for the International Environment Policy should be further refined to ensure cooperation between focal points for the coherent national implementation of ABS related provisions under the different relevant processes.
|16. Nagoya Protocol in force and operational
|Objective 6.4 - By 2020, create operational mechanisms to protect the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
Indigenous and local communities are closely linked with biodiversity and contribute to its protection. Traditional knowledge possessed by indigenous and local communities on the possible uses of the biodiversity that surrounds them forms an important basis for the conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use. It is an important resource, particularly in the search for genetic resources of potential value. This age-old knowledge needs to be preserved and maintained.
Holders of traditional knowledge are key stakeholders in ABS agreements and initiatives. Article 8j of the CBD addresses specifically the respect, preservation and maintenance of the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It also encourages the wider application of this knowledge, with the approval and involvement of those holding it, on the understanding that any benefits that arise from the use of such traditional knowledge associated with GRs will be shared.
Moreover, the Nagoya Protocol reinforces Article 8j of the CBD by requiring Parties to take measures, as appropriate, in order that the benefits arising from the utilization of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources and of genetic resources that are held by indigenous and local communities (in accordance with domestic legislation regarding the established rights of these indigenous and local communities over these genetic resources) are shared in a fair and equitable way with indigenous and local communities (ILCs) holding such knowledge or such genetic resources (Article 5). Similarly, Articles 6 and 7 of the Nagoya Protocol require that Parties shall take measures with the aim of ensuring that Prior Inform Consent or approval and involvement of ILC is obtained (in accordance with domestic law) to access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources held by those ILCs.
Article 15.1 of ILO Convention 169 specifically recognizes the rights of indigenous and local communities to the natural resources on their territories, including the right to participate in the use, management and conservation of these resources.
Belgium participates in relevant international discussions and has subscribed to several processes concerning traditional knowledge. Traditional knowledge, innovations and practices should be recognised in access and benefit-sharing arrangements. The participation of representatives of indigenous and local communities in appropriate forums should be supported. Furthermore, the preservation and sharing of traditional knowledge will be integrated into those Belgian development cooperation or scientific cooperation projects that target indigenous and local communities as primary stakeholders.
Considering GMOs in agriculture covered by patents owned by multinationals, special care should be taken to avoid that their use would alter or eliminate traditional agricultural practices, leading to biodiversity as well as to social threats (cf. obj. 4c.7; 4d.3 and 4f.4). Moreover, transgenes being sometimes possibly issued from living organisms traditionally known for their interesting properties, equitable sharing of benefits arising from those genes should be promoted.
|18. Traditional knowledge respected and integrated
|Objective 6.5 - By 2015, have a functional Access and Benefit Sharing Clearing House in place.
The Nagoya Protocol in particular establishes an Access and Benefit-sharing Clearing House (ABS-CH) as part of the CBD CHM. The ABS CH should serve as a means for sharing information related to access and benefit sharing (art.14 of the Protocol). Moreover it has a role to play in awareness-raising including about the importance of genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources and is seen as an important tool to promote and enhance legal certainty, clarity and transparency in the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol. In this respect, one of the main goals of the CH should be to support compliance by contributing to clearness, transparency and certainty.
|16. Nagoya Protocol in force and operational
|Objective 7 - Improve and communicate scientific knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services
Effective conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity requires the correct identification and spatio-temporal monitoring of all its components at all its levels of organisation, i.e. from genes to ecosystems. Adequate knowledge of the status and trends of biodiversity and of the services it provides is a prerequisite for an adaptive management of the ecosystems. Yet we are faced with many gaps in our knowledge on biodiversity primary data and on the role of taxa in ecosystem functioning.
The consequences of present and future biodiversity loss, both for ecosystem health and for human well-being, are poorly understood, while the effectiveness of policy responses remains largely undocumented. Impacts of alien invasive species have been insufficiently addressed. Creating synergy between policy responses and research depends largely on our ability to improve and communicate our existing knowledge as well as the necessary additional knowledge on biodiversity.
Addressing the gaps will require (i) more investment and capacity-building in key biological disciplines such as taxonomy and ecology, (ii) easy and open access to biodiversity data and research information , and (iii) improvement of the coordination and communication between policy and research.
The aforementioned gaps are particularly prevalent in developing countries. The Belgian Government provides increasing support and funding to research and training, with the aim of improving knowledge of and capacity-building for biodiversity in these countries. These efforts will in turn contribute to improve the implementation of the multilateral environmental agreements ratified by these countries.
The operational objectives in this National Biodiversity Strategy draw on the research objectives in the Message from Malahide (Duke, 2005), in particular on Objective 16, the Killarney Declaration and Recommendations, and on the European Action Plan for Biodiversity Research (www.epbrs.org).
|19. Knowledge improved, shared and applied