Intergovernmental body the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) has launched its updated BioTrade Principles and Criteria, a set of guidelines for governments and companies to conduct biodiversity-friendly trade.
The term “BioTrade” refers to the supply and commercialisation of goods and services derived from a country’s biodiversity. Examples include the production of jujube in Myanmar or farming of queen conch in the Caribbean.
The legal wildlife trade is a global, multibillion-dollar enterprise accelerating biodiversity loss, with an estimated one-million plant and animal species now at risk of extinction, according to a United Nations (UN) report.
The threat is not only ecosystem collapse but also a heightened risk of new pandemics such as Covid-19.
The guidelines, first created in 2007, set out how the Earth’s precious natural resources can be traded in an environmentally-, socially- and economically-sustainable manner.
“Biodiversity is a global concern and priority. Learning from practices, experiences, legal and policy frameworks is key, as reflected in these updated principles and criteria, which guide practitioners in this field,” says Unctad deputy secretary-general Isabelle Durant.
The seven principles address issues such as conservation, restoration and sustainable use of biodiversity, equitable sharing of the benefits of BioTrade between different actors and respect for the rights of indigenous people and local communities.
The updated principles and criteria take into account experiences, best practices and lessons learned by partners and practitioners since the first edition, adding new elements such as climate resilience, marine biodiversity and sustainable tourism.
They also update elements such as workers’ rights, health and safety and access and benefit sharing under the Nagoya Protocol.
The principles and criteria seek to encourage trade and investment in developing countries’ unique natural resources, including various species of flora and fauna, genetic resources and ecosystems, while ensuring their long-term conservation and enhancement.
They have been implemented in more than 65 countries to date, with several examples of successful adoption by governments, companies and communities, Unctad notes.
Following two years of consultations with governments, companies and entrepreneurs, the updated principles and criteria reflect their experiences since 2007.
They are accompanied by an online BioTrade self-assessment tool to help companies and initiatives on their paths towards environment-friendly business.
The principles and criteria were updated as part of the global BioTrade programme launched by Unctad in 2018, with the support of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.
They are more closely aligned with key multilateral environmental agreements. They are also in line with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris climate agreement and the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources.
Partners of Unctad’s BioTrade programme have called for the updated principles and criteria to be reflected in the new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which will provide the biodiversity roadmap for the next decade.
The framework is expected to be adopted during the fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, slated for the second quarter of 2021. The partners have also encouraged more countries and stakeholders to use the principles and criteria to build resilient sectors, businesses and communities.