Biodiversity – the bedrock of sustainable development

A selection of different quinoa plants

Over the last 25 years or so, the term "biodiversity" has become firmly established in scientific and political debate as shorthand for the wealth of living natural resources on our planet: biodiversity encompasses the diversity of animal and plant species, genetic diversity within species and ecosystem diversity.

Biodiversity is considered an essential prerequisite for ecosystems to remain intact and fully functioning. As the natural habitats of humans, animals and plants, these ecosystems form the very basis for our existence. It is therefore essential to protect biodiversity for the sake of the economic, social and cultural development of present and future generations.

Biological diversity is in rapid decline

In recent decades the loss of species and habitats as a result of human action has accelerated dramatically. Genetic resources and possibilities for making use of them, including some that have not even been researched at this point, are being irrevocably lost. Long-established crops, farm animals and medicinal plants are disappearing because they are apparently deemed no longer of any use. With their disappearance, we are losing traditional knowledge and that part of our culture which was shaped by these now extinct species.

The impact is greatest on those indigenous groups who have adapted their lifestyles over millennia to the natural environment and whose very livelihoods are now endangered by the decline in biodiversity.

Situation in Germany’s development cooperation partner countries

Oyster culture near Nouadhibou, Mauritania

Around 80 per cent of biological and genetic resources worldwide are located in the tropics and subtropics. Many of the people who live in these regions crucially depend on these resources as a source of food and medication. Forests for instance are the mainstay of over 1.6 billion people across the world. Sea organisms play a crucial role in ensuring food security in coastal areas, which throughout the world are some of the most densely populated areas of all.

We have already reached the stage where natural resources have been exploited to a point where they cannot regenerate on their own, which in turn means that key economic and development potential, so important in reducing poverty, has already been lost.

Sustainable development

Conserving biological diversity is an important aspect of sustainable development. Biodiversity contributes to the achievement of several development goals: reducing poverty, securing food sources, protecting water sources and soils, improving human health, mitigating climate change itself and its impact.

Developing countries, emerging economies and developed countries alike all bear a shared responsibility for the conservation of biodiversity. Political decision-makers, private-sector players, civil society and the scientific community must all work together for the long term to ensure that the very foundation of our existence is not destroyed.

In order to increase awareness in this area, the United Nations has declared the period from 2011 to 2020 the UN Decade on Biodiversity. Furthermore, at the beginning of 2013, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) began its work at the UN campus in Bonn. This advisory body is intended to be a means of promoting dialogue between science and policy, by producing and disseminating independent and scientifically grounded information on the status of, and trends in, global biodiversity.

German activities

The German government advises its development cooperation partner countries in drawing up strategies for the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity. Germany hopes in this way to ensure that the local populations draw benefit from intact ecosystems, whether it be in the form of eco-tourism, by marketing medicinal plants or through the careful stewardship (sustainable management and use) of herds of wild animals.

Germany is engaged in a wide variety of activities. Creating an enabling setting and the right conditions is crucial. It is important for local communities to take ownership of the measures from the outset and for them to be involved in both planning and implementation. In this context, Germany not only provides expert advice on legal issues, for instance, but also financial support.

Germany’s development ministry is also actively engaged in shaping processes at the international level. Germany was for instance a strong advocate for clear integration of measures to safeguard biodiversity within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Also, the German government is active in implementing the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and achieving the internationally agreed biodiversity goals under the auspices of the CBD.

The extensive financial commitments German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave in the context of the 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD in 2008 in Bonn are being consistently implemented. Since 2013, the German government has provided half a billion euros every year for the preservation of forests and other ecosystems worldwide.

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