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Photos and RealAudio of 15 May

On the first day of CBD COP-5, delegates heard opening remarks, elected officers, adopted the agenda and addressed pending issues. Reports were delivered on behalf of regional preparatory workshops, international institutions, SBSTTA-4 and 5, the Working Group on Article 8(j), the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Intersessional Meeting on the Operations of the Convention (ISOC).

Special Opening Ceremony: "Strength in Diversity"

At the head of the Gigiri Nature Trail, Tory Brevik, Director of UNEP Communications and Public Information, facilitated a tree-planting ceremony dubbed "Strength in Diversity." The ceremony served to remind COP-5 participants that each person is an integral part of the Earth's life cycle.

A Kenyan indigenous variety of the pantropical Cordia africana seedling was planted by Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNEP, Glenn Denning, Director of the ICRAF Development Division, László Miklós, COP-4 President and Francis Nyenze, Kenyan Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.
Naming this new site the indigenous "COP-5 Forest," Klaus Töpfer [front] emphasized the need to make peace with nature. Lásló Miklós [back row, far left] wished that the number of plants and trees planted could exceed if not equal those cut and eaten.
Glenn Denning stressed the significance of managing trees' multi-faceted features and benefits. He said the new COP-5 Forest symbolized the growing partnership between UNEP and ICRAF whose grounds it straddles.
Francis Nyenze expressed his wish that the COP-5 forest conserve rare and valuable trees indigenous to Kenya and sensitize his country's and other citizens about local biodiversity.

Opening Plenary
COP-5 participants were entertained by the Kenyatta University Choir prior to the opening of the meeting.
President of COP-4, László Miklós (Slovakia), welcomed delegates and overviewed the CBD's achievements during the intersessional period, particularly the Cartagena Protocol, SBSTTA's progress, the ISOC, the Panel of Experts on Access and Benefit-Sharing and the Working Group on Article 8(j).
Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary of the CBD, noted that the intersessional meetings and activities on biosafety, benefit-sharing, traditional knowledge, dryland and agricultural biodiversity, and review of the financial resources and mechanism have laid a solid foundation for the CBD's future development. He also noted the forthcoming ten-year review for the implementation of Agenda 21 and associated conventions.
Klaus Töpfer, UNEP Executive Director, noted challenges facing Africa, including conflicts and poverty, and encouraged investment in sustainable development rather than in managing conflicts once they arise. He urged awareness of the relationship between poverty and biodiversity. He lauded the finalization of the Cartagena Protocol and noted the signing ceremony to be held on 24 May.
Daniel arap Moi, President of Kenya, welcomed COP-5 delegates to Nairobi and noted that biodiversity is a vital resource for socioeconomic development and for the long-term well-being of communities. He stressed that the COP should focus on the development of a work programme for the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol, access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing (ABS), biodiversity in dryland ecosystems and sustainable use.
Immediately after his speech, President Moi signed the Cartagena Protocol, making Kenya its first signatory.

Outgoing COP President Miklós passes on the torch - and the gavel - to newly-elected COP-5 President Francis Nyenze, Kenyan Minister of Environment and Natural Resources
COP-4 President Miklós nominated Francis Nyenze, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of Kenya, as the President of COP-5, who was then elected by acclamation. Nyenze then introduced the provisional agenda (UNEP/CBD/COP/5/1).
The fifteenth GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY FORUM summarized its key conclusions, including that the COP should: recommend full integration of monetary and non-monetary goods and services of biodiversity into poverty alleviation strategies; ensure national biodiversity strategies and action plans take full account of the needs of the poor; ensure full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in the CBD's work on ABS; ensure that resource country measures are complemented by those of user countries; and adopt strong work programmes on agrobiodiversity and drylands.
SBSTTA-4 Chair A.H. Zakhri (Malaysia) introduced the meeting's report and recommendations (UNEP/CBD/COP/5/2). He stated that SBSTTA-4 addressed: SBSTTA's programme of work; terms of reference for expert groups; the GTI; status and trends of terrestrial biodiversity; alien species; technologies for plant gene expression; environmental impact assessments; and sustainable use, including tourism. He also noted SBSTTA's improved effectiveness in bridging the gap between researchers and policy-makers.
SBSTTA-5 Chair Cristián Samper (Colombia) noted SBSTTA-5's report and recommendations (UNEP/CBD/COP/5/3). He drew attention to the meeting's priority issues: the programme of work for dryland biodiversity; agricultural biodiversity; the ecosystem approach; biodiversity indicators; sustainable use; guidelines for the second national reports; and ad hoc technical expert groups. He also proposed strengthening SBSTTA's work, through: streamlining its agenda; intersessional mechanisms for scientific assessments; better use of the CHM; and strengthened relationships with other conventions and international scientific processes.
Ambassador Philémon Yang (Cameroon), Chair of the Bureau of the open-ended ad hoc Intergovernmental Committee for the Cartagena Protocol (ICCP), introduced the ICCP's draft work plan prepared by the Bureau, and invited the COP to endorse it. He said the proposed work plan addresses issues to be considered at the first meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (MOP-1), and activities central to its operation.
COP-4 President Miklós introduced the ISOC's report (UNEP/CBD/COP/5/4), which concentrates on two main tasks: preparation for and conduct of COP meetings; and further work on ABS with a focus on the Expert Panel's.

Side event: Unveiling of the new CMS poster

The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Secretariat inaugurated a poster exhibition created by Bonn school students. Arnulf Müller-Helbrecht, CMS Executive Secretary [right] and Suhel Al-Janabi, CMS German Liaison Officer [left], presented the official CMS poster and heard statements by dignitaries such as Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNEP and Hamdallah Zedan, CBD Executive Secretary.

In other CMS-related news, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi signed the CMS on behalf of his country, immediately before the opening of CBD COP-5.

Side event: The Sunshine Project's presentation on "Agent Green"
Ed Hammond [] provided background information on the USA's experiments with fungi intended to kill narcotic plants, including coca, opium poppy and cannabis. Targets for the fungi include narcotic crop-producing countries in Asia and Latin America. Hammond noted the fungi would be dropped from airplanes, recalling the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, thus the term "Agent Green." He opposed the experimental fungi, noting they could provide a threat to human health and endangered species, have not been tested on wild relatives of the plants, and are highly persistent (some staying in exposed soils for 30 years) and highly mobile through vectors including farm implements and animals. He encouraged the COP to take action on this issue to avoid a precedent that allows for the use of killing pathogens abroad while the user country deems their use undesirable at home. He further stressed that fungal pathogens are dangerous and, in some cases, in violation of Article 8(j).

Susana Pimiento [] urged the COP to: adopt a resolution establishing a clear precedent that the development of any pathogen to deliberately kill any cultivated crop is contrary to the Convention's objectives; assess the potential impact of narcotic plant pathogens on agriculture, particularly their potential threat to soil ecology and pollinators, under the CBD programme on agro-biodiversity; analyze the use of narcotic crop pathogens in light of the CBD provisions related to biotechnology, including the Biosafety Protocol; and request the Executive Secretary to urgently communicate to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, prior to its March 2001 session, the concern of the Parties that certain activities undertaken in international eradication programmes may raise questions with respect to CBD Parties' commitments to protect biodiversity and the biodiversity rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. For more information on the Sunshine Project, please visit

Side event: GEF/BPSP Consultation

The Global Environmental Facility Biodiversity Planning Support Programme (BPSP) held a stakeholder consultation facilitated by Ken Creighton [below, righthand side], UNDP-GEF BPSP coordinator. UNEP and UNDP implement this multi-donor initiative that supports National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans preparation and implementation and provides specialized biodiversity planning expertise aimed to facilitate intra-regional information exchange among national planners.

David Duthie, UNEP-GEF BPSP Coordinator [, on the left], highlighted the following BPSP activities: biodiversity information gathering, exchange and dissemination via list-servers and newsletters; the development of "best practice" experiences pertinent to issues emerging from National Reports and COP guidance on biodiversity mainstreaming, incentive measures and harmonizing the implementation of CBD and biosafety objectives with other biodiversity-related conventions; UNEP-led thematic workshops focusing on specific CBD objectives in the context of cross-sectoral national planning; UNDP-led regional experience exchange workshops; and publications such as Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans: Lessons from Asia edited by Jeremy Reid for IUCN and BPSP.

Regional collaborators and NGO partners spoke on biodiversity information-exchange activities and practical experiences from Africa, the Arab States, Asia, Pacific Island Countries, Central and Eastern Europe, Small Island States and Latin America. Along with participants, they highlighted the procedural challenges posed by coordinating and mainstreaming biodiversity-related efforts across sectors.

Manual Ruiz, Sociedad por los Derechos Ambientales (SPDA) of Peru [left], said that developing systematic yet flexible methods for biodiversity strategies and plans required further reflection as do approaches for tackling the economic and incentive aspects of biodiversity conservation, access and benefit sharing.

Participant Tony J. Onugu, Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme, suggested that BPSP collaborate more extensively with a wider group of NGOs to ensure that national governments develop biodiversity plans and strategies with civil society in conjunction with the appropriate national and international expertise. Sidestepping this concern somewhat, BPSP coordinators suggested that NGOs participate through the GEF medium-sized and small-sized grant programmes. For more information:

Side event: Crucible Group II book release

The Crucible Group launched its new book entitled "Seeding Solutions: Policy Options for Genetic Resources." The book's subtitle, "People, Plants and Patents Revisted", refers to an earlier 1995 Crucible Group publication that explored the genetic resource/intellectual property nexus. "Seeding Solutions" is Volume I of a two part series. Volume II will provide a menu of legislative options regarding access to genetic resources, the protection of indigenous knowledge and the promotion of innovation in classical plant breeding and in biotechnology.

Alejandro Argumedo, Indigenous Peoples' Biodiversity Network; Mita Nabek, African Center for Technology Studies; Chusa Gines, International Development Research Center of Canada; Nora Olembo, Kenya's Industrial Property Office and Susan Bragdon, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute spoke on behalf of the Crucible Group which includes over 45 experts holding different perspectives on food security, genetic resources and intellectual property. They emphasized the differences of opinion regarding the ownership and control of genetic resources, whether or not and to what extent biological materials should be subject to intellectual property claims and how biodiversity benefits should be shared. For some, the primary concern is financial or trade-related. For others, the issue relates directly to food security, human rights and sustainable agriculture. For others, the issue is one of linking development to biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability.

For more information on the Crucible Group II and their book, contact Michael Halewood [] or visit the IDRC web site at [] (some portions of the book available on-line from this page). More information is to be had in IDRC's Reports Online.

Side event: Diversity of the Cultures of Our Lives and Our Foods

A GMO-free indigenous Kenyan lunch dialogue, entitled "Diversity of the Cultures of Our Lives and Our Foods," was hosted by the Kenya Center for Indigenous Knowledge Systems and By-products (CIKSAP) and Diverse Women for Diversity (DWD).

Monica Opole, CIKSAP Coordinator [left], emphasized the importance of developing a culture of sharing regarding: indigenous, non-GMO agrobiodiversity innovation and knowledge; biodiversity materials for feeding and healing; culturally significant uses of indigenous biodiversity; and circumventing the privatization and modern biotech engineering of life forms.

Christine von Weizsacker, ECOROPA Germany [center right], said the potential scientific and cultural risks of GMOs are significant, so "don't eat them before we know more" and "just because it is from a lab does not means it is healthy or superior."

Vandana Shiva, Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology in India [center left], highlighted her institution's battle to promote the neem tree as a pesticide alternative and get the neem patent rejected. She stressed that GMOs are a crazy option since 1) they do not provide as much iron for anemic women or vitamin A for blind children as do indigenous greens, and 2) the loss of sacrificed nutrition resulting from GMO and green revolution agriculture destruction of so-called inferior Southern indigenous agrobiodiversity is rarely considered.

Wantari Mathai, Kenya Greenbelt Movement [right], stressed that diversity includes agriculture and people's identity reflected in what they eat and grow. Hence, destroying culture also means destroying biodiversity. She lamented the demise of indigenous Kenyan trees as a result of their declining popular use, particularly in light of colonial bas of local beer brewing using the Kenyan sausage tree and of local Kenyan deities worshipped in large wild fig trees. She called for democracy and environmental rights to forests, open spaces, clean and air and water for the Kenyan and all people.

For more information, contact Monica Opole of CIKSAP at [] or Salini Bhutani of DWD, [] or visit the DWD web site at [] (follow the DWD link).

As delegates geared up for substantive discussions at COP-5, the breezeways buzzed over what the key areas of debate might be. Along with talk of how access to genetic resources and its sub-items would be addressed, discussion also arose over the Cartagena Protocol and which Parties would and would not sign during the meeting. The debate engendered over the ICCP's work plan had some delegates wondering whether the implementation of the Protocol would prove as difficult as its negotiation.

Right: at the UN compound at Gigiri, buildings are not separated
by closed corridors, instead they are linked by open breezeways.

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