03 Mar 2020

Venue: Palais des Nations | Room XIV (Cinéma)

Organization: Geneva Environment Network

The theme of World Wildlife Day 2020, “Sustaining All Life on Earth”, encompasses all wild animal and plant species as a component of biodiversity as well as the livelihoods of people, especially those who live closest to the nature. It also underlines the importance of sustainable use of natural resources in support of the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including Goal 14 (Life Below Water), Goal 15 (Life on Land), Goal 1 (No Poverty) and Goal 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns). In Geneva, a special event to celebrate the day was held at the Palais des Nations, co-organized by the CITES Secretariat and within the framework of the Geneva Environment Network.

About this Session

On 20 December 2013, the Sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim 3 March as World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora. The date is the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973, which plays an important role in ensuring that international trade does not threaten the species’ survival.

The year 2020, known as a “biodiversity super year”, will host several major global events that place biodiversity at the forefront of the global sustainable development agenda. It provides a unique opportunity to deliver transformative progress for the conservation and sustainable use of the species of wild animals and plants in response to global sustainable development challenges that can best be addressed with nature-based solutions.

The Secretariats of CITES and the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Jackson Wild teamed up to organize an international film showcase highlighting wildlife as an important component of biological diversity and how its conservation and sustainable use will help reduce the risk of unprecedented extinctions from overexploitation.

The Film Showcase is one of the global events that anchors this year’s UN World Wildlife Day. Winners and finalist films entered into the competition will be shown throughout 2020, around the world and at various major events.


Opening remarks

  • David BOYD, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment
  • H.E. Amb. Santiago WILLS-VALDERRAMA, Permanent Representative of the Mission of Colombia to the WTO

Moderator: Juan Carlos VASQUEZ MURILLO, Chief, Legal Affairs & Compliance, CITES Secretariat

Biodiversity loss, wildlife conservation, people and sustainable use

  • Maricela MUÑOZ, Minister Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations in Geneva
  • Martha ROJAS URREGO, Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
  • Jane SMART, Global Director, IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group
  • Matthew KILGARRIFF, Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, Richemont International SA

Followed by Questions & Answers

Film screening of a selected film or films from the finalists of World Wildlife Day 2020

Film Showcase organized in partnership with Jackson Wild


Opening remarks

David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment

  • I live on a small island off the West Coast of Canada and I share the island with a group of whales called “Southern Resident Killer Whales”
  • They are critically endangered, and they live in matrilineal pods
  • 20 years ago, when I moved to the island, we would see the whales swim past the island two or three times a week during the summer
  • However, some of these whales were captured and sold to aquariums – the population never recovered
  • Today, they face major challenges, including food chain degradation, shipping noise pollution and toxic accumulation in the ocean
  • According to the WWF, wildlife populations declined more than 60% globally
  • Aldo Leopold, American conservationist: “The price we pay for having an ecological education, is that we live in a world of wounds”
  • I would say that the benefit of an ecological education is that we live in a world of wonders
  • Another example is Humpback whales, which have been the subject of commercial whaling for many years
  • By the 1960s, the population of Humpback whales in the North Pacific was less than 10.000 whales
  • With the adoption of the ban on commercial whaling, now there are more than 80.000 Humpback whales in the North Pacific
  • Encouraging sign that suggests that if we stop the human activities that are causing the decline in biological diversity, then nature can recover, flourish and thrive
  • Need to think about this issue in terms of human rights: biological diversity is the foundation of all human rights

H.E. Amb. Santiago Wills-Valderrama, Permanent Representative of the Mission of Colombia to the WTO

  •  Chair of the negotiations on fisheries subsidies at the WTO
  • 18 years of negotiation – new deadline is June 2020
  • The topic of fisheries subsidies reform started with the Doha Mandate in 2001 and gradually evolved to be included in SDG 14.6
  • Need to define “harmful”, “subsidies”, “overfishing”, “overcapacity” and to reach an agreement over that
  • FAO Report on the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture
    • Proportion of overfished stocks continues to increase
    • In 2018, one third of stocks overfished and most of the rest fully fished
    • Subsidies on fisheries not declining, totalling around 35$ billion, 22 of which considered harmful
  • Fisheries are a relatively small part of the world economy, but it is very important to some communities who rely on fishing
  • Overfishing damage to ecosystems can take decades to recover from
  • Ending subsidies won’t solve the problem instantly, but will contribute to the solution
  • Long negotiating process:
    • Need to fit in a body of existing international law (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, UN Fish Stocks Agreement, FAO Agreement on Port State Measures, …)
    • Lack of reliable data
    • WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies is a legally-binding agreement – need for consensus on definitions
    • First WTO negotiation on sustainability
  • Positive dimension:
    • Technical issues and background information is clear and understood by all actors
    • Clear mandate and commitment from members on reaching an agreement
    • Structure for the agreement and idea of the result in some areas
  • Delegations are committed to reaching a meaningful result

Q1: The SR mentioned some months ago that he was collecting information for a report on human rights obligations related to climate change, knowing that the questions of climate change and of biodiversity are connected, how will those questions be linked?
David Boyd: Several governments declared a climate emergency, we are also in a nature emergency.Estimations are that 1 million species are at risk of extinction. 20 years ago, the main threats to biodiversity were habitat destruction, overexploitation, pollution, ozone depletion and invasive species; nowadays, climate change is a leading threat to biodiversity. Need for rapid, systemic and transformative change. Impacts of climate change on human rights, together with impacts of biodiversity loss on human rights will be disastrous for peoples. Push the UN to recognize the right to a healthy environment.
Q2: What is the probability of having a successful outcome of the negotiations on fisheries subsidies by the WTO meeting in Kazakhstan in June 2020?
H.E. Amb. Santiago Wills-Valderrama: I would hesitate to give a percentage of positive outcome. About to take a crucial decision in the next weeks. I remain cautious. I won’t claim that in only 6 months as chair I will bring the negotiations to a success after 18 years. Negotiations at the WTO are member-driven. I remain optimistic.

Biodiversity loss, wildlife conservation, people and sustainable use

Moderated by: Juan Carlos Vasquez Murillo, Chief, Legal Affairs & Compliance, CITES Secretariat

  • In March, we celebrate wildlife, women, water
  • In February, we celebrated wetlands
  • The WWD was established in 2013
  • This year’s theme is “Sustaining all life on Earth” in the context of the 2020 super year for nature

Maricela Muñoz, Minister Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the UN in Geneva

  • Change in mindset at the decision-making policy: push for recognition of the right to a healthy environment, change in mindset at WTO
  • Increased sense of urgency
  • Call for meaningful, multi-stakeholders action
  • SDGs achievement need to take into account biodiversity loss
  • Costa Rica tackled the issue of biodiversity with a scientific, ethical approach
  • Costa Rica is privileged with a rich wildlife – also, responsibility and challenge
  • Interaction with wildlife is within and without the protected areas
  • 25% of Costa Rica is protected area + 25% of private protected areas
  • Ecotourism as a source from income and green jobs
  • Optimal use of biodiversity for tourism – need for conservation and greening of supply chain and economy
  • Almost 99% of renewable energy sources
  • Restoration and rehabilitation of degraded areas very important
  • NDCs and National Action Plan on Climate Change have a rights-based approach
  • Ethical animal treatment if in captivity, similar to the wild habitat of the animal
  • Need for innovation in reconnecting with biodiversity
  • Community involvement in forest maintenance and sustainable management of ecosystems
  • Promotion of the campaign “Stop animal selfies”
  • Direct and indirect uses of wildlife (ecotourism, traditional customs)
  • Pledged to host CITES COP in 2022

Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

  • It is about connections: biodiversity is important for all of us
  • For some people, living close with nature, this is a day-to-day life interaction
  • Wetlands, water-related ecosystems (rivers, lakes, coral reefs, …), are often overlooked, but wetlands:
    • contribute hugely to people’s livelihood
    • contribute to biodiversity: 40% of species live or breed in wetlands
    • are essential for food and water security
    • have a huge carbon-storage capacity: more than all of the forests in the world – peatlands, covering 3% of the land, store twice as much as all of the forests in the world
    • have an essential role in regulating and helping adapt to climate change
  • Ecosystem disappearance is extremely fast – we lost 35% since 1970
  • Conservation of wetlands is essential: huge help in sustainable development
  • Climate change is important, but this biodiversity crisis is as important
  • Create a framework, for all stakeholders, to align all the efforts to turn the tide on biodiversity loss
  • SDGs changed the narrative on biodiversity: from a specific conservationist issue, to a more widespread issue (private sector, trade, …)
  • Need for strong post-2020 indicators and objectives
    • Importance of data in order to act
    • Link biodiversity to other sectors (SDGs, NDCs)
    • Policies, incentives and investments that make connections possible
    • Engagement of different stakeholders at global, regional and local level

Jane Smart, Global Director, IUCN

  • Policy is being developed and locked down this year and it is going to last for the next 10 years
  • We are going to need all the political will from our leaders that we can master, and they are going to find that will only if they hear that from their citizens and the media
  • It is going to require a lot of determination. Biodiversity loss is an emergency! The science is there. We do:
    • Need to tackle the drivers of loss, look at peoples needs and come up with clever solutions
    • Need more protected areas on land, ocean and freshwater – at least 30% of the planet in the right places
    • Need to be connected, to tackle invasive species, to tackle pollution in all its forms
    • Need to look into land and sea use, to improve agriculture to be more biodiversity-friendly (smart agriculture)
    • Need to reform incentives and eliminate harmful incentives
    • Need to think on what trade does (import and export have impacts on biodiversity)
    • Need for cross-sectoral cooperation, with private sector, indigenous communities
    • Need for people’s voices
  • Biodiversity underpins the SDGs, but sometimes it is difficult to see
    • Example: tiger conservation in Western India, in a poor part of the region where tigers are killing people
    • By providing toilets in their homes, you stop people from going to the toilet on the side of the road and they stop being killed
    • By providing a cooker, you stop people form getting sick from smoke and you stop wood collection in the tigers’ habitat
    • That increases tigers’ population, which in turn increases ecotourism, which in turn allow for economic development and job opportunities
  • That case study ticks at least five SDGs, that has to be shown to governments so that they understand that it works: biodiversity allows to achieve multiple SDGs

Matthew Kilgarriff, Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, Richemont International SA

  • Geneva-based transnational corporation, employing almost 30.000 people
  • Sells high-quality, long-lasting products made by companies that are more than 100 years old in some cases
  • How to reconcile conservation with the need of humanity and business?
    • Historical background
      • Almost 60 years ago, when the IUCN realized it would need non-governmental support, the WWF was created – among the founding members there was Dr. Anton Rupert, businessman and conservationist
      • His family continues to control Richemont and the interest in craft skills as well as natural spaces drives the company’s actions
    • Current actions
      • First, Richemont offsets its carbon footprint via a forest conservation funds along the Zambezi river – set the example for other companies to follow
      • Second, most of the gold used is recycled, except for a small part that has to follow strict environmental and social requirements in mining to be used – 15 years ago, set a standard for gold and diamonds for other companies to follow
      • Third, WWF some years ago started a campaign targeted to the Swiss jewellery industry with naming and shaming actions, where Richemont did quite well – now working with WWF to be better conservationists and sustainable manufactures
      • Fourth, Louisiana alligators used for making watchstraps can lay eggs exclusively in the wild, which are hatched in captivity and then some hatchlings are released in the wild, while others are sold for profit – the fact that alligators only lay eggs in the wild is what protects the swamps, otherwise landowners would come in and convert the wetland – wetlands are excellent carbon sequesters, are disappearing at an alarming rate, and the topic of voluntary carbon credits for wetlands has been neglected
  • Most of what Richemont does follows Dr. Donella Meadows logic of leverage points


David Boyd: Consistent message today that involves climate change, biodiversity and pollution. Common cause in importance of taking innovative steps. All need to move in the same direction to protect nature and Earth.


Q3, Permanent Mission of the UK: As hosts of COP26, the UK is putting nature and nature-based solutions at the heart of that event. Also, the UK is re-examining the Overseas Assistance Programme to put climate and biodiversity conservation more embedded in those. What are your suggestions on that topic?

Q4, Permanent Mission of France: Most of the actors are in harmony to face the global crises which are a climate crisis and a biodiversity crisis. The link between climate and biodiversity were not so clear years ago. The big multi-stakeholder event of the IUCN World Congress in Marseille will be a meeting where regulators, civil society, private sector, academia can interact. We all agree but we do not know how to do that, and we do not know how to face the contradictions of different actors. Additionally, cities, where 70% of people live now in Europe, must have a central role in sustainability, ecology and nature.

Q5, Permanent Mission of Mozambique: We would like to share good practices in our regional framework related to wildlife conservation. From the legal perspective, in 1999 the SADC Protocol on the conservation and oversight of wildlife entered into force, and was aimed at sustainable development, ecosystem and wildlife conservation, fight against poaching, sustainable land use. The government has tried to strengthen the legal system to protect wildlife and fight against poaching.

Q6: The post-2020 framework is going to be hosted by the CBD, but what is, you think, the role of the Un in the implementation of said framework?

Martha Rojas Urrego: Climate change and biodiversity are critical as well as nature-based solutions. To make it possible to link the two and advance on the agenda, we should make sure that biodiversity be included in the NDCs. The potential of wetlands is still not fully exploited.
The Ramsar Convention is not exclusively a conservation convention, it also addressed wise and sustainable use for sustainable development. Phenomenal change in the relationship between private sector and sustainability: from CSR to embedding it in the business model.
Important to link to SDG 5 on women empowerment and gender equality in terms of water, biodiversity and land management. Women are actors, not only impacted by biodiversity loss.
Jane Smart: At the IUCN World Congress in Marseille, we will be having a private sector summit, at youth summit, an indigenous peoples’ summit. We need to develop a means of measuring commitments to biodiversity targets, so to be able to break them now by country or by sector and to compare. We need youth and people living in cities to stand up and make their voices heard. IUCN is using special data to work out the threats to a specific environment and then create a target to achieve based on the data.

Maricela Muñoz: It is important that the UK, as a developed country, has this concern about embedding biodiversity in the development context. It will be a powerful platform for developing countries to raise the level of commitment. Human rights-based approach essential for decisions and for NDCs. There are still unsolved parts of the Paris Agreement, the loss and damage mechanism, the Gender Action Plan and the capacity-building mechanism. IUCN World Congress focus on cities is essential: we need to look at new ways of consumption. In terms of the role of the UN in the post-2020 agenda, we all are the UN, as citizens, governments, private sector, and we all play a role.

Matthew Kilgarriff: There are coalitions at work in the business area so that the private sector can speak with one voice. The Global Compact, chaired by the UN SG, moved from human rights to sustainability, mitigation and adaptation. Even inside the Global Compact there are many voices, speaking with one voice is difficult.

David Boyd: Nature needs CPR: Connection, Protection and Restoration. Connection, related to the fundamental dependence we have upon nature. Protection, related to the role of indigenous peoples and the need to protect 30% of the world. Restoration, related to the opportunity for jobs to restore ecosystems that capture carbon.



The event was live on Facebook.


Photos © UNEP/GEN, Malou Lenoir.