Robust monitoring framework needed for UN countries to meet biodiversity targets

Born Free pushes for urgent action to implement commitments made by the world’s governments to halt and reverse nature’s decline.

A heron stood in water with a grassy background

A key sub-meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) has been discussing the need to review the indicator framework designed to track countries’ progress on globally agreed targets aimed at halting and reversing the alarming decline of wildlife worldwide by 2030, as well as integrating biodiversity and health considerations across national policies. 

Attended by Born Free’s International Policy Manager Adeline Lerambert, the meeting took place from 13-18 May 2024 at the United Nations campus in Nairobi, Kenya.  

The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, or ‘SBSTTA’, is the science body to the CBD. It provides key advice to the biannual Conference of the Parties (CoP), the decision-making body to the Convention which is due to meet next at CoP16 this October in Cali, Colombia. 

The 26th meeting of SBSTTA saw delegates from across the globe gather to assess countries’ readiness to implement and report on the actions they take to implement the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (also referred to as the Biodiversity Plan), a year and a half after its adoption.  

All Parties to the Convention are due to update their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans by CoP16. Most expressed support for finalising the monitoring framework, considered an essential tool for monitoring national, regional, and global progress towards achieving the Framework’s ambitious objectives for nature and wildlife. 

Born Free is advocating for a comprehensive monitoring framework which holds governments to account for their progress towards tackling the threats to wild animals from their use, trade and exploitation, and other drivers of nature loss. Adeline Lerambert says: “Adopting indicators that can be swiftly and effectively operationalised by governments and relevant stakeholders is fundamental to the success of the Biodiversity Plan, itself key to the survival and recovery of many wild species worldwide.”

Striking a balance between feasibility and operationalisation is no easy task, particularly in view of varying national circumstances and capacities. That said, Born Free was disappointed that monitoring mechanisms and indicators for some crucial elements of the 2030 targets are still lacking. Working closely with the World Federation for Animals and other partner organisations, Born Free urged country delegates to fill outstanding gaps in the monitoring framework and to improve data availability on issues related to species conservation, management, and sustainable use.  

Formulating robust measurements of progress on actions aimed at tackling species’ extinctions, tightening restrictions on wildlife trade, and shutting down unsafe live animal markets, whilst promoting human-wildlife co-existence and ensuring animal health and welfare to reduce the risk of zoonotic disease emergence and transmission, should be given a much higher priority in the context of a worsening biodiversity crisis. 

SBSTTA-26 delegates also discussed the environmental dimensions of human, animal and plant health. Negotiations on a global action plan intended to mainstream biodiversity and health interlinkages across all sectors of government continued, with the objective of preventing and minimising the risk of emergence of zoonotic diseases, while supporting efforts towards achieving the Biodiversity Plan’s objectives through a set of voluntary actions.  

Born Free welcomed the promotion of improved standards of animal welfare but deeply regretted the absence of such considerations pertaining to wild animals. Considering the risk to our health posed by wildlife use, we believe the action plan should include more ambitious actions aimed at reducing demand for and exploitation of wild animals.  

The action plan’s main objective is to enable relevant government authorities to collaborate closely and coordinate on biodiversity and health interlinkages. To this end, we would expect full integration of One Health principles, but divergences on the concept and other such holistic approaches persist. 

Overall, slow but steady progress was made by the science body, which produced recommendations for discussion at CoP16. The phrase ‘let the perfect not be the enemy of the good’ was often used in the sessions, reflecting a spirit of compromise. However, many opportunities to refine the monitoring framework for the Biodiversity Plan and develop a meaningful global action plan on biodiversity and health, were missed.  

As is so often the case in meetings of this Convention, the socio-economic aspects of sustainability and the instrumental view of wildlife prevailed in the discussions, resulting in a lack of consideration of ecological sustainability, animal health and welfare, and the urgent and meaningful actions needed to tackle the direct causes of wildlife loss.  

Born Free will continue to engage with governments in the lead up to CoP16 in Colombia and lobby for the need to protect wildlife against economic interests, while seeking to shape a truly sustainable and humane future for humans and animals alike.