Developing countries strongly opposed a proposal from the secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), to deny rights of voting and listing proposals to those parties with monetary contributions in arrears of three years or more, at the ongoing 13th Conference of Parties (COP13) in Gandhinagar. They said such a move would be against the spirit of the convention.
Moving the Budget 2021-2023 and the Programme of Work (PoW) for the inter-sessional period between COP13 and COP14, CMS Executive Secretary Amy Fraenkel stated that she was encouraged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the conference live, indicating that governments were showing interest in the conservation of migratory species.
“In 2018-19, CMS could secure only 40 per cent of funding, this is not a great number. I have asked the staff to not inflate numbers,” Frankel said, adding that with 2020 being a ‘super year of biodiversity’, usual business would not work and the CMS needed more resources.
The budget documents showed that pledges worth 10.13 lakh euros were made in 2018 and remained unfulfilled in prior years. Similarly, pledges made in 2019 to contribute 4.85 lakh euros, remained unfulfilled as of November 30, 2019.
As a means of generating resources, the budget proposed to introduce mandatory annual contributions of 1000-2000 euros from 130 countries which are party to CMS, and penalise those parties which have arrears of three years.
“Representatives from countries with contributions in arrears of three years or more should be excluded from holding office in Convention bodies, be denied the right to vote and to submit any meeting documents, including listing proposals; and requests the Executive Secretary to explore innovative approaches for the identification of possible funding to resolve their arrears prior to the next meeting,” proposed paragraph 11 of the draft resolution.
Brazil led the opposition to the proposal of penalising countries failing to keep their funding pledges. “…The most substantial change in the budget document was not presented at all…A new punishment for countries as it is proposed…20 per cent of the parties and in our opinion, it goes against the objective of the treaty, that is the protection of species. We are completely against this provision,” a representative from Brazil said while accusing the CMS secretariat to be non-transparent.
Brazil found support in Argentina, whose representative said, “Countries can’t be denied (the right) to submit documents because this will go against the main objective of the Convention…” A few countries from Africa, too, joined the opposition. A representative from Uganda stated, “We are deeply concerned about the proposal. If an annual contribution of 2000 euros is made mandatory, our contribution would go up by 310 per cent. Therefore, we appeal to delegates to continue with the UN scale of assessment which is scientific, as it requires contributions based on the strength of the economy,” said Uganda.
However, countries such as Israel and Australia supported the proposal. “The budget is in dire straits. Even if countries that are willing to pay, pay late, it brings up problems with how secretariats function…there has to be some compliance. There are very few compliance mechanisms available within the realms of this Convention for getting the parties on board,” said an Israeli representative.
Representatives of United Kingdom and Switzerland did not directly comment on paragraph 11, but suggested that parties be ambitious in setting not only conservation targets, but also those of budgets.
“…Ambitions require funding in order to become reality. First and foremost, it is crucial that the Convention is able to function effectively…it is up to the parties to decide how ambitious to be and how such ambition can be delivered into reality,” an UK representative said.
A representative of Switzerland said, “…Biodiversity is in crises and we, therefore, need to act to stop the loss of wildlife, habitats and species…Our work programme is heavily loaded and will be even heavier at the end of this COP. Switzerland would like to call on all the parties to not only be ambitious when it comes to setting targets and an elaborate work programme, but also while discussing and deciding the budget.”
Responding to the debate, Executive Secretary Amy Fraenkel said that the approach of penalising parties over the funding was not acceptable and acknowledged that paragraph 11 could have been explained in a better way. “It was a way to get parties to bring contributions and clean up arrears…I agree that we should put an explanation into the text of this document. Just putting in a resolution, not to be transparent, certainly wasn’t our intent. If this approach is objectionable to the COP, there are other ways to go about this. We are looking looking for creative or simple ideas to tackle this issue,” Fraenkel said.
Eventually, the chairman of the committee of the whole, who was presiding over the meeting, ruled to refer the budget and the proposals to the budget committee.