The Kunming Declaration ushers in a new era for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, Maria Helena Semedo, deputy director-general of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said in an interview.
The declaration was adopted last week during the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) held in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province.
Semedo said the landmark conference came at a particularly critical time as humankind faces a triple planetary crisis: climate, biodiversity loss and pollution.
"This milestone meeting is an important global opportunity to urgently respond to global challenges, including growing food insecurity, poverty and inequities, especially among the most vulnerable, resulting from the degradation of our biodiversity and ecosystem services," Semedo said.
She said the Kunming Declaration, the main achievement of COP15, "will guide our actions over the next decades as the parties to the convention commit to adopt and implement the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, an ambitious blueprint that mainstreams biodiversity across all decision-making, puts the accent on the full and effective participation of all stakeholders and local communities and aims to fast-track and scale up financial and technical support."
Recalling that biodiversity underpins food security, productivity, nutrition and livelihoods, Semedo emphasized that agri-food systems should be at the center of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and relevant actions.
According to her, restoring fisheries can improve nutrition and marine environments through the sustainable development of their maximum sustainable yield, increasing aquatic production by 16.5 million tonnes, with an annual value of $32 billion. Likewise, the revival of agroforestry could increase the food security of 1.3 billion people.
"Only by working together, connecting, cooperating and collaborating, in a coherent manner can we unlock the potential solutions that can help reverse the alarming trend of biodiversity loss we are currently witnessing," the FAO official said.
In this spirit of collaboration and engagement, she also mentioned the "Global Dialogue on the Role of Food and Agriculture in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework," an event co-hosted by the FAO and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
"The global dialogue identified solutions to scale up biodiversity-friendly practices, including through enabling policies and markets," Semedo said.
"In particular, it emphasized how we need to connect the post-2020 framework to the daily realities of the world's family farmers, small-scale producers, fisherfolk, livestock keepers, foresters, indigenous peoples and local communities – the true stewards of our biodiversity," she explained.
According to Semedo, the FAO also co-leads the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration with the UN Environment Program, which is "an important opportunity to mobilize our joint efforts and catalyze the implementation of the post-2020 biodiversity framework."
Regarding China's role in global biodiversity governance, the FAO deputy director-general said the Asian country's complex terrain and diverse climate gave birth to unique ecosystems, abundant species and a rich genetic variety.
"As one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, China has a profound understanding of biodiversity," Semedo said, "as manifested in traditional Chinese culture: 'Man is an integral part of nature' and 'Dao follows the laws of nature.'"
She noted that agriculture in China has historically showcased many good practices of combining rich natural resources with human ingenuity, providing local rural communities with food security, nutrition and livelihood while maintaining environmental sustainability and even improving biodiversity.
"I look forward to China's continuous support to FAO's Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems program and many other important initiatives," Semedo said, "in order to share China's experiences and lessons in conserving agrobiodiversity, addressing the impacts of the climate crisis and managing natural resources, especially through South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC)," a broad framework for promoting and supporting collaboration among countries of the South.