Largest Negotiations on Migration – No, not on the migrations of refugees.

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By Rajendra Shende, Chairman TERRE Policy Centre, former Director UNEP.

India was the host for the largest ever negotiations ever in the history of the international Convention related to Migration. With 2,550 participants including 263 delegates representing nearly 90 countries, 50 representatives from United Nations agencies, 200 representatives of NGOs, and over 100 members of both national and international media it proved to be distinct.

No, it was not about human migrations due to national and international conflicts which no doubt had assumed the significant importance recently. The February 15-22 2020 negotiations in Gandhinagar, State of Gujrat were, however, about wild migratory species.

Migratory animals are not only something of exotic appearance for a photoshoot. Nor are they just spectacular to behold from afar. They are an integral and very basis and essential part of the web of life on Earth. They are the moving connectors of the diverse ecosystem on our planet.

People have long marvelled at the sight of great flocks, shoals or herds of migratory creatures on the move, or have wondered at that movement’s meaning. Today we are able to understand it better but not enough to take care of this regular and well-defined migration of nearly 10,000 of 1.5 million named species that have no access to google maps or GPS systems.

IN 1979, under United Nations, a Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS, sometimes also called the Bonn Convention) was finally adopted. Since then it has become a global platform to track the well-being of the migratory species that cross the countries without any visa!

It was 13th Conference of CMS that India hosted in Feb 2020. ‘Atithi Devo Bhav’ ( Guest is the God) was the theme of the conference. The migratory species during migration arrive in various countries to feed themselves. They are our guests and hence we need to greet them in Godly fashion. That was the message from India.

But apart from being the largest gathering and attractive theme, there were no major decisions that could reverse the ecological damages.

Amidst the decisions like adding additional species to the list of varied degree of protection and declaring ambassadors and champions for different aspects of conservation, there was, however, an event that made real action-packed launch.

In the side event, two emerging giants, India and China declared that they would work together at civil society level to save endangered species: The Great Bustard of China and The Great Indian Bustard of India, which was added to the list of strictest protection by the decision of COP 13.

The side event was organised by three NGOs. Two from China- China Biodiversity Green Development Foundation ( CBCGDF) and Operation Earth ( OE) and One from India- TERRE Policy Centre ( TERRE) . The event was moderated by Ian Redmond, internationally renowned conservationist who was renamed as CMS Ambassador.

Chinese representatives participated by the video conferencing because of the restrictions on travel due to New Corona Virus.

The event emphasized the importance of people’s participation and bottom-up approach in nature conservation. Ms Cyan Wang International Coordinator of CBCGDF interacted with the audience to respond to questions from the delegates and Chen Liangzhong, founder and Chief Scientist of Operation Earth outlined the participation of youth in field research expedition. Youth volunteers who could not join due to travel restrictions had sent video messages on the occasion. They were determined that no barrier can stop them from undertaking conservation efforts.

Rajendra Shende, Chairman of TERRE stated, ‘ CMS implementation needs 3 Cs- Connectivity, Conservation and Cooperation. Three like-minded civil society members have come together to start real deal on conservation by learning from each other.’ Prof Zhou Jinfeng of CBCGDF was more direct in his video message, “ We need the change of the laws for the protection of wild animals that are the important links in the planet’s ecosystem. In the face of the Coronavirus, the need to implement the policy change with international cooperation is urgent.“. Chen Liangzhong, founder and Chief Scientist of Operation Earth in his video message stated that “ The filed research Expedition of youth in the wilderness would help in better understanding of the wildlife and need for the protection of wild migratory species. Co-operation between India and China would help in learning from each other and preventing illegal trade in wild species”.

Ian Redmond congratulated China and India for their bold cooperation in the conservation of migratory species. He also hailed the side event as the carbon emission mitigation event as China participated through video conferencing. A blessing in disguise. ‘ I would be pleased to facilitate the cooperation between India and China of saving the Great Bustards. “ he added.

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