Earth restored: Faiths & Biodiversity – SBSTTA#25 side-event

Joining hands with faith-based organizations to implement the KMGBF
Within the context of the recently adopted KMGBF and the whole of society approach, the sizable reach and influence of religious and spiritual groups make them an important and natural constituency to engage in order to achieve a nature-positive world and catalyze the implementation of the KMGBF.

Alongside the 25th meeting of SBSTTA which took place in Nairobi from October 15th to 19th, 2023, our project co-organized a side-event with Faiths for Biodiversity Coalition.

Entitled “Earth Restored: Joining hands with faith-based organizations to implement the KMGBF”, this side event, held on October 18th both physically and online, aimed at highlighting the close connection which links spirituality and nature. It pointed out the similarities in values based on the natural world and introduced recommendations and concrete examples to foster deeper partnerships with Faith-based organizations (FBOs) to contribute to the successful implementation of the KMGBF.

The side event also offered the opportunity to present the new project’s eponymous publication (#41) entitled: “Earth Restored: Joining hands with faith-based organizations to implement the KMGBF”.

At the start of the event, the 3 co-authors of the publication highlighted the importance of a whole-of-society approach to reach KMGBF goals and make tangible progress towards its implementation.  

  • Gopal D. Patel, Co-convenor, Faiths for Biodiversity Coalition & Co-chair, Advisory Board of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, who recalled and reiterated the involvement of FBOs in the KMGBF implementation process since COP15.

  • Lauren Van Ham, Climate Action Coordinator, United Religions Initiative, who underlined people’s undeniable link to nature.

  • Alexandra M. Goossens-Ishii, Environment, Climate & Biodiversity Coordinator, Soka Gakkai International & Co-convenor of the Faiths for Biodiversity Coalition, who drew attention on the power of education to raise awareness of biodiversity issues.

An inspiring discussion 

Moderated by Azmaira Alibhai, Faith & Ecosystems Coordinator at UNEP Faith for Earth initiative, the panel was composed ofa variety of FBOs representatives, organizations working with local communities, Indigenous People and NGOs, who shared their respective views:

  • Nicholas Pande, Environmental Policy Lead, Anglican Communion, who described the action of the Anglican Communion Forest, a global initiative launched on August 2022 comprising local activities of forest protection, tree growing, and ecosystem restoration undertaken by provinces, dioceses and individual churches across the Anglican Communion; 

  • Peter Aburi, UNEP Representative for the Baha’i International Community, who shared his perspective of the priority next steps to harness the potential of faith communities to scale up implementation of the KMGBF and described Baha’i International Community work to align global environmental governance with widely recognized ethical values.

  • Teresia Gitau, environmental journalist, communications officer at the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA), as an environmental journalist who has followed the biodiversity negotiations for a long time and is part of the youth constituency, shared her personal thoughts on the engagement of faith communities, and especially young people, towards nature positive actions and concretely towards KMGBF implementation;

  • Cristina Eghenter, Global Governance Policy Coordinator, WWF International, who shared in turn her vision regarding the tight interconnection between nature & humans, underlining the importance for civil society, notably Faith Based Organizations, to be truly empowered as players that count and as invitees to the decision-making table to get their voices heard when it comes to biodiversity. 

  • Ramson Karmushu, who on his side, as a representative of the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities caucus, gave his thoughts on how we can harness the synergies between faith communities and IPLCs for the implementation of the KMGBF.

  • Gopal D. Patel, who took the floor virtually to recall and reiterate the involvement of Faith-Based Organisations in the KMGBF implementation process since COP15. He also explored potential next steps to harness the power of working with Faith communities to reach the KMGBF Targets. 

Resuming the highlights from the 4 pager, it will be crucial, in order to move ahead together and to build on FBOs’ achievements in the field of Biodiversity conservation and sustainable use to:

  • Invite FBOs to participate in discussions, co-hosts events or press conferences within the UN systems to talk about their actions;
  • Facilitate FBO’ contributions to the development and alignment of NationalBiodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs);
  • Engage with FBOs communities in the run to COP 16;
  • Support the development of specific resources for education and capacity building of the FBOs on biodiversity and KMGBF;
  • Establish an ad-hoc mechanism to monitor and track faith groups ‘work in protecting and restoring.

Religion and spirituality through their care for the natural world are natural partners in implementing the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF). If properly engaged, they have potential to bring us significantly closer to a nature-positive world.

Time to build on the momentum created at COP15.

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