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United Nations Voluntary Biodiversity Commitments in the Barents Region - Successes and Steps Forward

On November 8, Finland, as the chair of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council’s Working Group on Environment (BEAC WGE), invited interested parties to the webinar entitled "UN Biodiversity Convention’s Voluntary Commitments and the Barents Region."

Published 09.11.2021

Restoration of a river in Northern Sweden as part of the ReBorN project, one of the many succesful initiatives highighted during the webinar. (photo: Jeremias Kinnunen Levy)

The webinar was arranged as part of Finland’s Biodiversity Initiative, which aims to support the goals of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) by encouraging stakeholders to pursue voluntary biodiversity commitments, with a particular focus on freshwater ecosystems.

The goal of the webinar was to link regional and local activities with global work on biodiversity. The webinar also showcased projects and activities that have taken part in the Barents Biodiversity Initiative and provided technical training on the use of the Voluntary Commitments database (CBD Action Agenda portal). The line-up consisted of Ambassador Jari Vilén from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Catalina Santamaria and Ulrika Nilsson from the CBD Secretariat, and Henna Haapala from the Ministry of the Environment of Finland and Chair of the BEAC Working Group on Environment. Presenters all agreed that the Barents region is a particularly unique environment, but one that is highly threatened in terms of biodiversity loss. Yet, at the same time, the region and its people offer a critical opportunity for integrating local actions with global goals. The contributions of local communities will be critical to the successful implementation of international policy.

"Small streams make big rivers"

 Henna Haapala, Ministry of the Environment of Finland and Chair of the BEAC WGE

The power of local and non-state engagement was showcased through successful activities that have taken place and are part of the Barents Biodiversity Initiative. Sofia Perä, County Administrative Board of Norrbotten, shared the results of the ReBorN LIFE (Restoration of Boreal Nordic Rivers) project, a collaborative project that works to restore natural aquatic habitats in regional watercourses affected by the large-scale floating of timber. In just four years, they restored over 220 km of streams, while creating over 15 thousand spawning beds! Tiia Kalske from the Office of the Troms and Finnmark County Governor also discussed the ‘Cross-border dialogue and multiuse-planning in the Pasvik and Grense Jakobselv river catchments (MUP)’ project as a successful example of future transboundary environmental management. Now finalized, the program of measures will allow for over 30 stakeholders from Finland, Norway, and Russia, representing state, industry, and civilian interests to work together on improving local environmental conditions. Finally, Sergei Uvarov from the Barents office of WWF Russia outlined the Conservation Action Plan for the Barents Sea Ecoregion. By 2030, they aim to have successfully protected 70% of key wetlands in the area.

"We need ambitious actions at all levels to both halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity."

Ambassador Jari Vilén, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

The actions under the Barents Biodiversity Initiative are important. They help raise awareness of the wide array of environmental problems in the region, but also the collaborative measures that are possible to tackle them. In this way, they help inspire others to start similar projects. The Finnish Chairmanship of Working Group on Environment will compile a report on all the diverse actions that have been submitted by the end of 2022. We encourage you to submit your own commitment! The CBD Secretariat will showcase the submitted Barents commitments on the Sharm El Sheikh to Kunming Action Agenda portal, providing a good opportunity to the Barents actors to gain visibility outside the region.

Read more about the Barents Biodiversity Initiative here, and don’t hesitate to get in touch with either Anna Kuhmonen or Aino Lipsanen (of the Finnish Chairmanship of the WGE) for any questions.