Ten Reporters Receive Fellowships to Cover UN biodiversity Negotiations in Mexico

Ten journalists from around the world reported on the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP13) to the UN Convention of Biological Diversity through the Internews Earth Journalism Network’s (EJN) latest Fellowship program. Reporting for a variety of outlets — from financial newspapers to indigenous people’s outlets — the Fellows covered the intergovernmental negotiations and interviewed leading experts on issues such as biopiracy, synthetic biology and protected areas. Some of the stories by the Fellows can be found on the EJN website.

The meeting was attended by its 196 parties plus the United States, and took place in Cancun, Mexico during the two first weeks of December 2016. It resulted in 70 decisions aimed at conserving biodiversity and ensuring the benefits from its sustainable use are shared equitably.

One of the key results of the negotiations was the creation of an expert group to investigate the potential implications of digital access to genetic sequence data for the implementation of the Convention. This is a controversial issue as it may affect indigenous rights to share in the economic benefits of their biodiversity and related traditional knowledge. Indigenous groups held demonstrations during COP13, and received much attention from the journalists.

The Fellowship was part of the Biodiversity Media Initiative, a three-year project funded by the Arcadia Fund, which allows EJN to support travel of journalists to important international meetings, and distribute small grants for stories and local journalism networks. In August 2016, for instance, EJN took 16 journalists to the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii where they produced some 90 stories for their media outlets.

The EJN Fellowship to COP13, besides receiving the support of Arcadia Fund, was funded by the secretariat of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Full Circle Fund of RSF Social Finance.

During the program, Fellows had the chance to carry out exclusive interviews with the CBD’s executive-secretary Braulio Dias and received a special presentation on financing for conservation by GEF’s senior researcher, Mark Zimsky.

Due to the importance of indigenous peoples in the biodiversity negotiations, EJN has also dedicated part of this Fellowship to support the attendance of journalists either from indigenous communities or whose reporting is related to indigenous rights. Through EJN’s partnership with the Full Circle Fund, reporters from Brazil, Ghana, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria and Peru were chosen under this criterion.

One of the highlights of the program in Mexico was a field trip to community-managed forest lands in Felipe Carrillo Puerto in the state of Quintana Roo. During the visit, organized in partnership with Mexican NGO Polea, journalists met the presidents of five different community-based governance structures (called ejidos) that manage their forests for timber extraction and jaguar conservation.

The field trip also included a walk in the forest with local experts who identified species with high economic value. The community experts also explained how they measuring carbon uptake by trees there as part of a project on payments for carbon capture to limit climate change (REDD+).

Mike Shanahan of EJN’s Biodiversity Media Initiative emphasizes the importance of investing in journalists who cover biodiversity, conservation and indigenous rights. “Over recent years, journalists, media outlets and donors have increasingly prioritized the coverage of climate change, which certainly is a critical environmental issue. Unfortunately, coverages of issues related to the biodiversity on which we depend lags far behind. That is why we believe this initiative is vital.”

Biodiversity Media Initiative Fellows:

  • Adebiyi Adedapo – Leadership Newspaper Group, Nigeria
  • Elaíze de Souza Farias – Amazonia Real, Brazil
  • Tina Carmillia Adrian – BFM89.9 The Business Station, Malaysia
  • Samuel Hinneh – Allied News Limited/GhanaWeb, Ghana
  • Alberto Ñiquen – La Mula, Peru
  • Daniela E. A. Chiaretti – Valor, Brazil
  • Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava – Hindustan Times, India
  • Elaine Diaz Rodriguez – Periodismo de Barrio, Cuba
  • Gloria Jeanette Dickie – Biographic/Hakai Magazine, Canada
  • Mariana Morales – El Heraldo, Mexico