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The Treaties - 35 - Citizens' Commitments on Biodiversity


1. The concept of biodiversity should be an expression of life which includes variability of all life forms and their organization and inter-relationships from the molecular to the biosphere level, which includes cultural diversity. Biodiversity includes all forms of life and all areas that are home to natural and domesticated life forms. The threats to biodiversity are threats to all components of it; we reject the fragmented treatment of biodiversity. We also suggest that biodiversity is a concept which occurs at the balance between the spiritual understanding that life is one and the scientific understanding that the diversity of life is interconnected.

2. Recognizing that the diversity of all life has its own intrinsic value, that life forms have a right to exist and that biodiversity forms an essential condition for the preservation and evolution of life itself on the planet.

3. Emphasizing that biodiversity conservation is essential in enhancing the ability of communities to maintain their own culture and that biodiversity has a determinative influence upon the cultural, economic, social, spiritual development and quality of life of peoples, and concerned that the current patterns of exploitation, protection and sharing of benefits perpetuates inequalities within and among Nations, and between Nations and the Earth.

4. Stressing that the present unjust economic world order and the serious inequalities generated by it do not form a proper framework for maintaining biodiversity.

5. Stressing that biodiversity is being threatened by the destruction and pollution of natural habitats, by the exploitation of species and ecosystems through commercial development policies and economic systems which fail to recognize and evaluate the intrinsic, social, cultural, economic and spiritual value of biodiversity.


6. The conservation of biodiversity is a pressing responsibility of all people and institutions. Biodiversity conservation includes the sustainable use of its components, especially when used for development purposes. In our view, sustainable use means use that does not interfere with the ecological integrity of any living things or their ecosystems, and which is socially equitable to people. This implies that:

    a. All members of present and future generations receive a socially equitable share of and access to the benefits of natural resources

    b. The basic structure of genetic resources and their ecosystems is not depleted by the use of their components

    c. All life forms are treated in a way that respects their intrinsic, social, aesthetic, cultural, traditional, spiritual and other values, and that our activities do not cause suffering of any living thing.

7. Conserving biodiversity requires fundamental changes in patterns and practices of socio-economic development worldwide and changes in the mindset of individuals towards a more equal partnership with the Earth. It is unacceptable that external debt be exchanged for nature.

8. The conservation of biodiversity requires foremost a respect for and conservation of the integrity of ecosystems and linkage between diverse ecosystems.

9. All social groups, governments and enterprises should be fully responsible and liable for the social and ecological damage caused by their technologies and actions to biological and cultural diversity. Infrastructure projects should be sensitive to impacts affecting local, regional and global ecological balances. Rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems is essential. Education about the impacts of trade in ornamental, exotic and endemic plant and animal species needs strengthening at international and local levels.

10. The important roles played by women in managing, caring for and understanding the components of nature merit particular respect and attention.

11. The knowledge, cultural traditions, innovations, spirituality and management practices of indigenous peoples, and traditional practices of farmers and other rural communities concerning biodiversity are an essential basis for both sustaining biodiversity and sustaining human life.

12. Domesticated genetic resources are cultural creations fundamentally originating from indigenous cultures, peasant cultures and farmers' cultures. The collections and the results of research deposited in national or international agricultural research centers, gene banks or otherwise, shall not be the object of restrictions, or in any way be considered as intellectual property.

13. No patenting should be allowed on any living thing or a product derived from it. However, this does not prejudice the rights of indigenous peoples, traditional farmers and fishermen to maintain exclusive control over, access to, and use of knowledge, innovations, cultural traditions and management practices concerning biodiversity and the right to just compensation for sharing that knowledge.

14. Increased resources, technical assistance and other resources are needed to support groups and countries which are not in a position to do so, to make the necessary investment in the conservation of biodiversity. Increased funding for biodiversity will not, by itself, slow biodiversity loss. Policy, institutional, community and individual reforms at national and local levels are needed to improve the conditions under which increased resources can be effective and thereby raise public awareness of biodiversity issues.

15. We reject the administration of environmental funds by the World Bank and, in particular by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). We propose the establishment of an intergovernmental institution to manage the financial assistance for biodiversity conservation in a transparent and democratic manner.

16. Increased public participation, respect for human rights, respect for the planet, improved access to education and information, and greater institutional accountability are fundamental prerequisites for effective biodiversity conservation.

17. Conservation of biodiversity requires cooperation between organizations and individuals of all regions. This cooperation must be based on solidarity, independence, transparency, accountability and respect for cultural diversity. Consequently we reject all initiatives attempting to divide society by seeking partial alliance between governments and sectors of power. Consultation and agreement of all peoples' groups involved in conservation action is essential.


18. We will take all possible actions to conserve biodiversity and respect the independent rights of indigenous peoples and traditional cultures in their own efforts to reaffirm their own communities in their relationships with the environment, according to the above mentioned principles.

19. We will cooperate with other individuals and organizations for the conservation of biodiversity by exchanging and sharing actively, building upon new and existing structures and networks:

    a. all available information, in particular information deriving from natural and social sciences, advocacy work and practical experiences, but always with a respect for the origins of that information

    b. financial resources

    c. technical assistance which focuses on traditional concepts of natural resource management

    d. human resources and capacities

    e. all other appropriate and adequate resources

    f. individuals working for in-situ conservation, according to their capacity, will make a concrete effort to establish an in-situ conservation network, when such resources are beneficial to the conservation of biodiversity and in support of the rights to self-determination of indigenous and other communities which live in harmony with the environment.

20. We, independent citizens from a broad range of countries, cultures and expertise, gathered at the International NGO Forum in Rio de Janeiro on 12 June 1992, subscribe to the above-mentioned principles.

21. We emphasize that we do not pretend to represent what is called "the NGO community", as the essence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) lies in their independence and diversity. We reject attempts to come to one overall NGO compromise on certain issues, as this contradicts what we consider a most precious quality on Earth: the celebration and appreciation of biological and cultural diversity.

22. However, it is significant that we, as a diverse group of individuals, agree upon the above-mentioned principles and commitments. We invite all other people to sign this document. Their endorsement of these principles will make them more significant. We invite them to mention the organizations to which they belong, but only for identification purposes.

23. These principles are a minimum standard for NGO actions related to biodiversity.


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