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National Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity

 PART I: Assessment.

  
The diagnosis process has highlighted the advances made by the country in the area of biodiversity conservation, which has earned it international acclaim. Aspects such as the legal framework and institutional management models for conservation and the promotion of sustainable use are a part of this, as is the national policy to offer payment for environmental services. Both the Country Report to the Fourth Conference of Parts to the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in 1998, and the updating of the National Biodiversity Study, constituted important inputs during this phase.

At the same time, however, participants in the different phases of the formulation process identified a series of weaknesses that should be addressed in the context of this Strategy. Below is a summary of the issues identified.

 

Research.

 

Research has focused on specific taxonomic groups and particular locations. In many cases, those responsible for biodiversity management do not receive the results of the research that is carried out. There is limited institutional capacity for follow-up on the application of the respective guidelines and regulations, and there are still not sufficient opportunities or openings to enable civil society to participate in these processes.

The knowledge that is generated is dispersed and responds more to the interests of the research institutions than to a national conservation and development agenda. The limited resources available for research and the lack of coordination between the different national and international institutions involved, further limit any real possibility of directing research towards national or regional priorities.

 

Human resources.

 

Recent advances in the development of an institutional framework and regulations have not been accompanied by a program to develop and train the human resources involved in biodiversity management in the governmental and private sectors. This has created gaps in terms of the country’s capacity to advance in new fields such as intellectual property, management of modified living organisms and bio-security, or even in more ‘down to earth’ concerns such as ex situ wildlife management.

Particular weaknesses have been identified in relation to the capacity of institutions and organizations to promote sustainable use based on scientific and traditional knowledge and the application of appropriate technologies. A distancing has occurred between those who have the knowledge and the capacity to transmit it, and those who are responsible for the management of resources.

There has not been the necessary integration between the public sector and the private sector to cope with the limitations imposed on the expansion of the state apparatus and the possibilities of controlling and developing biodiversity resources.

Public education and awareness.

Efforts in both the formal and informal education sectors have focused on teaching the importance of conserving resources and creating opportunities for their sustainable use. However, these efforts have not reached the entire population and have been undertaken in an uncoordinated manner, responding to different initiatives and interests. There has been a lack of response to community demands for integrated education programs that focus on the need to seek viable alternatives for conservation and use, in which "doing" is part of the educational process. As a result, Costa Rican society does not place sufficient value on its biodiversity resources.

Most of the actions undertaken to date still do not incorporate a gender perspective or contribute to the preservation of traditional knowledge, in terms of the use and acquisition of the benefits derived from biodiversity. Aside from the intensive efforts made to address the needs of children, not enough work is being done with priority groups such as fishermen, the agro-industrial sector and tourism and forestry entrepreneurs, whose livelihoods depend on natural resources but whose actions at the same time have an impact on biodiversity and the economy of the different regions of the country.

Knowledge of the law does not extend to all sectors of society. Environmental education efforts in the past have not presented conservation and social and economic development as components of a single process aimed at improving the quality of life of Costa Ricans.

Sectoral and cross-sectoral coordination.

The different sectors of society have not been effectively involved in the sustainable management of biodiversity. This is a very new subject for the majority of people, and yet there has been a greater appropriation of this issue on the part of civil society, which is not directly responsible for the management of biodiversity, than on the part of the relevant State institutions. Opportunities available to State institutions for planning, coordination, participation and assuming joint responsibility for environmental management with civil society, have still not been consolidated.

The instruments (guidelines, regulations, agreements, etc.) and formal, operational bodies, that could facilitate a more integrated approach to the question of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, at national level, and at the level of the Conservation Areas, are lacking. For example, the subjects of wildlife and domesticated biodiversity are treated separately, and there are no mechanisms to generate a more integrated approach.

Information.

The information on the country’s biodiversity is not yet systematized nor is it available in formats that are suited to the needs of the different social actors, such as educators, conservationists, local governments, farmers, etc. At the same time, it is still not clear which are the most appropriate channels for establishing links between producers of information and users, as well as to integrate users or consumers into the production process. There is also a certain egoism in the management of information.

The different sectors of society do not have a clear idea of how to use the information. The cultural peculiarities of the different ethnic groups living in the country are not properly considered in the process of generating and disseminating information, and the media is not used to full advantage.

Control and monitoring of the impact of social and productive activities.

There is insufficient institutional capacity at the level of the Conservation Areas for the follow-up of environmental impact evaluations and the application of existing regulations and guidelines. In general, there is a lack of technical and operational capacity for monitoring social and productive activities and their impact on biodiversity.

There is a lack of appropriate and sufficient information on the type of impact that different productive activities may generate on the components of biodiversity and a lack of mechanisms for quantifying these. Added to this is a lack of coordination between the agencies of state institutions, local governments and community groups, which prevents more effective work in this field. Legal processes aimed at obtaining compensation for environmental damage continue to be lengthy and the established sanctions do not compensate for social damage.

The absence or non-application of regional planning instruments (land use plans, regulatory plans) is one of the elements that allows the development of production activities that exceed the carrying capacity of ecosystems.

In situ conservation.

Efforts to consolidate the country’s protected areas are incomplete, and do not yet include samples of all the ecosystems, which are necessary to achieve ecological representativity. In addition, the present management categories do not always fulfill the intended objectives of conservation and development, or require some modification to achieve their goals. Mechanisms to promote individual and community conservation initiatives are still inadequate, particularly in the management of biological corridors and in the conservation of species of particular interest.

The development of national capacity, especially within MINAE, for the active management and monitoring of species and ecosystems is incipient. Operational and financial capacity of the protected wildlife areas is not sufficient to guarantee an effective operation that can be sustained over time.

The in situ genetic resources of species cultivated for food are suffering major erosion due to agricultural policies that promote the uniformity of products. This problem is being exacerbated with the loss of the traditional mixed family vegetable gardens.

Although steps have been taken to reduce the loss of biodiversity due to deforestation, forest fires, illegal hunting and the introduction of exotic species, among other factors, the problem still persists.

Ex situ conservation.

Efforts undertaken for the ex situ conservation of wildlife and domesticated species are inadequate. There is insufficient coordination between these projects and MINAE, and also a lack of necessary funding. The country does not have a national policy on this issue, which would enable us to prioritize and define the links between ex situ and in situ initiatives, and their role in research and in the development of public awareness.

The shortage of trained human resources is another limiting factor in the development and control of these activities.

Sustainable use.

The issues of conservation and sustainable use have not been properly integrated into the national, regional and local decision-making processes. At the same time, there is a lack of information on the potential uses and present and future markets for the products obtained from sustainable production practices.

There is a lack of awareness among the national community concerning the need to respect, preserve and maintain the knowledge, practices and innovations of indigenous and local communities and direct these into conservation and sustainable use efforts.

Payment for environmental services and incentives.

 

Payment programs for environmental services are not always based on technically defined priorities and they tend to focus exclusively on forests, reflecting only a fraction of the contribution of forests to the national economy. At the same time, small property owners do not have the same opportunities in terms of information and access to incentives for environmental services. Moreover, the criteria used to determine the amount of the payment offered for the different modalities of forestry incentives, do not give priority to conservation over production. Once payment is approved and granted, there is no monitoring system to verify the benefits obtained.

The State’s does not have the financial capacity to cover the demand for payment of environmental services, and mechanisms for the internalization of the costs of several of these services have not yet been established.

At the same time, unsustainable production practices are often encouraged and promoted considering exclusively their economic impact (subsidies to fishermen, hotel exemptions, etc.).

Access to genetic resources, intellectual property and biosecurity  in biotechnology.

Knowledge of these issues is limited. The capacity to follow up on access permits is also limited. The legislation to create a specific institutional framework to regulate this area is still in the process of being put into operation.

Biosecurity in biotechnology has been mainly based on resources related to agriculture, but not on animal resources. The issue becomes very complex if we take into account its effects on the national and international economy. The country’s capacity to deal with the consequences of biotechnology (Modified Living Organisms) is inadequate.

Marine and coastal resources.

Production and conservation activities involving marine and coastal resources are not undertaken in a planned manner and ignore the close inter-relation between terrestrial and marine resources. The institutional framework has not been consolidated, and for this reason there is a certain amount of confusion about the authority and jurisdiction of the different actors, particularly with regard to the participation of coastal communities in the decision-making process.

Developing the potential of marine resources is in many cases associated exclusively with the development of fisheries, thereby limiting the identification of new sustainable production alternatives. This problem is compounded by the absence of close links between the technical and scientific actors and the political and administrative authorities.

Management capacity.

The concept of sustainable development has not been equally appropriated by all sectors, making it difficult to define standards and unify policies, regulations and procedures.

The organizational model adopted by SINAC has still not been consolidated, both in terms of its structure and in its operational and financial capacity to effectively tackle biodiversity conservation. Moreover, the participation of local human resources in monitoring and development activities is limited. The bodies who are responsible for intersectoral coordination and who participate in the application of regulations and the development of biodiversity resources, do not yet have official status.

Existing financial and human resources are insufficient to guarantee an integrated approach to conservation and the promotion of sustainable use, both from the public sector and the private enterprise. At the same time, the fact that many of the sustainable activities are new, in terms of the technological package required, means that they do not receive credit.

Insufficient attention has been paid to the eventual release of modified living organisms and the control of exotic species, as well as to possibilities for scientific and technical cooperation projects that extend beyond forest initiatives.

In general, there is a lack of knowledge and a poor application of the wide range of legal norms that regulate the subject of biodiversity and its management.