Communication, Education & Public Awareness

47% of the land surface of the Earth is drylands. This includes semi arid lands such as the Karoo and the Horn of Africa, savannah landscapes such as the Eurasian steppes and the North American Great Plains, and so-called Mediterranean landscapes. Home to a richness of biological diversity, they are also central to the livelihoods of almost 2 billion people. Drylands ecosystems receive very erratic rainfall, and as a result are very fragile.

Biodiversity in these ecosystems is under threat from a variety of human activities. The transformation of habitats for human use, mostly agricultural, and increases in overexploitation, including overgrazing, has led to the degradation of up to 20% of drylands ecosystems – with stark results: desertification and drought, the endangerment of 2,311 species, the loss of over 40 billion dollars a year in lost agricultural production and the resulting rise of social, economic, and political tensions. Poverty has forced populations who are dependent on natural resources to overexploit already marginal lands in order to sustain their livelihoods. Existing incentive frameworks do not encourage the sustainable use of resources.

The urgency of these issues has been recognized in the decision of the United Nations General Assembly to proclaim 2006 the International Year of Deserts and Desertification.

To commemorate this year, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity invites you to mark the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May 2006 by working to protect biodiversity in drylands

Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity are also committed to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in drylands, and are working to ensure equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources in these ecosystems.

The Programme of work on the Biological Diversity of Dry and Sub-humid Lands provides guidance on actions to stop desertification and sustain biodiversity in drylands and realize the goal of reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by the year 2010.

Actions can be taken to reduce human impacts and therefore reduce the rate of biodiversity loss in dry and sub humid lands. Among others, these include:

  • Reducing overgrazing in delicate ecosystems.
  • Reducing pollutants produced by intensive agriculture.
  • Slowing the conversion of grassland and savannah systems to agriculture and urban settlement.
  • Taking steps to control invasive alien species into these ecosystems.
  • Helping to build institutions that will alleviate poverty and allow the poor to realize sustainable livelihoods.
  • Mobilizing sufficient financial and technical resources, particularly for developing countries, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the 2010 biodiversity target.

In taking these and other actions, we will achieve concrete results. It we act now, it is within our power to achieve the 2010 biodiversity target and halt the loss of biodiversity in dry and sub-humid lands.

Suggested Activities for the International Day for Biological Diversity 2006

To assist Parties in commemorating the International Day for Biological Diversity, the Executive Secretary has prepared a short list of suggested events. There are many ways to celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity. Of the activities listed below, some can be carried out singly, or in combination.

Parties are also invited to submit their ideas and suggestions for models to be included. Please note that while some of these activities require a national approach, many can and should be carried out by local communities and NGOs with encouragement and assistance from the National Focal Point.

1. Prepare articles to be published in national or local newspapers focusing on ways to stop desertification. Promote special issues or supplements on biodiversity in dry and sub-humid lands in the local media. This may be easier to organize if associated with an announcement of a new programme or policy.
Example: as part of the 2004 IBD celebrations in Oman, articles on the International Biodiversity Day were published in local newspapers.
More on the 2004 IBD in Oman...

2. Promote the participation of government officials and leading scientists in radio talk shows with the objective of targeting a broader audience and raising public awareness about the CBD and its objectives, particularly with regard to the programme of work on dry and sub-humid lands..
Example: the Ghana’s co-ordinator for the celebration of International Biological Diversity Day arranged for the participation of members of the National Biodiversity Committee in radio talk shows in order to brief the public.
More on the 2004 IBD in Ghana...

3. Designate Biodiversity and the theme of “Acting to achieve the 2010 target: Take action to stop desertification!” for adoption in natural history and science museums for the period surrounding May 22. Organize exhibits, lectures and presentations emphasizing the importance of biodiversity in dry and sub-humid lands and accompanied by presentations and documents. If there is a national announcement on a Biodiversity or CBD-related topic, consider making the announcement in conjunction with an event at a science museum, exhibition or fair. Offer free access for the day, or special admission fees, to teachers, students and community groups.
Example: one of the activities chosen by Iran to commemorate the 2004 International Biodiversity Day was the opening of a museum dedicated to the theme of biological diversity (“Biodiversity Museum of Iran”). Also, admission to national history museums on International Biodiversity Day was free of charge.
More on the 2004 IBD in Iran...

4. Offer free access for the day, or special admission fees, to national parks and other protected areas. Provide guided walks, animal spotting and/or bird watching activities.
Example: the 2004 International Biodiversity Day celebrations in Scotland were marked by events and activities ranging from Nature Reserve open days and guided walks, scrub clearance and moth walks, exhibitions and talks, making bird boxes and animal tracking.
More on the 2004 IBD in U.K....

5. Designate the IBD theme at agricultural and plant conservation centres and botanic gardens, accompanied by special exhibits or special events.

6. In cooperation with local or national media, organize contests in one or more categories, such as essay, photography, art, website and poster design, dance or drama. Co-operative ventures with media may also include on-line discussions or workshops for schools, community groups and/or the public to illustrate the IBD theme.
Example: as part of the 2004 International Biological Diversity Day, organized the first national Digital Photography Festival of Nature.
More on the 2004 IBD in Iran...

7. Organize biodiversity awareness presentations to schools and colleges by subject matter experts on the importance of Biodiversity, explaining the effects that biodiversity loss has on everyday life, and what individuals can do to help preserve the variety of life on earth. Present International Biodiversity Day posters to the classrooms, information material and/or a list of Biodiversity-related educational Website links. Advantage: raise awareness of biodiversity topics at low cost.
Example: in 2003 and 2004 the Secretariat implemented a school outreach campaign as part of the activities marking the International Biodiversity Day. The aim of this pilot programme was to make the Secretariat and the work of the CBD known to students and teachers by sending staff of the Secretariat to different schools in the Montreal area to talk about the work of the CBD, and more specifically to convey the message of the importance of preserving life on earth.

8. Create a special Website or special pages on International Biological Diversity Day and include recommended activities for individuals and groups based on the 2005 IBD theme and the key messages from the Synthesis Report.

9. Introduce a programme of consultation on Local Biodiversity Action Plans (LBAPs), incorporating the 2006 IBD theme with a view to stimulating effective local action for priorities identified in the national Biodiversity Action Plan, as well as for species and habitats which are particularly cherished or valued in local areas.