Plenary Remarks by Rubina James ABCG Director at the 2023 Society for Conservation Biology Congress

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Photo: Rubina James, ABCG Director on the right.

The ongoing 31st International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB 2023) happening in Kigali Rwanda from July 23-27, 2023 has convened about 1200 stakeholders from close to 100 countries under the theme, Future is Now: Sustaining Biodiversity Today and Tomorrow. The event, held at the Kigali Convention Centre, brings together a diverse community of conservation professionals, researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and students from around the world and creates a unique opportunity for the exchange of knowledge, experiences, and best practices in conservation biology.

Plenary remarks by Rubina James ABCG Director at the 2023 International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB).

Among her many gems of wisdom and foresight, Kenya’s Wangari Muta Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner, environmentalist and human rights activist once said, “Poor people will cut the last tree to cook the last meal,” and “the more you degrade the environment, the more you dig deeper into poverty.”

Therefore, this congress’ theme, ‘The Future is Now: Sustaining biodiversity for today and tomorrow’, echoes Mama Maathai’s prophetic words. Our collective responsibility today and tomorrow is to ensure that science, fact, and pragmatism anchor global biodiversity aspirations, advocacy, and contributions to the global vision of a world living in harmony with nature.

With the recognition that we cannot deliver on this herculean task within the confines of our institutions and organizations alone, it has become even more necessary to encourage and foster meaningful inter-intra agency coordination and collaboration across sectors.

The conservation and protection of biodiversity now and into the future is fundamental for human health and critical for sustainable development. To quote Gregorio Mirabel, Indigenous leader, and Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), “We’re fighting for soil, land, food, trees, water, birds. We’re fighting for life.”

Nature-based solutions that balance socio, economic and ecological objectives, offer immediate and cost-effective long-term benefits to both mitigate climate change and adapt to its unavoidable impacts. Without immediate and sustained action on both biodiversity and climate there can be no sustainable development.

I am preaching to the converted when I remind you that sustaining biodiversity is a long-term commitment. By implementing, advocating, and sustaining good practices, both old and new, we can protect global biodiversity, for current and future generations.

It is within this l’esprit of collaboration, that the partnership between the Society for Conservation Biology and the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group, a consortium of conservation organizations that leverages the wide-ranging networks of its members to improve, scale, and replicate innovative and effective solutions to solve biodiversity’s most complex challenges across Africa, took root and blossomed, and in expanding, broadening and amplifying our collective wisdom, knowledge cultivation, networking and resource mobilization, we echo the meaning of the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together”.