Be realistic on conservation, rich nations told


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 19 Feb 2004

BY SUSAN TAM

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has called on developed nations to be more realistic in supporting the developing world in efforts to conserve the world’s biodiversity. 

“Without their support, financial and technological resources, we will not be able to achieve our aim of ensuring the global goals of biodiversity are met,” said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. 

Malaysia would continue to urge for support from developed countries and for all parties to set aside their differences to protect the world’s natural resources for the present and future generation to enjoy, he said in his keynote address at the ministerial meeting of the Seventh Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP7) here yesterday. 

Abdullah’s speech was read out by his deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. The Prime Minister is away in Teheran for the D8 Summit, which Iran is hosting. 

Abdullah said developed countries, with their vast resources, continued to exploit and convert biodiversity into valuable commercial products. 

“They reap the harvest but are unwilling to share the benefits with the countries that own the biological resources,” he added. 

The issue of access and benefit-sharing discussed at COP7 must not result in mere rhetoric but a practical action plan to be put in place, Abdullah said. 

Developing countries, due to lack of financial and technological capabilities, were unable to reap benefits from their natural resources and had to rely on their primary, unprocessed value, the Prime Minister said. 

“They continue to undertake primary activities of cutting down forest for timber and fuel as well as harvesting non-timber products such as honey and rattan, he said, adding that these biological resources might hold vast potential for the medicinal, nutraceutical and cosmetic industries. 

Abdullah said the economic value of biodiversity stood at RM11.02tril a year and this was a significant source of wealth and income for many countries, provided it was harnessed responsibly. 

At a press conference later, Najib said biosafety must be taken into account to ensure that any utilisation of biodiversity must be applied in a way that protected the environment, health and lives of people. 

When asked for his response to concerns of Malaysian NGOs on species loss caused by the Bakun Dam project, he said: “There is a question of balance between our development needs and protecting the environment.” 

He added that compared to some developed countries, Malaysia’s track record of keeping to environmental targets had exceeded global standards. 

On a question of protecting the rights of indigenous people, Najib said that on the international scale, Malaysia’s record was “pretty good” in these issues. 

“But, we do admit that we need to take care of their interests and the Government is open to consultation with various groups,” he said.  

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