COP13: Costa Rica and the Benefits of Prosperity Sharing

Today, the thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP13) kicks off in Cancun, Mexico. Delegates from around the world are expected to add shape and definition to their country’s long term commitments to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Back in 1998, Costa Rica introduced a Biodiversity Law which protects not only the variety of animal and plant life in the country but also the genetic and biochemical resources derived from them. In 2010, the country won the Future Policy Award 2010 for their successful approach.

Raising awareness of biodiversity loss, which is threatening wildlife, the environment and our common future, has been at the core of the work of the World Future Council for many years. In the face of the looming biodiversity crisis, policy-makers must work urgently towards ambitious and comprehensive policies – and good solutions already exist. In the run up to the conference we interviewed a number of policy influencers in Costa Rica, a country well known for its success in combining the use of its biodiversity with economic growth.

Back in 1998, Costa Rica introduced a Biodiversity Law which protects not only the variety of animal and plant life in the country but also the genetic and biochemical resources derived from them. In 2010, the country won the Future Policy Award 2010 for their successful approach.

Patricia Madrigal Cordero, Vice-Minister of the Environment, said that the law also shields the intellectual property rights associated with traditional knowledge and practices of indigenous people from commercial exploitation by outside actors.

How, then, has Costa Rica been so successful in protecting its biodiversity whilst maintaining steady economic development and being named the world’s happiest country in a report published by the New Economics Foundation? Silvia Rodriguez-Cervantes from the Ecological Federation of Costa Rica, an NGO, points out that the Biodiversity Law established a new authority to manage the country’s biodiversity resources by combining government ministries with civil society groups. This demonstrates a successful power-sharing agreement between different levels of governance to ensure that no one group has total control over the genetic and biochemical resources of the country.

Policy-makers stand to learn a lot from the Costa Rican model, which incorporates a policy mix of governance-sharing, wealth distribution and protection for minority communities. Three key ingredients for a happy and healthy society.

Secondly, the objectives of the law have been socially inclusive from the outset. With Article 1 of the Law aiming to conserve biodiversity as well as to; “…distribute in an equitable manner the benefits and derived costs”.

With inequalities of wealth increasing across the globe, policy-makers would do well to see the Costa Rican Biodiversity Law not only as a piece of effective environmental legislation, but also as a policy that attempts to share the benefits of increased prosperity more evenly across society. To read in more detail how Costa Rica has achieved these goals visit our Policy Database.

Policy-makers stand to learn a lot from the Costa Rican model, which incorporates a policy mix of governance-sharing, wealth distribution and protection for minority communities. Three key ingredients for a happy and healthy society.

On that note we wish all delegates and participants at the COP13 in Mexico a fruitful and productive conference.