AN INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION FOR THE COLOMBIAN BOTANIC GARDENS NETWORK

Alberto Gomez-Mejia

President of Colombian Botanic Gardens Network

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All of you know perfectly that most of the plants of the world are mainly in countries in which the economic and social conditions are not the best. Critical misery generates environmental destruction and environmental destruction generates poverty. This is the dramatic vicious circle of many countries, like ours, Colombia, in the north of South America. Almost half of population live under critical misery and the tendency is increasing.

We assume that the law is not innocent. The law is the result of the political interests of the community. This is true not only for the national but the international law. And the political interests are the result of the concept of justice. Sometimes the individual and corporations interests of economic groups are against the justice. The respect to law is one of the most important traditions in western world. For us, one of the mega diversitiy countries, the approval of Biodiversity Convention was one the most important achievements of the conservation movement in the planet. All the countries that have adopted the Biodiversity Convention deserve our recognition, because it is a very big opportunity to help in biological and ecological conservation.

In this context, the responsibility of the conservation of flora and fauna in Neotropical areas, like Colombia, is a political problem with ethical implications. Nature preservation, ecological research and environmental education, as main objectives of Colombian botanic gardens, are directly related with the social and economic situation. This situation depends not only on internal but international economic relations. If they are fair and equitable, we will have hope of a better future.

 

Colombia is one the countries with the highest biological diversity world-wide, with some 40,000 species of vascular plants recorded. We have a total of 16 botanic gardens, widely recognised as of considerable actual and potential importance to safeguarding these plants resources, not only through their cultivation of important and extensive collections of native plants for conservation but also through diverse activities in botanical research, exploration and education. One of the obligations of the parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity is to adopt measures to promote a wide range of activities to safeguard biodiversity, including such techniques as ex situ and in situ conservation of biological diversity, especially of threatened or endangered species.

Our country ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity through Law 165 of 1994, and the Colombian Congress and Government have passed important legislative acts relating to its implementation. One of these was a Botanical Garden Law, passed by Congress as Law 299 of 1996, the first law for botanic gardens world-wide. This law has declared botanic gardens a priority in the environmental agenda, and recognised the important role they are expected and obliged to play in safeguarding national biodiversity. The botanical gardens law also calls for an action plan to be developed by the Ministry of the Environment, the National Botanic Gardens Network and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute. This plan was therefore developed during and subsequent to a week-long workshop held in 1996 which included participants from all the botanic gardens of Colombia, several international botanic gardens associations (including BGCI) and representatives of other environmental sectors in Colombia.

For Colombian environmental leaders the respect for the Convention for Biological Diversity, the CITES Convention and other similar international treats from the developed countries, is a very important aspect of the fair and equitable relation with mega diversity countries, like Colombia. Developing this respect, the Department of Environment of the British Government has approved a very important project for the Colombian Botanic Gardens, in the context of Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species. This project has been approved with with the special co-operation and collaboration of Botanic Gardens Conservation International. The official agency responsible of the Colombia flora and fauna inventory, the Alexander von Humboldt Institute, will participate as well.

This project will assist Colombia in meeting its obligations in the implementations of the Convention by: Enhancing the role of Colombian botanic gardens in conservation;

At the end of the project, in 3 years, 16 Colombian botanic gardens will have information systems operating, all plant accessions digitised, 32 staff trained, Spanish version of BG recorder for Windows and of the International Transfer Format.

This is, in short words, the project. It is the result of a shared co-operation between BGCI, Alexander von Humboldt Institute and our net. We have been working with a big hope because we are aware of our challenges.

We have a great respect for the law but we are conscious of the law of Capitalism, the "wild" capitalism, in some point of view, is against our interests. The CBD and the international co-operation needs a real political fight. The global liberation of Economy is eventually a tremendous risk against our work on conservation of nature. We hope that all of you will help us to preserve the natural heritage for the future generations.

Thank you very much.

 
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