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It’s worrying journalists gave Nairobi global conservation meeting wide berth

The fourth meeting of the open-ended working group on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework took place from June 21 to 26 at the UN headquarters in Nairobi. Given the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, this gathering is one of the most important events. But, alas, it received no prominent coverage in our local media.

We have reviewed all the stories published in our local dailies during this period, including People Daily, The Star, Nation Africa, and The Standard, and they have been disappointing, to say the least. Only Star mentioned the six-day United Nations talks two days after they concluded in Nairobi.

We thought it was absurd that two of our leading newspapers, Nation. Africa and The Standard, ignored the Nairobi talks. The meeting was attended by governments and influential stakeholders, also known as parties; observers from various UN bodies, specialised agencies, and convention secretariats, among others, to discuss concrete ways to mitigate biodiversity loss and potentially build a framework that would help humans and other species thrive.

However, our leading media outlets failed to highlight these discussions. Not even for the high-profile attendees?

Given that this is an election year, politics will naturally dominate the news. But completely ignoring such an important event demonstrates how the media refuses to recognize its agenda-setting role. Either that, or there is insufficient understanding of these discussions among journalists and editors to provide meaningful coverage.

For example, on June 21, People Daily published under Green Agenda a story on conservation – a prominent theme under the ongoing talks – without mentioning that Kenya was hosting the CBD negotiations. The piece is quite positive about conservancies, but at the UN headquarters in Nairobi, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities were divided about this type of conservation model. Unless it was a paid feature (which there is no indication of), the reporter should have done more research to understand why some IPLCs opposed this model while others preferred it. And there was no better place to get this information than at the United Nations, where these negotiations were just getting underway.

The People Daily on June 22 featured a story about a baby who died in Tanzania after being kidnapped by monkeys. This is a story about human-wildlife conflict. They even mentioned the monkeys were from Gombe National Park. But I didn’t see how this related to the ongoing negotiations. Locals were complaining that conservation was being discussed as a wild animal affair, with people being driven out of their lands in favour of animals to minimize or avoid the human-wildlife conflict.

This story would have benefited from more research into what causes human-wildlife conflict and what IPLCs living near parks are proposing.

The same thing was reported by The Standard on June 26, the last day of the CBD negotiations. Meru National Park was featured in the Out And About segment. The story captivated me from the beginning. The reporter regales the reader with stories about how the killing of a lioness led to the adoption of her cubs, bringing Meru National Park to prominence, but fails to mention anything about the ongoing UN discussions on conservation models.

What happened to the journalists who were supposed to be piecing together the important talks and contextualising the negotiations?

Therefore, we believe the Star article did a good job of tying the ongoing negotiations to the Ogiek’s favourable judgment from the African Court, which recognised their ancestral land and condemned the government’s eviction of this indigenous community from the Mau Forest.

One of the most intriguing and contentious targets at the CBD talks was target three, which calls for conserving at least 30% of the planet by 2030. Controversial because the IPLCs have questioned what that entails – whether the protected areas would imply evicting them from their lands, as seen in recent conservation efforts, also known as “fortress conservation”.

The CBD negotiations concluded on June 26, with final targets to be agreed upon at the Cop15 biodiversity conference in Montreal, Canada, later this year.

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