[AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY]
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. It is a pleasure for me to welcome you on behalf of UNCTAD to the opening of the First BioTrade Congress: "Biodiversity - The Life of the Green Economy".
Biodiversity is the natural capital base for a sustainable and greener economy; its preservation and responsible exploitation offer humanity both ecological and economic benefits. Biodiversity components, both at the species and genetic levels, are a direct source of food, medicine, recreation and raw materials in general, some of which are consumed directly, while others are inputs to various industries.
As we seek to better balance growth and poverty-reduction with the conservation of the planet's biodiversity, the sustainable harvest and manufacture of biodiversity-based products and their trade can play a prominent role in the transition to a green economy. The current draft of the Rio+20 Summit outcome document duly reflects this role and aspiration.
Many Member States have been calling for the full implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) objectives and the Aichi Targets in order to achieve progress on biodiversity preservation - an objective also identified by the Millennium Development Goals. Several Member States have insisted on the need to promote investment in this area to accelerate the transition to a green economy and provide incentives and support to private firms to develop green technology, products and services, including through the liberalisation of trade in environmental goods and services. UNCTAD has highlighted in its 2009 Trade and Development Report and its 2010 World Investment Report how transitioning to a green economy can be supported by government and international policies that promote new green growth models.
The responsible economic exploitation of biodiversity, and its contribution to inclusive growth and sustainable consumption and production patterns, is becoming increasingly visible worldwide. For example, looking at the market for bio-trade, domestic and international sales by businesses in this sector reached over US$ 2.3 billion in 2011, showing an annual growth rate of 14 per cent. Nevertheless, these figures still represent a small proportion of the estimated market potential for biodiversity products and services, which has been put at over US$ 140 billion. This potential will continue to be driven by many factors, including consumer preferences, but also by the integration of sustainability considerations into corporate and branding strategies.
Given their often large endowments of biodiversity, many developing countries are well positioned to take advantage of trade and investment opportunities which bio-trade activities offer. These opportunities are a potential source of jobs and incomes, export diversification and rural development. In 2010, bio-trade activities directly benefited more than 38'000 people worldwide including collectors, breeders, hunters, farmers and producers.
However, sustainability and market access in bio-trade are still hindered by a variety of factors, including non-tariff barriers, access to credit, and lack of financial and management capacities. In this regard, the consolidation and expansion of emerging biodiversity-based sectors still needs a great deal of attention, as well as financial and technical support from the international community.
Sixteen years ago, UNCTAD launched the BioTrade Initiative with the aim of promoting trade and investment in biodiversity as a means of furthering sustainable development and implementing the CBD's objectives. Products and services increasingly traded by beneficiaries of the program are used in the food, cosmetic, handicrafts, fashion, and ecotourism industries.
Since then, remarkable progress has been achieved by private actors and partners in embracing bio-trade concepts and principles as an integral part of their development strategies. The BioTrade Initiative is currently being implemented in 19 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and continues to grow. An example of this is the forthcoming Global UNCTAD/UNDP partnership on Bio-trade and Post Conflict Reintegration and Livelihoods Recovery.
This first Bio-trade Congress is evidence of the progress made so far and of the broad scope of bio-trade activities. It provides a platform for all stakeholders to share their experiences, lessons learned and the challenges faced in implementing sustainable practices and guiding private actors and governments in building "greener" economic sectors. It also offers a chance to establish mechanisms for further cooperation in implementing sustainable practices in biodiversity-based sectors and corporate strategies.
In opening this congress, we at UNCTAD would like to express our deep appreciation to the sustained support of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and other partners to UNCTAD's BioTrade Initiative. I would also like to thank the contribution of the General Secretariat of the Andean Community (SGCAN), the International Trade Centre (ITC), the Colombian Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the Natural Resources Stewardship Circle (NRSC), the Peruvian Ministry of Environment, PhytoTrade Africa, the Union of Ethical BioTrade, Yves Rocher and the Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery of UNDP for their support in the organization of this meeting.
This wide base of support demonstrates the interest in the commercial success of bio-trade, and the recognition of the role that bio-trade can play in the growth of the green economy in developing countries. It is my hope that this event generates ideas and examples that help make a concrete contribution to the follow-up to Rio+20.