UNCTAD has just concluded three new partnerships that will help developing countries enter the US and European markets for biodiversity products and services and increase access to credit and venture capital. The partnerships, which are aimed at boosting trade and investment in this area, will be formally signed at the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg.
Biodiversity is made up of the millions of microbial, plant and animal species that inhabit the planet. The Earth´s essential goods and services depend on the variety and variability of genes, species, populations and ecosystems. Biological resources provide food, clothing, housing, medicines and spiritual nourishment. They also provide an increasing number of intermediate products, such as natural ingredients for the cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors (essential oils, natural dyes, latex, fibres, resins, gums and medicinal plants), or final products, such as timber, handicrafts, nuts and tropical fruits.
Great potential exists for bio-businesses in developing countries to tap into the increased consumer demand for biodiversity products. World markets for herbal medicines in 1997 amounted to US$ 16.5 billion, and by 2011 this market is estimated to more than double to US$ 40 billion annually. If managed well, bio-businesses could generate tangible economic benefits for populations whose livelihood depends on biodiversity and provide an incentive to use that biodiversity in a sustainable fashion.
Maritza Parra from the Colombian region of Choco is a good example. She and 75 other women heads of household produce and market medicinal plants at the local level. Thanks to technical assistance and credit access provided by UNCTAD´s BIOTRADE programme in Colombia, they are beginning to broaden their product range and market products nationally, increasing their families’ income and improving their quality of life.
The first of UNCTAD´s new partnerships is a regional programme to fund BIOTRADE activities in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. Introducing the notion of sustainability to businesses and familiarizing local producers and communities with sound business practices are among the activities. The BIOTRADE programme also encourages businesses, conservationists, governments and local and indigenous communities to work together, provides input for the development of regulations and policies, supports enterprise development and provides market information. This partnership brings together UNCTAD; the Andean Community (CAN), based in Lima, Peru; and the Andean Development Corporation (CAF), based in Caracas, Venezuela.
The second partnership to be announced this month is a BioTrade Facilitation Programme for Latin America, Africa and Asia. It promotes access to foreign markets, for example through matchmaking between enterprises, product development, certification and support of participation in trade fairs. The partnership involves UNCTAD and the Geneva-based International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO (ITC), in cooperation with the Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries, the Swiss Import Promotion Programme and BIOTRADE partners.
A financing contest that assists selected small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in up-grading their business operations to access credit and venture capital is the focus of the third partnership. SMEs that are working with products and services derived from biodiversity and that contribute to the sustainable use of biodiversity are eligible to participate. This is a partnership between UNCTAD, the Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI) and CAF.
To date, US$ 9 million has been pledged for these partnerships by UNCTAD, its partners and such donors as the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, the United Nations Foundation and CAF. Over the next five years the partnerships are expected to generate an additional US$ 10 million in credits and venture capital for SMEs and community-based enterprises.
Journalists covering the WSSD are invited to a press conference on these partnerships, to be held at 15h30 Sunday, 1 Sept., in the Press Room of the Sandton Conference Centre.