Similar fate fell to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which President (Senior) George Bush refused to sign at the 1992 Rio Summit. The CBD recognises the rights of countries on their genetic resources and insists on fair and equitable return for the use of these resources mostly by the pharmaceutical companies of the North.
Recognition of the rights of ownership of these genetic resources for the indigenous communities is a major feature of CBD which has been ratified by more than 175 countries today. Eighty per cent of the world’s biological resources exist in the forests of the South (i.e. the developing countries).
The North (industrially rich countries) wants unrestricted access to these forests for raw material for their drugs production, which is approximately US$ 43 billion a year. Tropical deforestation is fast increasing owing to large scale felling of trees for logs.
Forests of South are the preying grounds for the multinationals of the North which wants a convention to protect its timber trade interests but not because they are a lifeline for people inhabiting those lands. The struggle is still going on to have an International Convention on Sustainable Forestry though Rio Summit had called for it as a part of its global sustainable development goal.
Lickewise, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification which was adopted by the Rio Summit in 1992 is similarly faced with problems as the Northern countries are unwilling to accept ‘desertification’ as anything more than a local problem caused by population pressures.
Desertification affects 41 per cent of the total land area on the earth and affects livelihoods of more than 1 billion people (mostly in Africa) in more than 110 countries. The Northern countries are unwilling to provide any assistance to the Southern countries in this matter.
This is, however, not the case with the environmental concerns affecting the Northern hemisphere. Whether it is the hole in the ozone layer which was found to cause cancer particularly to the white skin, or the problem of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) travelling to the Arctic, the governing Montreal Protocol and the Negotiations on POPs respectively, have been administered both in time and with full force. However, treaties on biological diversity and desertification which deal mostly with problems in developing countries have been stalled.