A Nigerian Professor of Law and Director General of Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Muhammed Tawfik Ladan, has stressed the need to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Islamic financing instruments to bridge the financial resources gap in the implementation of the Biodiversity and Nature conservation treaties consistent with both SDGs 12 to 15 and GBF Target 19, especially in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region.

Prof. Ladan made the case during a presentation he made at the 4th Scientific Conference and Workshop of the Association of Environmental Law Lecturers in the Middle East and North African Universities (ASSELLMU) organised at the University of Jordan College of Law on 27th through 28th February 2023 by ASSELLMU in collaboration with UNEP, SADER Legal Publishing, and KONRAD A.S. MENA with the theme: “Law on Biodiversity, Nature Conservation and the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region.”

Prof. Ladan, a Hubert Humphrey Fellow, USA (1999 – 2000); director general/ CEO Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NAILS), Abuja/Lagos, said Islamic Finance could play the critical role by promoting domestic resource mobilisation, enhancing financial inclusion, promoting profit and loss or risk sharing in business relations, and by ensuring the use of Islamic financial instruments for the common good of all while making peace with nature.

According to the veteran, Islamic Finance is a set of faith-based financial tools, instruments and products guided by ethical, legal, economic, religious and discretionary based responsibility principles that promotes wealth redistribution, social equality, profit and loss or risk sharing in business or investment relations.

“Its approach to financing, emphasises financial inclusion, social welfare and prohibition of interest/usury, gambling / betting, speculation and uncertainty in transactions,” he noted.

The professor expressed regret that despite being a diverse region that benefits from a privileged geographic location with access to large markets; a young and increasingly educated population; comparative advantages in several sectors such as manufacturing, renewable energies and tourism; and being home to some of the world’s most resource-endowed, MENA region remains one of the most vulnerable natural environments, facing water and food security as well as complex ecological and sustainability threats to its long-term security and prosperity.

He cited neglect and lack of implementation of the some key biodiversity and nature conservation treaties relevant to the MENA region as a major factor responsible for the backwardness in the conservation of the resourceful bio-diversified ecosystem. Hence the presentation was sought to identify the core means of implementation by state parties or signatories to such treaties in the MENA region; to clarify the role of Islamic Financing Approaches in addressing the resources gap; and to conclude with some recommendations.

“One of the available sources for implementing biodiversity and nature conservation treaties in the MENA region particularly and across the globe generally, is the Islamic financing regime, whose approaches are guided by Islamic law principles that emphasize that humans are primarily beneficiaries and trustees (Khalifah) of the earth and not proprietors; and that humans have a solemn duty to keep, maintain and preserve the natural environment, such that it does not disrupt or upset the equilibrium and interests (mizan) of future generation,” the academics said.

Noting that human beings require biodiversity as it assures them of food, raw materials, recreation, stable climate, medicine, ecological stability, economic uses and biotechnological values, Prof. Ladan said, “Implementation of biodiversity and nature conservation treaties requires policy, legislative, institutional, administrative, programmatic, resource capacity, budgetary or financing mechanisms to be put in place at all levels of governance.

“Islamic Finance is most commonly associated with the general guiding principles of halal (permissible) and haram (prohibited) conducts, practices, products, and services; an ethical underpinning that puts stewardship and societal value creation at the forefront of finance; a unique system of finance founded on legal sources rooted in the Glorious Qur’an, Hadith (or Sunnah), ljma (Consensus), Qiyas (analogical deduction) and Ijtihad (the process of making a legal decision or an independent reasoning or original interpretation to find answers / solutions to current problems not precisely covered by the Quran and Hadith. Islamic finance is guided by general and specific principles of Islamic Law and objectives (Maqasid-al-shari’ah) with broad types, characteristics, tools, products or instruments of finance, scope of application in practice, financial institutions, challenges and opportunities.

Prof. Ladan, DG NIALS 27 February 2023: At the 2 day Amman Jordan School of law, University of Jordan International conference on Environmental law in the Middle East and North Africa. In pic with Environmental law scholars like Prof. Damilola olawuyi SAN, UNESCO chair on Qatar and Prof Patricia mbote Director law division of UNEP Nairobi.

Key biodiversity and nature conservation treaties relevant to The MENA region, according to the professor, are: – the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which is reinforced by two important protocols, the Cartagena protocol on Biosafety and the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation (ABS); the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, and the Revised African Conventions on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and like states in other regions of the world, mobilising financial resources and capacity of national institutions to implement their treaty obligations under the key treaties has remained a daunting task in the region.

He explained that “the CBD for example, has launched three long-term, target-based conservation Strategic Plans in the last two decades: – the 2002 to 2010 Plan and the 2011 to 2020 (including the Aichi Biodiversity Targets) have been formulated and implemented, forming crucial support for the world’s commitment to conservation. This ambition to halt biodiversity loss also serves as a foundation to realise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
However, official and scientific reports of two Strategic Plans have announced that most targets have been missed, with biodiversity continuing to decline.

“The third and current Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) is more inclusive, more comprehensive, more SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound), and more complex than the Aichi Biodiversity Targets that preceded it. It includes quantified targets for resource mobilization, including a target that aims to substantially and progressively increase the level of financial resources from all sources to at least USD 200 billion per year by 2030.

“These values constitute the major reasons for conserving biodiversity as humankind’s survival on earth, in fact, depends on it. Conservation is the protection and preservation of plants, animals and other biological and cultural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

“Most of the above mentioned elements of biodiversity are however subject to human control or ownership and constitute property. This concept of property really refers to the legal power to exclude or control the relationships of other persons.

“Therefore, biodiversity conservation at a macro level enjoins us to consider it essential to human and economic survival of our nations. Hence, the need to accord priority to the conservation of biodiversity and nature and full implementation of the following key biodiversity and nature conservation treaties that states in the MENA region are either signatories or parties to”.

He noted further that the Key biodiversity related conventions that have addressed biodiversity in express, broad terms, while others are concerned with only specific components of the subject, and have provided the fundamental principles of conservation.

Such conventions according to the erudite scholar, included: Conventions on Fishing and Conservations of the Living Resources of the High Seas (Geneva, 1958); Revised African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (Maputo, 2003); Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar, 1971);
Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (Paris, 1972); Conventional on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Washington, DC., 1973); Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn, 1979); UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay, 1982);
Conventions on Biological Diversity (Nairobi, 1992); UN Convention to Combat Desertification in those Counties Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa (Paris, 1994).

“It is notable too that the generality of those conventions, in relation to biodiversity conservation, has commended itself to a large number of MENA region states which have signed, ratified or acceded to them. These conventions, as they deal differently with the theme of biodiversity conservation for sustainable development, do provide important reference points and useful practical ideas for wider adoption, at regional and sub-regional levels as well as domestic implementation at national level. Biodiversity loss is driven by local, regional and global factors, so responses are also needed at all scales,” he explained.

Speaking further on addressing the Financial Resources Gap under the new Global Biodiversity Framework and Targets 2030/2050 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030, Prof. Ladan explained that after lengthy negotiations, the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD-COP 15) adopted the “hard-fought” and “well-balanced” Kunning-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework(GBF) to guide biodiversity policy through four overarching goals to be achieved by 2050 and a set of 23 targets to be reached by 2030, to achieve a vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050.

He said: “The 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference aimed to take strong action to reverse the ugly trend of ecosystems in steep decline, hundreds of thousands of species threatened with extinction and the world is losing biodiversity, the source of essential resources and ecosystem functions that sustains life, at an alarming rate. By 2030, to protect 30% of Earth’s lands, oceans, coastal areas, inland waters; Reduce by $500 billion (five hundred billion dollars) annual harmful government subsidies; cut food waste by half.

“Targets 14 to 23 cover tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming, including quantified targets for resource mobilization. Target 19 aims to substantially and progressively increase the level of financial resources from all sources to at least USD 200 billion per year by 2030, including by increasing transfer from developed to developing Countries, in order to address the finance and Capacity gaps.

“Target 19 aims at mobilizing financial resources from all sources, in an effective, timely and easily accessible manner, including domestic, international, public and Private resources, in accordance with Article 20 of the CBD, to implement national biodiversity strategies and action plans. It further seeks to significantly increase domestic resource mobilisation, facilitated by the preparation and implementation of national biodiversity finance plans or similar Instruments according to national needs, priorities and circumstances.

“It is evident from the constitutive elements of Target 19 of the GBF for 2030/2050 that Islamic Financing Approaches have a critical role to play in the national, regional and global financial mobilisation and use to implement the strategic finance plans for the conservation of biodiversity and nature as treaty obligations, as well as achieving Sustainable Development Goals 12, 14, 15 in order to make peace with nature.”

In terms of approaches, he said: “First, environmental, social and governance considerations constitute the core factors around which Islamic finance approach to sustainable, responsible and impact investing is developed; second, Islamic finance is centred around the sharia injunctions against Riba (interest rate made on debt or in financial transactions), Gharar (enrichment made based on uncertainty), Maysir (enrichment made through speculation), and the Sharia endorsement of risk-sharing and partnerships; third, Islamic finance is a sustainable, ethical and socially responsible investing financing model / approach that promotes greening of Islamic funds like Zakat, and Waqf and Instruments like SUKUK, for Sustainable development and making peace with nature.”

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