Former Costa Rican environment minister Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, whose commitment to conservation policies a decade ago helped his country become one of the first to convert to a “green economy,” will be a keynote speaker at the 2nd Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) Council that will be held November 6-8 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
Rodriguez will headline a “Great Apes & Green Economy” session on November 7 that will feature presentations on sustainable forest management, human livelihoods, payment for ecosystem services, and eco-tourism.
The 2nd GRASP Council will bring together partner nations, conservation organizations, research institutions, United Nations agencies, and private supporters that are committed to the protection of great apes and their habitat in Africa and Asia.
“As the world considers issues of development and biodiversity, GRASP believes that Costa Rica’s successful conversion can serve as an inspiration,” said GRASP coordinator Doug Cress. “Many countries in Africa and Asia are facing the same environmental choices that Costa Rica did two decades ago, and we want to emphasize the economic benefits of protecting natural resources.”
Rodriguez is credited with implementing a unique conservation policy in Costa Rica whereby users of a forest’s environmental services — such as clean water, climate regulation, and minerals — were required to pay the forest’s owners for these rights. As a result, Costa Rica was able to reverse the process of deforestation, and today boasts twice as many forests as there were 20 years ago.
Rodriguez also pushed marine protection on to Costa Rica’s national agenda, demanding that 25% — or 12.5 million hectares – of the country’s ocean environment be protected.
Many experts believe Costa Rica’s models might be adapted successfully to promote great ape conservation in Africa and Asia. But Rodriguez warns that the time and political stability are required to commit to a green economy. “You cannot have those conditions unless you invest a lot in the political system, in governance, in human rights, and many elements around political stability,” he says.
Rodriguez, who served as Costa Rican’s Minister of Environment and Energy until 2006, is a senior policy advisor for Conservation International (CI) and a vice-president of CI’s Center for Conservation and Governments.
GRASP was established in 2001 to help lift the threat of extinction faced by chimpanzees. Gorillas, orangutans and bonobos by focusing on international policy, funding, research, and media.