April 3, 2002
CHILE DISOBEYS BIODIVERSITY TREATY, NGO SAYS
A national environmental group said Monday that it
will accuse Chile's government of failing to comply
with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
during a meeting of the treaty's signatory states next
week. The Southern Chilean Environmental Law Center
(CEADA) is calling for international condemnation of
President Ricardo Lagos' government for not supporting
The organization says Chile's native forests are being
rapidly replaced by exotic species used by wood
companies. The government's failure to protect native
forests, the CEADA says, puts the world's second
largest temperate rainforest at risk.
Southern central Chile's Valdivian forest makes up
one-third of the world's temperate rainforests.
"We do not know if the Chilean government can give any
justifiable excuse to the other signatory nations for
its lack of compliance with the Convention during the
more than seven years since the CBD was ratified. What
is certain is that CEADA will be present at [next
week's meeting] to explain the causes of the Chilean
government's failure," CEADA President Miguel Fredes
Fredes said Chile ranks among the worst countries in
the world in terms of its legal protection of forest
"While the Chilean government has frequently been
upheld as an example of commercial and political
advances relative to other developing countries, its
record regarding the CBD puts Chile in the same
deplorable condition as countries such as Cameroon,
Ghana, India, Kenya and Papa New Guinea," he said.
Chile signed the Convention on Biological Diversity in
1994. The treaty requires participating states to
monitor biodiversity, establish protected wilderness
areas, promote sustainable development and limit the
introduction of foreign species.
Next week's meeting, which begins Monday, will be
hosted in the Hague, Netherlands, and will last two
weeks. It is the sixth conference of member countries
since the convention was signed. Representatives will
receive reports from subsidiary agencies, review
implementation of programs and discuss biodiversity
issues including sustainable forestry and exotic
Fredes will present a report at the meeting outlining
the CEADA's findings. The document is part of an
effort by the Global Forest Coalition, an
international alliance of environmental organizations,
to double-check forest biodiversity programs in the 21
countries that signed the treaty. A draft of the
report was provided to the Santiago Times.
The report says Chile has not developed a national
strategy to maintain biodiversity in its forests and
to develop sustainable forest exploitation.
Implementing a national forest program is required by
the international convention.
The convention also requires a national biodiversity
strategy and a government action plan, which
establishes a timeline for compliance with the treaty.
According to a comparative study by the Global Forest
Coalition, Chile was the only country that did not
enact either of these two programs.
The Lagos administration has not even begun the early
steps of forming the two groups.
Still, CEADA said the government's National Commission
for the Environment (CONAMA) was making progress on
developing a biodiversity strategy.
CEADA said the fact that the Congress has not yet
passed the Native Forest Protection Law has seriously
set back attempt to develop the strategy. The bill,
which has been held up for more than 10 years in
deliberations, would grant incentives for maintaining
native forests. Business leaders and rightist
politicians say the bill is too extreme in limiting
forestry activity, while environmentalists say the
protections are too weak.
The CEADA report also criticizes the 1992 Indigenous
Law, which gives indigenous communities ownership
rights over their ancestral lands. CEADA said the
communities depend upon and contribute to sustainable
development in Chile's forests.
Still, the organization says the law doesn't
effectively promote such activities.
Protection of indigenous cultures with a tradition of
sustainable environmental practices is required by the
"The Indigenous Law offers limited recognition of
indigenous customs, so that said protection does not
clearly and explicitly refer to indigenous teachings,
practices or innovations that incorporate traditional
ways of life pertaining to the conservation and
sustainable use of biological diversity according to
the mandates of the CDB," CEADA said.
Indigenous rights activists have been struggling to
gain control of native lands, which were sold to
forestry companies in southern central Chile during
Gen. Augusto Pinochet's 17- year military government.
The activists say the government has returned only a
limited amount of these lands.
CEADA also accused Conama of failing to respond to the
organization's questionnaires related to government
Chile has some 13.4 hectares of native forests and 2.1
hectares of forestry plantations. About 90 percent of
the commercial forests are planted with the Monterrey
Pine, which was imported from California.
The United States is the principle importer of Chilean
wood products. The country imported 19.6 percent of
Chilean forestry exports in 2000. Chilean
environmentalists fear that a free trade agreement
with the U.S., which is expected to be finalized later
this year, will lead to explosive growth in Chilean
The U.S. International Trade Commission predicted that
Chile's timber production will double by 2025,
according to a 1999 report.
Centro Austral de Derecho Ambiental - C E A D A
[Southern Environmental Law Center]
Tel-Fax(56)(65)313969 (Puerto Montt)
For a Portland video interview of Miguel Fredes: