Eleven EJN Fellows Cover UN Biodiversity Negotiations in Nairobi  

a group photo

Eleven EJN Fellows Cover UN Biodiversity Negotiations in Nairobi  

Too often, environmental journalists from low and middle-income countries have limited access to attend and report directly from pivotal decision-making spaces such as international conferences and summits.  

To help address this gap, EJN, through our Asia-Pacific project, supported 11 journalists from across Asia (Mongolia, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh) to cover and report on environmental and biodiversity conservation issues in Nairobi, Kenya, during the 4th Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework from June 20-26, 2022.  

a conference room from above
UN CBD plenary / Credit: Imelda Abaño.

This fellowship opportunity enabled journalists from the Asia-Pacific region to cover this stage of the UN CBD negotiations for their home audiences – outcomes of which will determine environmental health and biodiversity conservation for years to come.  

The meeting was critical for decision-makers to move towards consensus and iron out sticking points before finalizing the ambitious new global biodiversity deal, which will be adopted at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) or COP15 which will be held in December in Montreal, Canada. 

The selected fellows participated in a one-day in-person orientation session led by EJN trainers Imelda Abaño, Stella Paul and Michael Salzwedel, to familiarize themselves with global biodiversity policies and the negotiation process that would ensue over the week. 

two women looking at a screen
Imelda Abaño mentors journalist Soon Li Wei from Malaysia / Credit: Earth Journalism Network. 

While in Nairobi, Fellows had the opportunity to carry out exclusive interviews with the CBD’s executive secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema and co-chairs of the working group.  

“Much work has to be done in the coming months if countries are to adopt a new global framework on protecting biodiversity. Journalists must help us deliver transformative messages to the public through good stories that biodiversity is a major issue that needs special attention,” Mrema told EJN Fellows.  

Fellows attended special media briefings with national negotiators, scientists from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)such as David Obura, Paul Leadley and Luthando Dziba, who assessed the Framework from a multidisciplinary perspective; and NGO representatives such as Women4Biodiversity’s Mrinalini Rai. 

“When you adopt a standalone target on gender equality, it will guide all the work being done under the framework and to operationalize the framework including the communications, knowledge management, capacity building and financing of the new mechanism,” said Rai, who is advocating for gender inclusion in the Framework, in an interview with EJN's Stella Paul. 

In Nairobi, the fellows forged valuable connections with biodiversity experts and gained in-depth knowledge on how to produce compelling environmental stories in their region, according to EJN mentor Abaño, who is also the Senior Coordinator for Philippines and Pacific Region. 

“Supporting journalists from the most vulnerable communities who are often most directly impacted by environmental degradation through fellowships like these helps boost media coverage of global issues in their home countries,” said Abaño.  

Diwakar Pyakurel from Nepal’s Online Khabar said the experience helped him gain a better grasp of different biodiversity issues around the world. “I sincerely hope these insights will help me better communicate with my readers in Nepal and make them aware of the issues they should be concerned about,” Pyakurel said. 

He said the fellowship has not only strengthened his reporting skills on biodiversity but strengthened his connection with other environmental journalists. 

For Soon Li Wei from the Malaysian National News Agency, too, this was the first such international conference she’d covered. “This fellowship is really a golden opportunity for me because I received good guidance from EJN mentors in how to decide on a good angle for my stories, how to speak to the sources and arrange everything from A-Z. I am grateful that I was able to produce good stories. My editor is happy,” Soon said, adding that she will use the experience and knowledge gained from this fellowship to continue reporting on biodiversity and other environmental issues. 

Arul Karki, who reports for Sri Lanka’s Thinakkural Newspaper, said the fellowship gave him the chance to share his culture, traditions and technical knowledge with fellow journalists. 

“This is the first time I was offered such an opportunity as it is scarce especially for local journalists from Sri Lanka. I warmly request my fellow journalists to apply for such opportunities. I look forward to sharing these experiences with journalists in Sri Lanka,” he added.  

Wondering what an EJN fellowship is like? Check out this video about our time in Nairobi:

Fellows produced more than 30 stories as a result of spending one week in Nairobi. Read a selection of their stories here.  

This cohort of fellows reported on biodiversity negotiations for their home audiences from Nairobi, Kenya / Credit: Imelda Abaño.

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