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Regular Civil-Government Meetings in Japan on Biodiversity in Rice Paddies

Since July 2009, government officials and NGOs in Japan held regular informal meetings. The purpose of these informal meetings is to enhance biodiversity in rice paddies. Their title is “Informal Civil-Government Meetings for the Implementation of the Rice Paddy Resolution”, or ”Rice Paddy Informal Meetings”, for short. Government participants are officials from Ministry of the Environment (MOE), Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), and Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism (MLIT) who are involved in the conservation of rice paddies. Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) participants are members of Rice Paddy Working Group of Ramsar Network Japan.

Rice Paddy Informal Meetings were originally launched, by a proposal from civil society, to create a preparatory platform aiming to establish an official round-table meeting for implementing Ramsar Resolution X.31 “Enhancing Biodiversity in Rice Paddies as Wetland Systems”, which was adopted at the 10th Meeting of Conference of Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention (Ramsar COP10) in October 2008. The Resolution was proposed and drafted by the Governments of Republic of Korea and Japan with the support of NGOs in both countries. Discussions at the Rice Paddy Informal Meetings, however, revealed that an official round table would put some constraints on enabling active discussion, such as restriction on the official level of participants and the need for preliminary consultation in the ministries. Thus, it was decided to continue to hold Informal Meetings with members consisting of people in charge of rice paddy biodiversity maters. Since then, it has been held regularly, nearly every six weeks. Opinions have been exchanged frankly and practical results have been obtained.
Agendas of the Meeting include exchange of information on related activities of both government and civil society, and on related policies for enhancing biodiversity in rice paddies. The Meetings promote understanding on government policies and concrete local activities, building bridges between farmers/citizens in the field and government officials who establish policies. These Meetings also yielded a cooperative work project involving the MOE and NGOs for publication of a report to Ramsar COP11 compiling case studies and presentations on biodiversity in rice paddies. The report included a study on the multiple productivity of rice paddies in South-East Asia drawn up by FAO. Ramsar Resolution XI.15, Agriculture wetland interactions: rice paddy and pest control, recognised the contribution of this report.
One of the big achievements of these Meetings with respect to international fora has been cooperative action for negotiation at the conferences of related conventions. The first action was to incorporate the above-mentioned Ramsar Resolution on rice paddies into a decision of the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP10) in 2010. Rice Paddy Informal Meeting members drafted some paragraphs for this decision and held a side event with the participation of FAO. As a result, Decision X/34 “Agricultural Biodiversity” was adopted incorporating the idea proposed by the Japanese government that CBD COP10 – welcomes Ramsar Resolution X.31 recognising its importance to agricultural biodiversity and requesting Parties to fully implement it as appropriate; and also, in recognition of the importance of agricultural ecosystem, urges related agencies including FAO to undertake further study.
To date the largest outcome of the Meeting has been enhanced mutual understanding both between NGOs and government, and among ministries and agencies within the government. Such a framework for free, practical and regular opinion exchange among multi-ministerial officials in charge and NGOs is unique for both NGOs and for the government in Japan. Therefore, the Rice Paddy Informal Meeting series is mentioned in the National Biodiversity Strategy and Planning of Japan 2012-2020. It is expected that ideas for new policies will be developed through frank discussion at these Meetings.