Article

What is CBD?

The Convention was opened for signature at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. It entered into force on 29 December 1993 and currently has 188 Parties.
Natural Resources

Programme: Natural Resources

Project: Conventions - CBD and PEBLDS

The Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention was opened for signature at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. It entered into force on 29 December 1993 and currently has 188 Parties.
The principal objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity are

  • the conservation of biological diversity,
  • sustainable use of its components,
  • the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, as well as by appropriate funding.

The Convention recognizes that the key to maintaining biological diversity depends upon using this diversity in a sustainable manner. The Convention translates its guiding objectives of conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits into binding commitments in its substantive provisions contained in Articles 6 to 20. These articles contain key provisions on, among others: measures for the conservation of biological diversity, both in situ and ex situ; incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity; research and training; public awareness and education; assessing the impacts of projects upon biological diversity; regulating access to genetic resources; access to and transfer of technology; and the provision of financial resources.

Institutional arrangements

In addition to its substantive provisions, the Convention establishes institutional arrangements which provide a mechanism for the further development of, and for monitoring the implementation of, the Convention through meetings, work programmes, reviews and negotiations. Three institutions are established by the Convention: the Conference of the Parties (COP), the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) and the Secretariat. Further, the Convention enables the COP to establish additional subsidiary bodies as it deems necessary for the implementation of the Convention (e.g. Working Group on Access and Benefit-sharing; Working Group on Article 8 (j) and Related Provisions, Working Group on Protected Areas).

The Conference of the Parties

The governing body of the Convention, its key function is to keep under review the implementation of the Convention and to steer its development. Other important functions of the COP include adoption of the budget, the consideration of national reports, the adoption of protocols or annexes and the development of guidance to the financial mechanism.
Until now seven ordinary COPs were held, the last in February 2004 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The first extraordinary meeting of the COP (ExCOP) was held in Cartagena, Colombia, in February 1999, to consider and adopt the first protocol to the Convention. The extraordinary meeting was suspended, and resumed in January 2000 in Montreal, where it concluded its work and adopted the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

The Subsidiary Body on Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA)

An open-ended intergovernmental scientific advisory body, to provide the COP with advice and recommendations on scientific, technical and technological aspects of the implementation of the Convention. Specific functions of SBSTTA include: providing scientific and technical assessments of the status of biological diversity; preparing scientific and technical assessments of the measures taken to implement the Convention; identifying innovative, efficient and state of the art technologies and know how, etc. It submits its advice to the COP in the form of SBSTTA recommendations. The COP considers SBSTTA’s advice on relevant issues before adopting its decisions. In some instances, the COP has explicitly endorsed specific SBSTTA recommendations in whole or in part.

The Secretariat

The principal functions of the Secretariat are to prepare for and service meetings of the COP and other subsidiary bodies of the Convention and to coordinate with other relevant international bodies. The host institution of the Secretariat is UNEP, the Secretariat is located in Montreal, Canada.

Financial mechanism

The Global Environment Facility (GEF)

Provides the financial resources to developing countries for the purposes of the Convention. The financial mechanism functions under the authority and guidance of, and is accountable to, the COP.

Clearing-house mechanism

The Convention has established a "Clearing-House Mechanism" to ensure that all governments have access to the information and technologies they need for their work on biodiversity. The Clearing-House is coordinated by the Executive Secretary and overseen and guided by an Informal Advisory Committee (IAC) set up by the Parties to the Convention.

The Clearing-house mission:

  • Promote and facilitate technical and scientific cooperation, within and between countries,
  • Develop a global mechanism for exchanging and integrating information on biodiversity,
  • Develop the necessary human and technological network.

Thematic Programmes

The COP has initiated work on seven thematic work programmes, addressing:

  • marine and coastal biodiversity
  • agricultural biodiversity
  • forest biodiversity
  • island biodiversity
  • inland waters biodiversity
  • dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
  • mountain biodiversity

Each thematic programme establishes a vision for, and basic principles to guide future work; sets out key issues for consideration; identifies potential outputs; and suggests a timetable and means for achieving these outputs. Periodic review of the implementation of the work programme by the COP and SBSTTA is provided. It is envisaged that implementation of the work programmes involves contributions from Parties, the Secretariat, relevant intergovernmental organisations and other organisations.

Cross-Cutting Issues

Over and above the thematic programmes there are a number of other items on the COP's agenda addressing key cross-cutting issues of relevance to all thematic areas. Essentially these correspond to the issues addressed in the Convention's substantive provisions in Articles 6-20. For example, work has been initiated on access to genetic resources; traditional knowledge, innovations and practices (Article 8(j)); intellectual property rights; indicators; taxonomy; public education and awareness; incentives and alien species.

Multi-year programme of work of the Conference of the Parties up to 2010

At its seventh meeting, the COP adopted a programme of work for its eighth to tenth meetings, specifying the thematic and cross-cutting, as well as strategic issues for in-depth consideration. Besides the COP will review progress in implementation of the Strategic Plan and follow-up on progress towards the 2010 target and relevant Millennium Development Goals (global targets and related measures, such as monitoring and indicators and trends of biodiversity), as well as refine mechanisms to support implementation (e.g. financial mechanism, clearing-house mechanism, technology transfer, capacity-building) at each of these meetings.

Ecosystem approach

At its fourth meeting, the COP adopted the ecosystem approach as a framework for the analysis and implementation of the objectives of the Convention. In effect, the ecosystem approach is the fundamental paradigm for the Convention’s activities. The COP endorsed a description of the ecosystem approach as well as certain operational guidance, and recommended the application of a number of principles of the ecosystem approach.

The Principles of Ecosystem approach

Principle 1: The objectives of management of land, water and living resources are a matter of societal choice.
Principle 2: Management should be decentralized to the lowest appropriate level.
Principle 3: Ecosystem managers should consider the effects (actual or potential) of their activities on adjacent and other ecosystems.
Principle 4: Recognizing potential gains from management, there is usually a need to understand and manage the ecosystem in an economic context. Any such ecosystem-management programme should:

(a) Reduce those market distortions that adversely affect biological diversity;
(b) Align incentives to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable use;
(c) Internalize costs and benefits in the given ecosystem to the extent feasible.

Principle 5: Conservation of ecosystem structure and functioning, in order to maintain ecosystem services, should be a priority target of the ecosystem approach.
Principle 6: Ecosystems must be managed within the limits of their functioning.
Principle 7: The ecosystem approach should be undertaken at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales.
Principle 8: Recognizing the varying temporal scales and lag-effects that characterize ecosystem processes, objectives for ecosystem management should be set for the long term.
Principle 9: Management must recognize that change is inevitable.
Principle 10: The ecosystem approach should seek the appropriate balance between, and integration of, conservation and use of biological diversity.
Principle 11: The ecosystem approach should consider all forms of relevant information, including scientific and indigenous and local knowledge, innovations and practices.
Principle 12: The ecosystem approach should involve all relevant sectors of society and scientific disciplines.

The principles amount to a strategy for the integrated or holistic management of resources through modern scientific adaptive management practices. Essentially, they require that the process of decision making be transparent and take into account all relevant factors. Collectively the principles are similar to principles associated with strategic environmental assessment methods.

The Strategic Plan to the CBD

COP 6 adopted a Strategic Plan for the Convention on Biological Diversity to provide strategic and operational guidance for the implementation of the programmes of work of the COP and SBSTTA.

In its mission statement the Strategic Plan commits Parties to a more effective and coherent implementation of the three objectives of the convention, and to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on earth.

The Plan contains four strategic goals and objectives of the Convention:

  • (1) The Convention is fulfilling its leadership role in international biodiversity issues;
  • (2) Parties have improved financial, human, scientific, technical, and technological capacity to implement the Convention;
  • (3) National biodiversity strategies and action plans and the integration of biodiversity concerns into relevant sectors serve as an effective framework for the implementation of the Convention; and
  • (4) There is a better understanding of the importance of biodiversity and of the Convention, and this has led to broader engagement across society in implementation.

The Strategic Plan will be implemented through the programmes of work of the Convention, implementation of national biodiversity strategies and action plans, and other national, regional and international initiatives.

Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

In January 2000, the COP adopted the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in accordance with Article 28 of the Convention it entered into force in September 2003. The Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology. It establishes an advance informed agreement (AIA) procedure for ensuring that countries are provided with the information necessary to make informed decisions before agreeing to the import of such organisms into their territory. The Protocol contains reference to a precautionary approach and reaffirms the precaution language in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The Protocol also establishes a Biosafety Clearing-House to facilitate the exchange of information on living modified organisms and to assist countries in the implementation of the Protocol.


Author: Green Action

12.11.05. 18:59