Chapter 3 The Operations of the Convention

CROSS-CUTTING ISSUES COVERED BY COP DECISIONS

Identification, monitoring and assessment, and indicators including the Global Taxonomy Initiative

At the request of the Conference of the Parties, SBSTTA considered these subjects at its second meeting, and produced a lengthy recommendation subsequently endorsed by the Conference of the Parties. The recommendation provided general advice and identified a number of priority tasks and proposed specific recommendations. It advocated a two-track approach to assessment and indicator development: in the short term assessment of reasonably well-known sectors and components of biological diversity should be carried out, making use of indicators known to be operational; at the same time longer term programmes should be developed involving research and capacity building in areas needing advances in knowledge. The recommendation also proposed that indicators, assessment and monitoring be considered together as a standing item on the agenda of SBSTTA.

The importance of indicator development has subsequently been stressed in each of the thematic work programmes. In addition, following the SBSTTA recommendation, the Executive Secretary, in consultation with a liaison group, produced a guideline report to assist Parties, particularly in the preparation of national reports, containing, inter alia, information on indicators and monitoring techniques; a listing of current approaches to indicator development and recommendations for a core set of indicators of biological diversity, particularly those related to threats; and a list of options for capacity-building in developing countries in the application of these. From this preliminary report, SBSTTA developed a proposed work programme, using the two-track approach, that was adopted by the Conference of the Parties, who also emphasised that further work on indicators should take into account the ecosystem approach. The SBSTTA recommendation that was endorsed by the Conference of the Parties stressed that the primary role of indicators in this context should be as a tool for management of biological diversity at local and national level and for assessing implementation of the Convention. However, it also recognized that they may have a wider role and noted that in future the development of regional and global indicators would be necessary to address specific aspects of the world's biological diversity.

Taxonomy and the Global Taxonomy Initiative The Conference of the Parties recognized early on that lack of taxonomic knowledge was a key obstacle in the implementation of the Convention. SBSTTA considered the matter at its second meeting and produced a recommendation on practical approaches for capacity-building in taxonomy, which was endorsed by the Conference of the Parties. This recommendation stressed the need to strengthen national institutions, to build links between institutions in developing and developed countries and to explore ways to make taxonomic information more readily available, in particular to countries of origin. It established a Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI) to help meet these goals, and requested the GEF to provide financial resources to developing countries for capacity-building, including taxonomy, to help in the implementation of Article 7.

The GTI is specifically designed to address the lack of taxonomic information and expertise available in many parts of the world, and thereby to improve decision-making in conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from genetic resources. It is specifically intended to support implementation of the work programmes of the Convention on thematic and cross cutting issues. Given the many competing demands for capacity building in taxonomy, activities under the GTI must be clearly linked to the implementation of Convention.

Knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities

Article 8(j) of the Convention concerns the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities as they relate to biological diversity. Under the Convention, this has been discussed both as a separate issue and also as it relates to intellectual property rights, access to genetic resources, benefit-sharing and the various thematic work programmes.

At its third meeting, the Conference of the Parties decided to hold a workshop on traditional knowledge and biological diversity that would include representation of indigenous and local communities. The workshop was held in Madrid in November 1997. Its report set out possible elements of a work programme on traditional knowledge and biological diversity that could be undertaken under the Convention. At its fourth meeting, the Conference of the Parties decided on the basis of this to establish an Ad Hoc Open-ended Inter-sessional Working Group that would address the implementation of Article 8(j) and related provisions. The group reports directly to the Conference of the Parties but can also offer advice to SBSTTA on relevant issues. The first meeting of the Working Group was held in Spain in March 2000. The meeting was attended by representatives of 92 Parties and Governments, and of 74 indigenous people and local community organizations. The Working Group adopted a recommendation that formed the basis for a decision taken at the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which included a work programme on the implementation of Article 8(j) and related provisions of the Convention.

The work programme recognizes a set of five general principles concerning: full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities, including women, in the work programme; an holistic approach consistent with cultural and spiritual values; valuing of traditional knowledge; the ecosystem approach; prior informed consent or prior informed approval for access to traditional knowledge, innovations and practices. It also identifies a series of tasks to be under taken in two phases. In the first phase, twelve tasks are divided among six elements, namely:

  • participatory mechanisms for indigenous and local communities,
  • status and trends in relation to Article 8(j) and related provisions,
  • equitable sharing of benefits,
  • exchange and dissemination of information,
  • monitoring elements,
  • legal elements.

The first element is directed at Parties and involves enhancing the capacity at national level of indigenous and local communities to participate in implementation of the provisions of the Convention and particularly in carrying out the programme of work.

The Conference of the Parties extended the mandate of the Working Group and requested it to review progress in the implementation of the priority tasks of its programme of work, to recommend further action, and to further explore ways for increased participation by indigenous and local communities in the thematic work programmes of the Convention. It recognised the role played by the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity and called upon Parties to support this and other relevant organizations in providing advice on implementation of the programme of work.

The work programme is to take into account the work of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Access and Benefit-sharing and to be carried out as far as possible in collaboration with other relevant organizations, including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The Working Group will meet in February 2002.

Alien Species

The potential threat caused by alien species to ecosystems, habitats and species, as recognized in Article 8(h) of the Convention, has been the subject of considerable attention under the Convention. It has been specifically mentioned as a problem to be addressed in the work programmes on marine and coastal biological diversity, forest biological diversity and inland water biological diversity. One of the five programme elements in the work programme on marine and coastal biological diversity is entirely devoted to alien species.

The Conference of the Parties discussed alien species at its fourth meeting and asked SBSTTA to report back to it on the matter. SBSTTA considered the subject at both its fourth and fifth meetings. It recommended a format for case studies and proposed that the Conference of the Parties adopt a set of guiding principles on introduction of alien species.

At its fifth meeting, the Conference of the Parties urged Parties, Governments and relevant organizations to apply a modified version of these guiding principles for the interim, noting that the definition of many of the terms was not yet settled. It also called for case studies to be submitted. The Conference of the Parties stressed the importance of the Global Invasive Species Programme (see chapter 6), calling on the latter to develop a second phase of its activities and urging that the programme be supported financially. It also decided that it would consider at its next meeting further options for implementing Article 8(h), including the possibility of developing an international instrument. To assist in these deliberations, the Conference of the Parties asked Parties to submit a thematic report on alien species by 30 September 2000, following a standardised format. By August 2001, 53 Parties had done so.

Tourism

The Conference of the Parties has discussed the relationship between biological diversity and tourism in its deliberations on sustainable use. The latter is the subject of Article 10 of the Convention, but is also one of the three objectives of the Convention, and is referred to in many of the operative articles.

The fourth meeting of SBSTTA considered the interlinkages between tourism and biological diversity at length. It prepared an assessment that discussed both the potential benefits of tourism for conservation of biological diversity and sustainable use of its components and its possible adverse impacts. This assessment, with minor modifications, was adopted by the Conference of the Parties at its fifth meeting.

In the context of the United Nation's proclamation of 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism, the Conference of the Parties accepted the invitation to participate in the international work programme on sustainable tourism development under the Commission on Sustainable Development, in particular with a view to contributing to international guidelines on sustainable tourism development in areas important for biological diversity. It transmitted the assessment to the Commission and simultaneously recommended to Governments, the tourism industry and relevant international organizations, in particular the World Tourism Organization, that they use the assessment as the basis for their policies, programmes and activities in the field of sustainable tourism.

The Conference of the Parties also:

  • encouraged submission of case studies to enable sharing of knowledge, experience and best practice through the clearing-house mechanism;
  • requested the Executive Secretary to convene an international workshop to develop international guidelines on biological diversity and tourism;
  • encouraged Governments, the tourism industry and relevant international organizations to support the International Year of Ecotourism, the International Year of Mountains (also 2002) and the International Coral Reef Initiative by local capacity-building, a commitment to work within principles and guidelines for sustainable tourism and by establishing enabling policies and legal frameworks.

The Workshop on Biological Diversity and Tourism was held in June 2001. It approved draft international guidelines for sustainable tourism development in vulnerable terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems and habitats of major importance for biological diversity and protected areas. The guidelines will be considered by SBSTTA in November 2001, and by the Conference of the Parties in April 2002.

Biodiversity and climate change

At its fifth meeting the Conference of the Parties noted the interactions between climate change and the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in a number of thematic and cross-cutting areas including coral bleaching, forest biodiversity, and incentive measures. Specifically it:

  • noted that there is significant evidence that climate change is a primary cause of the recent and severe extensive coral bleaching, and that this evidence is sufficient to warrant remedial measures being taken in line with the precautionary approach;
  • urged the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to take all possible actions to reduce the effect of climate change on water temperatures and to address the socio-economic impacts on the countries and communities most affected by coral bleaching:
  • urged the UNFCCC, including its Kyoto Protocol, to ensure that future activities of the UNFCCC, including forest and carbon sequestration, are consistent with and supportive of the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity;
  • urged Parties and other Governments to explore possible ways and means by which incentive measures promoted through the Kyoto Protocol under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change can support the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity; and
  • urged strengthened cooperation with the UNFCCC, on these matters and on biological diversity in dry and sub-humid lands.

SBSTTA was requested to consider the impact of climatic change on forest biological diversity and to prepare scientific advice in order to integrate biodiversity considerations, including biodiversity conservation, into the implementation of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol. In both cases, the Conference of Parties has called for this work to be carried out in collaboration with the appropriate bodies of the UNFCCC and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), where appropriate and feasible.

The decisions of the Conference of the Parties were considered by the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the second part of its thirteenth session (November 2000). At its sixth meeting (March 2001), SBSTTA decided to undertake an assessment of the interlinkages between biological diversity and climate change, in order to develop comprehensive scientific advice on integrating biodiversity considerations into the implementation of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol. A technical expert group was established to undertake a pilot assessment to:

  • analyse possible adverse effects on biological diversity of measures that might be taken or are being considered under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol;
  • identify factors that influence biodiversity's capacity to mitigate climate change and contribute to adaptation and the likely effects of climate change on that capacity; and
  • identify options for future work on climate change that also contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biological.

At its fourteenth session (July 2001), the UNFCCC's SBSTA welcomed the assessment, endorsed the proposal for a joint liaison group between the secretariats of the UNFCCC and the CBD, and invited the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to participate. In April 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agreed contribute to the assessment by preparing a technical paper on the interlinkages between biological diversity and climate change. A final decision on the scope and outline of the technical paper and on selection of authors will be taken at the IPCC's meeting in September 2001.

Migratory species

At its third meeting, the Conference of the Parties requested the Executive Secretary, in consultation with the Secretariat of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), to evaluate how implementation of the CMS could complement the implementation of the CBD. A study prepared for the fifth meeting concluded that the CMS Instruments (CMS, its Range States' agreements and integrated conservation, management and action plans) provide the basis for Parties to deepen their treatment of migratory species through specific conservation and management plans for individual migratory species and groups of migratory species, and for them to do this within global and regional legal frameworks that encourage and support cooperative action. It suggested that this approach would provide a link between individual and groups of migratory species, their habitat needs, the other components of biodiversity they depend upon and interact with, as well as the various threats facing these species.

The fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties has asked the Secretariat, in collaboration with the CMS Secretariat, to develop a proposal on how migratory species could be integrated into the work programme of the CBD and the role that the CMS could play, particularly with regard to the ecosystem approach, the Global Taxonomy Initiative, indicators, assessment and monitoring, protected areas, public education and awareness, sustainable use, and tourism.

Incentive measures and economic valuation of biological diversity

Article 11 of the Convention determines that each Party shall, as far as is possible and as appropriate, adopt economically and socially sound measures that act as incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of components of biological diversity.

The issue of incentive measures has been closely linked to the deliberations of the Conference of the Parties on the economic and other valuation of biological diversity, first considered in depth at the second meeting of SBSTTA and the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties. At this and its two subsequent meetings, the Conference of the Parties has discussed both the development of positive incentives to promote the conservation and sustainable use of the components of biological diversity and the need to eliminate perverse incentives, that is incentives that encourage the destruction of biological diversity.

The Conference of the Parties has decided that incentive measures should be incorporated as appropriate into the various thematic and sectoral work programmes under the Convention. It asked SBSTTA to provide further advice on this, and encouraged the submission of case studies by Parties. Only twelve countries had submitted case studies by the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties. A number of others had been received from the United Nations Environment Programme, IUCN - the World Conservation Union and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties established a work programme on incentive measures in order to support Parties, Governments and organizations in developing practical policies and projects and to develop practical guidelines to the financial mechanism for effective support and prioritization of these policies and projects. It requested the Executive Secretary to elaborate proposals for the design and implementation of incentive measures, for consideration by SBSTTA and the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties.

Public education and awareness

Article 13 of the Convention urges Parties to promote and encourage understanding of issues surrounding biological diversity through the media and in their educational programmes, and also to cooperate with other States and international organizations in the development of educational and public awareness programmes.

The Conference of the Parties considered public education and awareness in some depth at its fourth meeting, and decided that these should become an integral component of all sectoral and thematic items under the Convention's work programme. It urged Parties to implement a number of actions, including promotion of education on biological diversity through relevant institutions including non-governmental organizations and integration of biodiversity concerns into education strategies. It also suggested illustrating and translating the provisions of the Convention into local languages.

As a result of a request at that meeting, the Secretariat and the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) considered the feasibility of launching a global initiative on biological diversity education and public awareness. At its fifth meeting, the Conference of the Parties asked the Executive Secretary to convene a working group of experts from a range of organizations, including UNESCO, UNEP, the World Bank, IUCN and WWF, to advance this idea further and set priorities for such an initiative. This group was established and is developing a set of strategic recommendations for the implementation of the Initiative, including operational elements and options for action, for consideration by the Conference of the Parties in 2002.

In 1994 the General Assembly of the United Nations declared 29 December, the date of the entry into force of the Convention in 1993, as the International Day for Biological Diversity. In 2000, in light of the difficulties experienced in attracting public attention on a date that coincides with a holiday period in most countries, the General Assembly changed the date of the International Day for Biological Diversity to 22 May, the date of the adoption of the Convention in 1992. It is hoped that this change will enable countries to undertake more effective public education and awareness activities on this day, around a theme to be designated each year by the Executive Secretary. The theme for 2001 was `Biodiversity and Management of Alien Invasive Species'.

Impact assessment, liability and redress

The Conference of the Parties considered Article 14 of the Convention at its fourth and fifth meetings and recommended that appropriate issues related to environmental impact assessments become an integral part of the relevant sectoral and thematic areas under the Convention's programme of work. It also asked SBSTTA to further develop, in cooperation with a range of organizations, guidelines for incorporating biodiversity-related issues into legislation and processes concerning strategic environmental impact assessment. With regard to liability and redress, the Conference of the Parties has asked the Executive Secretary to prepare, and subsequently to update a synthesis report on liability that reviews developments in other international fora. The Conference of the Parties also decided to consider mechanisms for further reviewing this issue at its sixth meeting, including the establishment of an ad hoc technical expert group.

Access to genetic resources

The Conference of the Parties has considered Article 15 at each of its meetings to date. The initial focus of considerations has been on promoting the development of measures on access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing, on gathering information on national and regional approaches to regulating access and on the dissemination of information. The Conference of the Parties has noted that all countries are providers and recipients of genetic resources. It has urged countries to put in place the necessary legal and other measures to support the efforts of provider countries to ensure that access to their genetic resources and traditional knowledge is subject to the provisions of the Convention regarding access to genetic resources, transfer of technology, and the handling and distribution of the benefits of biotechnology.

Two specific issues that have arisen are a) the relationship between the Convention and the FAO International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and b) ex-situ collections of genetic resources. With regard to the former, governments, in the forum of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, are currently negotiating the revision of the International Undertaking, in harmony with the Convention, following Resolution 3 of the Nairobi Final Act, and in this process addressing the question of access to ex-situ collections of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. The Conference of the Parties has made a number of statements regarding ex-situ collections of plant genetic resources not addressed by the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

The Conference of the Parties has considered at some length the relationship between intellectual property rights and benefit-sharing. It has requested the Executive Secretary to cooperate with the World Trade Organisation through the latter's Committee on Trade and Environment to explore the extent to which there may be linkages between Article 15 and relevant articles of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). It has also emphasised that further work is needed to help develop a common appreciation of the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the Convention with regard to, inter alia, the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources. The Conference of the Parties has requested the Executive Secretary to apply for observer status on the Committee on Trade and Environment and on the Council of TRIPS. The WTO has granted this status in the first case, but not in the second.

To assist it in its consideration of issues relating to Article 15, in 1998 the Conference of the Parties established a regionally balanced panel of experts to try to develop a common understanding of basic concepts and explore all options for access and benefit-sharing on mutually agreed terms including guiding principles, guidelines and codes of best practice. At its fifth meeting, the Conference of the Parties decided to reconvene the panel of experts with a concrete mandate and agenda, to work on outstanding issues, namely:

  • assessment of user and provider experience in access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing and study of complementary options;
  • identification of approaches to involvement of stakeholders in access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing processes.

It also established an Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group with the mandate to develop guidelines and other approaches for submission to the Conference of the Parties and to assist Parties and stakeholders in addressing a range of relevant issues. This Working Group will meet in October 2001.

Clearing-House mechanism

Under Article 18, on technical and scientific cooperation, the Conference of the Parties was to determine at its first meeting how to establish a clearing-house mechanism to promote and facilitate technical and scientific cooperation. The second meeting of the Conference of the Parties decided that the clearing-house mechanism would develop starting with a pilot phase for 1996-1997, later extended until December 1998. Since then it has moved into its full implementation phase. The clearing-house mechanism is assisted in its functioning by an informal advisory committee, constituted and coordinated by the Executive Secretary.

A number of regional workshops and expert meetings were held in 1997 and 1998. Their purpose was to attain a clear definition of national and regional scientific and technical information needs and priorities as well as the means to deliver information and evaluate national capacities for the implementation of the clearing-house mechanism. As a result of recommendations arising from these meetings, a strategic plan for the implementation of the clearing-house mechanism has been drawn up. The strategic plan, which drew on an independent review of the clearing-house mechanism carried out in 1999, was adopted at the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, along with a longer-term programme of work for the mechanism, for the period 1999-2004.

The guiding principles of the clearing-house mechanism are to be “neutral, cost-effective, efficient, accessible, independent and transparent”. It is intended to be bottom-up, decentralized and nationally driven with a number of different types of focal points (national, regional, sub-regional and thematic). Each focal point has responsibility for developing its own supporting network, so that the clearing-house mechanism should effectively function as a meta-system. There are currently around 140 national focal points for the mechanism. Its functioning is supported by the Secretariat in Montreal. Eligible countries receive financial support for national development of the clearing-house mechanism as part of their biodiversity enabling activities from the Global Environment Facility.

The Conference of the Parties has attached considerable importance to the development of the clearing-house mechanism and has consistently called on it to support the thematic and cross-cutting work programmes. The pilot phase saw its development as a mechanism for information exchange mechanism; the coming phase will see increased emphasis on its development as an active tool for technical and scientific cooperation, as called for under Article 18 of the Convention.

National Reporting

National reports submitted by Parties play a pivotal role in assessing implementation of the Convention and should also serve as a stimulus for Parties to focus their efforts in implementation. The Conference of the Parties decided early on that the first national reports should concentrate on the implementation of Article 6, and should be submitted by the end of June 1997, subsequently amended to the beginning of January 1998. Parties were also encouraged to identify priority issues specifically related to those components of biodiversity under threat. By the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (May 1998), some 107 national reports had been received in final or draft form. Parties that had not yet submitted were encouraged to do so by the end of that year. By the end of 2000, a further eight Parties had done so.

The form and content of the first national reports varied enormously, making it difficult to assess the overall state of implementation of the Convention. In consequence the Conference of the Parties asked the SBSTTA for further advice on the form and intervals of national reports.

At its fifth meeting, SBSTTA considered guidelines for future national reporting that had been developed by the Secretariat through a pilot project, carried out with the collaboration of a number of Parties, to identify a methodology for assessing the state of implementation of the Convention. This involved (i) identifying the obligations on Parties deriving from the provisions of the Convention and the decisions of the Conference of the Parties and (ii) formulating these as questions designed to elicit responses that would reveal the level of implementation, relative priorities, constraints encountered and issues not yet addressed.

The fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties endorsed this format as a guide for future national reporting and as a means by which the status of national implementation can be measured. Parties were requested to submit their second national reports by 15 May 2001. By August 2001, 48 countries had done so.3 National reports will be called for on a four-yearly basis and will be considered at alternate meetings of the Conference of the Parties.

Parties were also invited to submit thematic reports on the issues to be considered in depth at meetings of the Conference of the Parties. In the case of the sixth meeting, these will be alien species, forest ecosystems and benefit-sharing. The deadlines were, respectively, 30 September 2000, 15 May 2001 and 30 December 2000.

As previously noted, by August 2001, 53 Parties had submitted thematic reports on alien species. By the same date 14 Parties had submitted reports on benefit-sharing and 28 had submitted reports on forest ecosystems.


Note:
3 All national reports and thematic reports are available on the website of the Convention (www.cbd.int).

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme