At its second meeting, held in Jakarta, November 1995, the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the ecosystem approach as the primary framework for action under the Convention, and subsequently has referred to the ecosystem approach in the elaboration and implementation of the various thematic and cross-cutting issues work programmes under the Convention (Decision II/8)

The thematic and cross-cutting issues concerned include:

At its fourth meeting in Bratislava in May 1998, the COP acknowledged the need for a workable description and further elaboration of the ecosystems approach, and requested the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) "to develop principles and other guidance on the ecosystem approach,taking into consideration, inter alia, the results of the Malawi workshop". Description and principles of the Ecosystem Approach were presented to the COP at its fifth meeting as SBSTTA 5 Recommendation V/10.

COP 6 requested the Executive Secretary to prepare a report drawn from case studies, to convene a meeting of experts to compare the ecosystem approach with sustainable forest management, and to develop proposals for the refinement of the principles and operational guidance of the ecosystem approach (decision VI/12, paragraph 2 and decision VI/22, paragraph 19). The report submitted to SBSTTA 9 (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/9/8) is available here .

Other COP 6 decisions relevant to ecosystem approach include: decision VI/2, Biological diversity of inland waters; decision VI/5 Agricultural biological diversity; decision VI/7, Identification, monitoring, indicators and assessments; decision VI/8, Global Taxonomy Initiative; decision VI/9, Global Strategy for Plant Conservation; decision VI/10, Article 8(j) and related provisions; decision VI/22, Forest Biological Diversity; decision VI/23, Alien Species that threaten ecosystems, habitats or species and decision VI/25, National Reports.

At its seventh meeting, the COP agreed that the priority at this time should be on facilitating the implementation of the ecosystem approach as the primary framework for addressing the three objectives of the Convention in a balanced way, and that a potential revision of the principles of the ecosystem approach should take place only at a later stage, when the application of the ecosystem approach has been more fully tested (decision VII/11). The COP welcomed implementation guidelines and annotations to rationale in annex 1 to decision VII/11.

COP 7 also requested an analysis of the range of existing tools and approaches consistent with the Convention’s ecosystem approach, as well as the development of a web-based “sourcebook” for the ecosystem approach, accessible through the clearinghouse mechanism. The sourcebook will include a database of case studies searchable by biome/ecoregion and sector.

At the eighth meeting of the COP, decisions concerning the ecosystem approach can be found under other thematic programmes and cross cutting issues: decision VIII/1 on Island biodiversity; decision VIII/9 on Implications of the findings of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment; decision VIII/6 on the Global Initiative on Communication, Education and Public Awareness: overview of implementation of the programme of work and options to advance future work; decision VIII/19 on Forest biological diversity: implementation of the programme of work; decision VIII/20 on Biological diversity of inland water ecosystems: reporting processes, improving the review of implementation and addressing threats; decision VIII/23 on Agricultural biodiversity; decision VIII/24 on Protected areas; decision VIII/26 on Incentive measures: preparation for the in-depth review of the programme of work on incentive measures; decision VIII/28 on Impact assessment: Voluntary guidelines on biodiversity-inclusive impact assessment; and decision VIII/30 on Biodiversity and climate change: guidance to promote synergy among activities for biodiversity conservation, mitigating or adapting to climate change and combating land degradation.

At COP 9 (decision IX/7), Parties agreed to strengthen and promote the use of the ecosystem approach more widely, and to increase capacity building activities . The COP urged Parties, governments and relevant organizations to submit case studies, lessons learned and technical information for the Source Book. Parties were also invited to incorporate the ecosystem approach into poverty reduction strategies at the local level, where communities can participate directly. The Executive Secretary was requested to produce communication materials, improve the Source Book and to promote a wider application of the ecosystem approach for the International Year on Biodiversity 2010.

Decisions on the ecoystem approach at the ninth COP can also be found under other thematic programmes and cross cutting issues: decision IX/1 on the In-depth review of the programme of work on agricultural biodiversity; decision IX/2 on Agricultural biodiversity: biofuels and biodiversity; decision IX/4 on the In-depth review of ongoing work on alien species that threaten ecosystems, habitats or species; decision IX/5 on Forest biodiversity; decision IX/16 on Biodiversity and climate change; decision IX/17 on Biodiversity of dry and sub-humid lands; decision IX/18 on Protected areas; decision IX/20 on Marine and coastal biodiversity; decision IX/21 on Island biodiversity; and decision IX/22 on The Global Taxonomy Initiative: matters arising from decision VIII/3, including the development of outcome-oriented deliverables.