Chapter 3 The Operations of the Convention


The approach adopted by the Conference of the Parties in implementing the Convention has been the development of a series of thematic work programmes on major ecosystem types. To date these cover:

  • marine and coastal biological diversity (the Jakarta Mandate),
  • forest biological diversity,
  • inland water biological diversity,
  • agricultural biological diversity,
  • biological diversity of dry and sub-humid lands.

The programmes have certain elements in common. They establish basic principles for future work, set out key issues for consideration, identify potential outputs and suggest a timetable and ways and means of producing these outputs. It is envisaged that each programme will have contributions from Parties, the Secretariat and a range of relevant organizations. Through an early emphasis on stocktaking of existing activities, assessments of status and trends, and capacity-building, the outputs from these programmes will include guidelines and manuals of best practice, criteria and indicators, codes of conduct and guidance for the institutions of the Convention. These will facilitate implementation of the specific operative articles of the Convention, as implementation moves into the next phase.

Marine and coastal biological diversity - the Jakarta Mandate

The conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biological diversity was one of the first major issues to be addressed by the Conference of the Parties. Following advice from SBSTTA, the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties produced a lengthy decision on the subject. In this it set out guidance on the process to be used to develop a work programme on marine and coastal biological diversity and on key elements to be included in the work programme, as well as providing guidance to Parties. The Ministerial Statement on the Implementation of the Convention at this meeting referred to the global consensus reflected in the decision as the Jakarta Mandate on Marine and Coastal Biological Diversity.

Following consultation with a group of experts, and further elaboration by SBSTTA 3, the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties adopted a work programme, based on the Jakarta Mandate. This identified five major programme elements:

  • integrated marine and coastal area management,
  • sustainable use of marine and coastal living resources,
  • marine and coastal protected areas,
  • mariculture,
  • alien species.

These have been translated into five elements of the work programme, with a sixth added to cover general matters. Each programme element has one, two or three operational objectives. Activities to meet these objectives are set out, along with a time-schedule and ways and means of carrying out these activities. The latter involves extensive collaborative linkages, coordinated by the Secretariat, and the use of experts.

Coral reefs and coral bleaching At its fifth meeting, the Conference of the Parties responded to the severe outbreaks of coral bleaching reported from many parts of the world in 1998 and 1999. It decided to integrate coral reefs into the programme element on marine and coastal living resources of the work programme and identified a series of priority areas for action on coral bleaching, based on the results of an expert meeting on the subject held in Manila in 1999. It noted that there was significant evidence that climate change was a primary cause of the recent and extensive coral bleaching and urged the United Nations Framework on Climate Change to take all possible actions to reduce the effects of climate change on water temperature and to address the socio-economic impacts on the countries and communities most affected by coral bleaching.

Forest biological diversity

Early consideration of forest biological diversity by the Conference of the Parties mostly concerned input to and the relationship with the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests established under the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (the precursor of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests and the future United Nations Forum on Forests - see Chapter 6). At its third meeting, the Conference of the Parties asked the Secretariat to develop a focused work programme on forest biological diversity, working closely with the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and other relevant institutions. Following input from a liaison group on forest biological diversity, which met in 1997, SBSTTA proposed a draft work programme. This forms the basis of the work programme as endorsed by the Conference of the Parties at its fourth meeting.

The work programme reflects a three-year planning horizon in three phases, so that the whole programme is envisaged to last nine years. The main elements of the work programme are:

  • holistic and intersectoral ecosystem approaches,
  • comprehensive analysis of the ways in which human activities, in particular forest-management practices, influence biological diversity and assessment of ways to minimize or mitigate negative influences,
  • methodologies necessary to advance the elaboration and implementation of criteria and indicators for forest biological diversity,
  • promoting the development of scientific and technical local approaches to:
    • ways of minimizing or mitigating the underlying causes of loss of forest biological diversity,
    • assessing ecological landscape models, the integration of protected areas in the ecosystem approach to sustainable forest management and the representativeness and adequacy of protected areas networks,
  • advancing scientific and technical approaches, including management of biological diversity in production forests, rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems and enrichment of indigenous biological diversity in plantations.

In preparation for its in depth consideration of forest ecosystems at its sixth meeting in 2002, the Conference of the Parties decided to establish an ad hoc technical expert group on forest biological diversity to assist SBSTTA. This expert group met in November 2000 and in April 2001. The Conference of the Parties asked Parties to submit a thematic report on forest ecosystems by 15 May 2001, as part of their national reporting. By 1 August 2001, 28 Parties had submitted this report.

Agricultural biological diversity

The Conference of the Parties established the framework for a work programme on agricultural biological diversity at its third meeting. At that time it asked the Secretariat and FAO, in close collaboration with other relevant organizations, to identify and assess national and international activities and instruments in the field, with the results of this assessment to be reported through SBSTTA. To help define the programme, the COP called for a range of information from Parties, including details of national activities, existing instruments and case studies of experiences relating to:

  • conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biological diversity;
  • pollinators and soil biota;
  • socio-economic and ecological analyses of different land-use management options.

On the basis of this assessment, and SBSTTA's recommendations, a programme of work was adopted at the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties.

The programme's objectives are:

  • to promote the positive effects and mitigate the negative effects of agricultural systems and practices on biological diversity in agro-ecosystems and their interface with other ecosystems;
  • to promote the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources of actual and potential value for food and agriculture; and
  • to promote the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources.

It has four elements: assessments; adaptive management; capacity-building; and mainstreaming. For each of these a series of activities is set out, along with ways and means of carrying out these activities and timing of expected outputs.

At its fifth meeting, the Conference of the Parties recognized two cross-cutting issues of particular importance for emphasis in the work programme: pollinators and genetic use restriction technologies.

The Conference of the Parties has recognized the contribution of farmers, indigenous and local communities to the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity and the importance of this to their livelihoods. It has emphasized the importance of their participation in the implementation of the programme of work and recognized the need for incentives, capacity-building and information exchange to benefit farmers, indigenous and local communities.

It has also decided to consider, at its sixth meeting, the establishment of a global strategy for plant conservation.

The Conference of the Parties has emphasised the linkages between its work on agriculture and that relating to access to genetic resources, and particularly the ongoing revision of the FAO International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, in harmony with the Convention. In this context, the Conference of the Parties has recognized the special nature of agricultural biodiversity, its distinctive features and problems needing distinctive solutions. It has also recommended collaboration and consultation with the World Trade Organization to develop a better appreciation and understanding of the relationship between trade and agricultural biological diversity in the context of trade liberalization.

Pollinators The Conference of the Parties noted the worldwide decline in pollinator diversity and established an International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Pollinators as a cross-cutting initiative within the work programme on agricultural biological diversity. The aims of this initiative are to: monitor pollinator decline; address the lack of taxonomic information on pollinators; assess the economic value of pollination; and promote conservation, restoration and sustainable use of pollinator diversity in agriculture and related ecosystems.

Genetic use restriction technologies The Conference of the Parties also decided to continue its consideration of the impacts of genetic use restriction technologies2 under the umbrella of, and integrated into, the four elements of the work programme. It emphasised the current absence of reliable data on such technologies, and the consequent difficulty in assessing the risks involved in their use. It recommended that Parties did not approve products incorporating such technologies for field-testing until appropriate scientific data could justify such testing. The Conference of the Parties also recognized the need to understand better the implications with respect to intellectual property rights of use of such technologies, and how they might relate to Farmers' Rights and the implementation of Article 8(j) on the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities. Whilst possible socio-economic impacts of such technologies can be considered under the work programme on agricultural biological diversity, the possible biosafety implications will fall under the scope of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

Biological diversity of inland waters

The third meeting of SBSTTA considered inland water ecosystems in some depth. Its subsequent recommendation formed the basis of a work programme adopted by the Conference of the Parties at its fourth meeting. The programme addresses the following areas:

  • assessment of the status and trends of the biological diversity of inland water ecosystems and identification of options for conservation and sustainable use,
  • provision of scientific advice and further guidance to assist in the national elaboration of Annex I of the Convention, as pertaining to inland water ecosystems,
  • review of methodologies for assessment of biological diversity, as pertaining to inland water ecosystems,
  • the urgency of needed action in taxonomy.

The Conference of the Parties noted that while the implementation of the programme of work was subject to availability of financial resources, particular attention should be given to early progress in the development of rapid assessment methodologies especially in relation to small island states.

As well as adopting its own work programme on inland water biological diversity, the Conference of the Parties has endorsed a joint work plan on wetlands with the Convention on Wetlands (the `Ramsar Convention'), put forward by its secretariat (the Ramsar Bureau).

Biological diversity of dry and sub-humid lands

A programme of work on the biological diversity of dryland, Mediterranean, arid, semi-arid, grassland and savannah ecosystems (known as the work programme on dry and sub-humid lands) was established at the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties. The programme is divided into two parts, `assessments' and `targeted actions in response to identified needs', to be implemented in parallel.

Under assessments, six activities are identified, all concerning assessments in dry and sub-humid lands:

  • assessment of the status and trends of biological diversity,
  • identification of specific areas of value for biological diversity, with reference to the criteria in Annex I to the Convention,
  • further development of indicators,
  • building knowledge on ecological, physical and social processes,
  • identification of local and global benefits derived from biological diversity,
  • identification and dissemination of best management practices, including knowledge, innovation and practices of indigenous and local communities.

These activities are to be carried out through: consolidation of information from existing sources; targeted research; multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary case-studies on management practices, carried out primarily by national and regional institutions; dissemination of information and capacity-building.

Under targeted actions, three clusters of activities are identified:

  • promotion of specific measures for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, through for example, use and establishment of additional protected areas, appropriate management and sustainable use of water resources and management of invasive alien species,
  • promotion of responsible resource management, at appropriate levels, applying the ecosystem approach, through and enabling policy environment,
  • support for sustainable livelihoods, through diversifying sources of income, promotion of sustainable harvesting including of wildlife; exploring innovative sustainable use of biological diversity.

These activities are to be carried out through capacity building, particularly at national and local levels, establishment of an international network of designated demonstration sites, case studies on successful management, partnerships between relevant stakeholders and the development of a joint work programme with the Convention to Combat Desertification. The Conference of the Parties requested the secretariat to collaborate with the Secretariat of the Convention to Combat Desertification to develop possible elements of such a joint work programme on the basis of a proposal prepared by the two secretariats for the fifth meeting.

Mountain biological diversity

As noted in Table 3.2, the Conference of the Parties will consider the biological diversity of mountain ecosystems in-depth at its seventh meeting (2004). To prepare for this, mountain biological diversity will be the main issue for the eighth meeting of SBSTTA (late 2002). 2002 is the International Year of Mountains. Map19 shows the mountains of the world.

Map 19

2 Technological means that rely on genetic transformation of plants to introduce a genetic switch mechanism which prevents unauthorised use of either particular plant germplasm, or trait(s) associated with that germplasm and which are designed to provide a genetic, in-built protection against unauthorized reproduction of the seed or the added-value trait.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme