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Inland Waters Biodiversity - Background

Overview

Inland waters was adopted as a CBD thematic area at the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bratislava, Slovakia. The Convention's inland waters programme promotes the ecosystem approach, including integrated watershed management, as the best way to reconcile competing demands for dwindling supplies of inland waters. It is essential that the maintenance of biodiversity is seen as a critical demand for freshwater use and managed in coordination with other demands. The programme identifies the actions that Parties need to carry out to halt the trend of biodiversity loss, including monitoring, assessment and evaluation of biological diversity of inland water ecosystems, conducting environmental impact assessments of water development projects, development of pollution prevention strategies, choosing and using appropriate technology, and promoting transboundary cooperation, ecosystem-based management and the involvement of local and indigenous communities at all appropriate levels.

The programme of work on biological diversity of inland water ecosystems integrates with other work programmes and cross-cutting issues, particularly as freshwater is the major link between many different ecosystems and issues. It also promotes cooperation with other conventions and organizations through Joint Work Plans, in particular the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the Convention on Migratory Species (See Partners).

Background and Status

The COP 2 decided to assess the status and trends of the biodiversity of inland water ecosystems and identify options for conservation and sustainable use at its fourth meeting (decision II/18).

In decision III/10, on identification, monitoring and assessment, the COP 3 instructed the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advices (SBSTTA) to provide scientific advice and further guidance, through its thematic work on ecosystems, to assist the national implementation of Annex I of the Convention, using the elaboration of terms set out in paragraphs 12-29 of document UNEP/CBD/COP/3/12. Accordingly, the SBSTTA considered this issue within the context of inland water biological diversity at its third meeting, and produced the recommendation III/1.

The COP 3 also decided to invite the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to co-operate as a lead partner in the implementation of activities under the Convention related to wetlands. It requested the Executive Secretary to seek inputs from the Ramsar Convention in preparation of documentation concerning the status and trends of inland water ecosystems for consideration by the COP 4 (decision III/21, paragraph 7(a)(ii)). The Secretariat has signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Ramsar Convention Bureau, which has been endorsed by the COP (decision III/21, paragraph 2). At the COP 4, the Ramsar Bureau put forward a proposal for a joint work plan on wetlands for the period 1998-1999 (UNEP/CBD/COP/4/Inf.8), which was endorsed by the COP (decision IV/15, paragraph 2). The COP 5 endorsed a joint work plan with the Ramsar Convention for the period 2000-20001 (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/5/Inf/12). (decision V/2, paragraph 2).

On the basis of the SBSTTA recommendation III/1, with modifications, the COP 4 adopted a work programme on biological diversity of inland water ecosystems (decision IV/4, paragraph 1). In addition to the programme of work, decision IV/4 also contains certain other guidance regarding inland water biological diversity addressed to Parties and governments, the financial mechanism, the SBSTTA and the Secretariat.

In decision VI/2 the COP recognized the importance of the River Basin Initiative for implementation of the programme of work on biodiversity of inland waters and application of the ecosystem approach, and requested the Executive Secretary to strengthen collaboration with the Convention on Wetlands on the implementation of the River Basin Initiative. In the same decision the COP further requested the Executive Secretary and Bureau of the Convention on Wetlands to facilitate the implementation of the third Joint Work Plan with the Convention on Wetlands (2002-2006) (UNEP/CBD/COP/6/Inf.14) as endorsed by the COP in its decision VI/20, on cooperation with the Convention on Wetlands.

In decision VI/2 the COP emphasized the importance of review and elaboration of the programme of work on biological diversity of inland water ecosystems, as outlined in the progress report of the Executive Secretary on thematic programmes of work (UNEP/CBD/COP/6/11, paras 22-24) and of the implementation of activity 11 of the programme of work on the Global Taxonomy Initiative. As part of this process a review was undertaken of the status and trends of the biological diversity of inland water ecosystems (CBD Technical Series No. 11).

At its seventh meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the COP adopted a revised and elaborated programme of work on the biological diversity of inland water ecosystems (decision VII/4 – the annex to which contains the detailed work programme).

COP Guidance

Guidance to Parties

The COP has urged Parties when requesting support from the financial mechanism to give priority to certain projects related to inland water ecosystems (decision IV/4, paragraph 7). It has also urged Parties to integrate elements of the work programme addressing inland water ecosystems into their national and sectoral plans and to implement these as soon as possible.

The work programme in the annex to decision VII/4 contains a number of specific recommendations to Parties (decision IV/4, annex, paragraphs 9, 14-20).

The COP 5 further encouraged Parties to address the lack of information on inland water biological diversity and to include this information in their national reports and urged capacity-building measures for developing and implementing national and sectoral plans for the conservation and sustainable use of inland water ecosystems (decision V/2, paragraphs 3, 8). The COP 7 further stressed the need for improved data and information on the status and trends of, including threats to, the biological diversity of inland water ecosystems (decision VII/4, paragraph 16).

Financial mechanism and resources

The COP 4 requested the financial mechanism, in the context of implementing national biodiversity strategies and action plans, to provide support to eligible projects which help parties develop and implement plans for the conservation and sustainable use of inland water biological diversity (decision IV/4, paragraph 6). This call was repeated at the COP 5 (decision V/13, paragraph 2(n)).

The COP 4 also invited all relevant organizations to support efforts by Parties and Governments to implement national and sectoral plans for the conservation and sustainable use of the biological diversity of inland water ecosystems (decision IV/4, paragraph 9).

The COP 7 recognised the need for resources, human, technological and financial, to implement effectively the activities under the revised programme of work, including capacity-building in the required fields (decision VII/4, paragraph 9).

Elements of the work programme on inland water biological diversity

The programme of work adopted under decision VII/4, as set out the annex to the decision, addresses the following Programme Elements:

1) Conservation, sustainable use and benefit sharing.
2) Institutional and socio-economic enabling environment.
3) Knowledge, assessment and monitoring.

Decision VII/4, paragraph 8, recommends that the Strategic Plan of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and their target of 2010 to reduce significantly the rate of biodiversity loss, should guide the implementation of the revised programme of work on inland water biological diversity. Paragraph 13 of the same decision invites Parties to formulate and adopt outcome oriented targets and identify priorities for each activity, including timescales, taking into account the aforementioned, the Strategic Plan of the Ramsar Convention for the period 2003-2008 and the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. The COP noted that while the implementation of the programme of work is subject to the 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 (decision IV/4, paragraph 11). Following this, an expert group on guidelines on rapid assessment of biological diversity of inland water ecosystems provided draft guidelines (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/8/Inf/5). The COP 7 invited Parties, other Governments and relevant organisations to use and promote the application of the guidelines (decision VII/4, paragraph 20). Whilst requesting that the guidelines be developed to include improved attention to ecosystem-level and socio-economic and cultural aspects (decision VII/4, paragraph 21). The COP 7 also fully recognised the critical role of inland water biodiversity for sustainable livelihoods (decision VII/4, paragraph 25), placing the work programme firmly within the context of achieving various human development goals including the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the Millennium Development Goals. Decision VIII/20 stressed the need to seek better ways and means for full and effective implementation by relevant stakeholders.

Further progress in implementing the work programme

The COP 5 took note of some of the obstacles to implementing the work plan set out in a note provided to SBSTTA by the Executive Secretary (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/5/6) and asked the Executive Secretary to report further before the seventh meeting of the COP. Information on the implementation of the work programme was to be disseminated through the clearing-house mechanism (decision V/2, paragraphs 1, 6). These obstacles were reviewed as part of the process of refinement and elaboration of the programme of work leading to decision VII/4.

The COP asked the SBSTTA to consider the recommendations in the report of the World Commission on Dams and to advise the COP 6 how these might be taken into consideration in the work plan on inland water biological diversity. It also asked the SBSTTA to provide further advice on elaboration and refinement of the work programme by the seventh meeting of the COP, and invited relevant organizations to contribute to the assessment of inland water biological diversity (decision V/2, paragraphs 4, 5, 7).

The COP further noted in the relevant decisions that work on the following issues should be incorporated into the thematic work programmes, including that for inland water biological diversity: alien species, impact assessment, incentive measures, implementation of Article 8(j), and public education and awareness (decision V/8, paragraph 10; decision V/15, paragraph 4; decision V/16, paragraph 8; decision V/17, paragraph 5; decision V/18, section I, paragraph 1(a). These requests were considered as part of the revision of the work programme and incorporated into the revised work programme on the biological diversity of inland water ecosystems (decision VII/4, annex).

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme