is the Convention on Biological Diversity?
The United Nations "Convention on Biological
Diversity" is a legally-binding agreement between countries from
all around the world. Its aims are to conserve biological diversity, to use
its components in a sustainable way and to share fairly and equitably between
all people the benefits that can arise from the use of genetic
It is the first agreement to address all
aspects of biological diversity (species, ecosystems and genetic
resources) and has become one of the most widely ratified international
treaties on environmental issues.
Unlike other international agreements that set
strict concrete targets for action, the Convention on Biological Diversity is
a framework agreement that takes a flexible approach to implementation,
leaving it up to individual countries to determine how its provisions are to
be implemented. Provisions are mostly expressed as goals and policies, rather
than as precise obligations and targets.
One of its greatest achievements so far has been
to generate an enormous amount of interest in biodiversity at national level,
both in developed and developing countries. Biodiversity is now seen as a
critically important environment and development issue.
For more information, have a look at
have a Convention?
Our natural environment provides the basic
conditions (oxygen, water, food, shelter, materials, etc.) without which we
could not survive, and therefore biological resources are vital for the
world's economic, social and cultural development. In addition, the richer
the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries and
adaptive responses to new challenges such as climate change. Biological
diversity is a global asset of tremendous value to present and future
generations. At the same time, due to human activities, species and ecosystems
are more threatened today than ever before in recorded history.
The growing concern over the unprecedented
loss of biological diversity inspired negotiations for a legally-binding
instrument aimed at reversing this alarming trend. As early as 1973, the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) identified the "conservation of
nature, wildlife and genetic resources as a priority area".
the 1980’s, it became clear that existing environmental legislations and
conservation programmes were not sufficient. In 1988, UNEP asked
experts to explore the need for an international convention on biodiversity.
Soon after, in May 1989, it established a working group of technical and legal
experts to prepare an international legal instrument for the conservation and
sustainable use of biological diversity.
On 22 May 1992, in Nairobi
(Kenya), the nations of the world adopted a draft for the Convention on
Biological Diversity, the so-called "Nairobi Act". It was presented
to the United
Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de
Janeiro (Brazil) in June 1992.
did the Convention come into force?
Convention was opened for signature at the United Nations Conference on
Environment and Development, the "Earth Summit", in Rio de Janeiro
(Brazil) on 5 June 1992.
The Convention entered into
force on 29 December 1993, 90 days after the 30th ratification as stated
in its article 36. It has
now been ratified by 180 parties (179 countries and the European
are the objectives of the Convention?
The objectives of the Convention are expressed in
its article 1 and are threefold:
the conservation of biological
diversity (articles 6-9, 11 and 14);
the sustainable use of its components
(articles 6, 10 and 14); and
the fair and equitable sharing of the
benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, including by
access to genetic resources (article 15),
taking into account all rights over those resources,
transfer of relevant technologies
(articles 16 and 19), taking into account all rights over those
resources and to technologies, and
funding (articles 20 and 21).
The Convention is thus the first agreement to
address all aspects of biological diversity: species, ecosystems and genetic
resources. It is indeed the first time that genetic diversity is specifically
covered in a binding global treaty.
The Convention also recognises - for the first
time - that the conservation of biological diversity is "a common concern
of humankind" and an integral part of the development process. In other
words, the Convention recognises that all humanity has an interest ensuring
the conservation of biological diversity, including poor nations, women and
indigenous people, and that it needs to be addressed by concerted
See also (CBD website):
What is a
COP stands for "Conference of the Parties".
It is the Convention's ultimate authority and assembles representatives of all
Parties to the Convention as well as observers such as non-Party countries, UN
agencies, international and non-governmental organisations.
Its basic function is to steer and supervise the
entire process of implementing and further developing the Convention: it
examines what progress has been made and sets work plans for future actions.
The COP can also make amendments to the Convention and collaborate with other
international treaties and processes.
The Conference of the Parties meets regularly to
discuss important matters. There have already been 6 meetings and the 7th
meeting, COP-7, will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in February 2004.
What is a
SBSTTA stands for "Subsidiary Body on
Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice". It is a committee
composed of experts from member Parties as well as of observers from non-Party
countries, UN agencies, international and non-governmental organisations. Its
aims are to provide the Conference of the Parties with advice and
recommendations on scientific, technical and technological matters. The SBSTTA
acts under the authority of the Conference of the Parties and, therefore, must
comply with the guidelines adopted by the Conference.
What is the
The Clearing-House Mechanism (CHM) under the Convention on Biological
Diversity (CBD) is an information sharing mechanism set up to
facilitate the exchange of scientific and technical information related to the
objectives of the Convention. It operates mainly, but not exclusively, via the
Internet and is built up as a structurally decentralised and distributed
network developed and managed by the CBD Secretariat, national and thematic
focal points and other biodiversity actors.
The Clearing-House Mechanism, as defined by
Article 18.3 of the Convention, reflects the recognition that cooperation
and sharing of expertise among all communities is essential to the successful
implementation of the Convention.
The Belgian Clearing-House Mechanism (B CHM) is the Belgian node of
this world-wide network. Its role is not only to answer the information needs
of Belgian actors involved in implementing the Convention but also to share
its information and expertise with anyone interested in CBD-related matters.
What is a
National Focal Point?
National Focal Points are set up by each member
Party. They are bodies in charge of all the flow of information about the
Convention. National Focal Points co-ordinate CBD-related activities at
national level. They transmit information from the CBD Secretariat to their
governmental bodies and, conversely, report to the Conference of Parties how
their country is meeting its biodiversity goals.
For more information:
What is the position of Belgium in
relation to the Convention?
Belgium signed the Convention on Biological Diversity on 5 June 1992, the
first day of the opening for signature of the Convention during the UN
Conference at Rio de Janeiro. It ratified the Convention on 22
November 1996. In accordance to article 36 of the Convention, it entered
into force in our country 90 days later, on 20 February 1997.
The follow-up of the Convention is carried out by the ‘Biodiversity
Convention’ Steering Committee which includes federal and regional
representatives as well as thematic experts. It is operated under the
authority of the Coordinating Committee for International Environmental Policy
(CCIEP). Some of the first priorities for the Steering Committee were to
prepare the First National Report and the Country Study on Biological
The Royal Belgian Institute of
Natural Sciences was designated in 1995 as the Belgian National Focal
Point for the Convention. Its main tasks are to coordinate the flow of
information from and to the CBD-secretariat
in Montreal and to develop and manage the Belgian Clearing-House Mechanism.
The Scientific Institute of Public Health
‘Louis Pasteur’ was designated as the National Focal Point for all
matters related to the Biosafety Protocol. Regional
focal points to the CBD are also established in Belgium's three regions.
A selection of websites
providing information on the Convention
A Guide to the Convention on
Biological Diversity. Environmental Policy and Law Paper No. 30. IUCN
International Law Centre, IUCN Biodiversity Programme, 1994.
Convention on Biological
Diversity. Text and annexes. CBD Secretariat, Montreal, Canada, 1998.
National Report of Belgium to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, 1998.
Sustaining Life on Earth - How
the Convention on Biological Diversity promotes nature and human
well-being, UNEP and CBD Secretariat, 2000.