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5th Meeting of the Subsidiary Bodies for Scientific,Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD).

Montréal, CANADA
31 January - 04 February 2000


Tuesday 01 February :

On Monday 31 January, Delegates met in Plenary to hear opening statements, adopt the agenda, and agree upon the organization of work.  Substantive discussion began on cooperation with other bodies, the Global Taxonomy Initiative, inland waters biodiversity, forest biodiversity, the Clearing House Mechanism and guidelines for the second national reports.

Opening Statements:

SBSTTA-5 Chair Cristián Samper (Colombia) opened the meeting underlining the recently adopted Biosafety Protocol's importance.  He noted that the next step forward for the CBD is to bridge the gap between science and politics, and outlined the major agenda items for the meeting.


Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary of the CBD, noted in his opening address SBSTTA's responsibility to develop recommendations on the ecosystem approach and highlighted the Norway/UN Conference on the Ecosystem Approach.  He also noted collaboration with the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD).


Paul Chabeda, on behalf of Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNEP, highlighted specific concerns including: biodiversity loss and genetic erosion; conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, especially regarding economic globalization; equitable benefit-sharing with attention to indigenous and local communities; and regional, national, and local capacity-building.

Side Events :

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment:

At this popular side event, Walter Reid [right] outlined the proposal for the establishment of a worldwide facility for joint-assessment of ecosystems, known as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.  The goal of this facility would be to improve the management of local, regional, and global ecosystems by providing a high-quality and standardized information to decision-makers.  While the goal is to provide policy-relevant technical information through integrated ecosystem assessments, it is not meant to be policy-prescriptive or necessarily political.  The project recognizes that countries make choices about their ecosystems; ecosystems which are used for food, energy, tourism, conservation, trade, etc. and choices which often involve trade-offs.  Improving assessment is thus seen as a way to improve countries' capacities for making these important decisions.

With a clearly defined vision, the Millennium Assessment (MA) has 3 defining features:

  • Focus : on the capacity of ecosystems to provide goods and services important to human development through the provision of baseline information on resource-use, pressures, trends, conditions, evaluations of specific ecosystems scenarios and their trade-offs, and response options.
  • Process : which studies and evaluates ecosystems recognizing their differential spatial and temporal indices, and produces information useful at the international, regional, national, and local levels of decision-making, while building capacity at all levels, encouraging institutional collaboration, establishing methodologies for integrated assessment, and working with all levels of expertise.
  • Institutional Arrangements : with a Board comprised of "users" and "stakeholders" from international ecosystem conventions, governments, civil society, and private-sector industry, and with work being conducted by a dispersed worldwide network of UN institutions, research institutes, international conventions, and national governments to meet the needs of diverse interests.

More information can be found out about the MA at its website : []

CBD Clearing House Mechanism (CHM)

Marc Auer and Beatriz Torres of the CBD Secretariat's CHM, supply information to CHM National Focal Points at their side event.

Link: []

Coral Reefs & Climate Change:

Pictured left to right: Brett Orlando (IUCN), Jordan West (IUCN), Patricia Glick (National Wildlife Federation), and Alan Strong (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

The Consultation on Coral Bleaching was hosted here at CBD SBSTTA-5 because after having been presented at various international environmental conventions, the issue needed to be brought back to the delegates to identify next steps.

Jordan West, Marine Science Advisor for IUCN, outlined that coral bleaching is a phenomenon which happens when coral is exposed to stresses such as pollution, fresh water run-off, sedimentation, abrupt salinity fluctuations, and most commonly, oceanic temperature changes.  Such stress deteriorates the symbiotic relationships between corals and resident algae, threatening integral resources that corals provide.  Coral reefs provide nutritional and structural resources to fisheries, they protect terrestrial shorelines from erosion, they are sources of bioactive compounds with pharmaceutical applications, they provide tourism income for many countries, and as "rainforests of the sea", coral reefs are depositories of genetic material and biological diversity.

The problem has opened eyes to the weakened state of coral systems around the world, and their vulnerability to climate change and oceanic temperature fluctuations.  Temperature excesses have been so severe that there has been high proportion of mortality in corals, which take decades to regenerate.  According to Alan Strong, Oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), if such temperature increases such as those experienced in the last 10 years continue through the next decade, there is real reason for concern.  With increased intensity and mortality of recent coral bleaching events (such as the 1997-1998 "el niño"), and the likelihood of future mortalities, the group suggests that more research, monitoring, and coordination at the international level need to be prioritized.

Brett Orlando, Climate Change Program Officer at IUCN suggests a need to re-evaluate management systems, recognizing opportunities to do so within the CBD to set an agenda through the Jakarta Mandate.  Four potential areas of work to address coral reef conservation include:

  • the enhancement of information gathering and dissemination
  • capacity-building, especially in developing countries where most reefs are located
  • policy development
  • financing coral reef conservation efforts

There is reason to suspect that we are approaching an ecological limit, consistent with what most climate modelers have predicted.  Patricia Glick, National Wildlife Federation, adds that there needs to be more collaboration among institutions and conventions.



Convention on Biodiversity Homepage [CBD]
CBD Secretariat page for the Resumed ExCOP
Clearing House Mechanism [CHM]
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
ENB Coverage of Cartagena (BSWG-6)
ENB Coverage of BSWG-5, BSWG-4, BSWG-3, BSWG-2, BSWG-1

This page was last updated 02/03/2000 14:08:45 -0600
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