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In May 1993, UNEP's Governing Council established the ICCBD to prepare for the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties and to ensure effective operation of the Convention upon its entry into force.

The first session of the ICCBD, which met in Geneva from 11-15 October 1993, formed two working groups. Working Group I addressed the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, the scientific and technical work between meetings, and the issue of biosafety. Working Group II covered issues related to the financial mechanisms, the process for estimating funding needs, the meaning of "full incremental costs," the rules of procedure for the COP, and technical cooperation and capacity-building. Despite several sessions of substantive debate, the Working Groups were not able to produce reports that could be approved by the Plenary. As a last minute solution, the Plenary adopted only two decisions: the establishment of a scientific and technical committee that would meet before the second session of the ICCBD; and a request to the Secretariat to use the unadopted Working Groups' reports as guidance during the intersessional period.

The second session of the ICCBD met in Nairobi from 20 June - 1 July 1994. Delegates addressed a number of issues, including: institutional, legal and procedural matters; scientific and technical matters; and matters related to the financial mechanism. Progress was made on issues including: rules of procedure; the subsidiary body on scientific, technical and technological advice (SBSTTA); and the clearing-house mechanism. However, many delegates felt that substantive negotiations had been deferred on such critical issues as: the need for a biosafety protocol; ownership of and access to ex situ genetic resources; farmers' rights; and the financial mechanism.