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1st Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention on Biological Diversity (ICCBD)

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

The Convention on Biological Diversity, was opened for signature atthe Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 5, 1992 and bythe end of July 1993, 165 countries had signed the treaty. Itcontains three national-level obligations: to conserve andsustainably use biological diversity and to share its benefits. TheConvention is based on a broad ecosystem approach rather than on aspecific species or ecosystem or site basis, which characterizeother international conservation agreements such as CITES andRamsar.

The treaty reflects the policy and scientific recommendations madeover many years by a number of groups and experts, beginning withthe IUCN's Commission on Environmental Law and the IUCNEnvironmental Law Centre in the middle to late 1980s. Next, aseries of expert group meetings was convened by UNEP beginning inNovember 1988, pursuant to Governing Council Decisions 14/26 and15/34 of 1987. These meetings led to a new treaty on biodiversityseparate from but negotiated parallel to the United NationsConference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The initialsessions were referred to as meetings of the "Ad Hoc Working Groupof Experts on Biological Diversity." By the summer of 1990,sufficient progress had been made, including the completion ofstudies on various aspects of the issues, that a new "Sub-WorkingGroup on Biotechnology" was established to prepare terms ofreference on biotechnology transfer. Other aspects of biodiversitywere included, such as in situ and ex situconservation of wild and domesticated species; access to geneticresources and to technology, including biotechnology; new andadditional financial support; and safety of release orexperimentation on genetically modified organisms.

The Governing Council of UNEP next created an "Ad Hoc Working Groupof Legal and Technical Experts" in mid-1990 to prepare a newinternational legal instrument for the conservation and sustainableuse of biological diversity. It was mandated to take "particularaccount of the need to share costs and benefits between developedand developing countries and ways and means to support innovationby local people." The legal and technical experts considered priorreports while drafting elements of a convention. The ExecutiveDirector of UNEP prepared the first formal draft Convention onBiological Diversity, which was considered in February, 1991, by an"Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee" (INC). The first INCmeeting was also known as the third session of the Ad Hoc WorkingGroup of Legal and Technical Experts. Four subsequent sessions ofthe INC/negotiating sessions were held in the intervening twoyears, culminating in the adoption of the final text of the treatyin Nairobi, Kenya on May 22, 1992. As of the end of July, 1993, 165countries had signed the Convention. By the end of September, 1993,30 nations had ratified the Convention. As a result, the Conventionwill enter into force on December 29, 1993.

INTERSESSIONAL ACTIVITIES

The Norway/UNEP Expert Conference on Biodiversity, held inTrondheim, Norway, 24-28 May, 1993, was hosted by the NorwegianMinistry of Environment in collaboration with UNEP. One of theprimary purposes of the meeting was to bring together scientists,managers, bureaucrats and policy-makers from 80 countries toprovide input to UNEP's preparatory work for the ICCBD meeting. Thethemes discussed at the Trondheim meeting included: ecosystemfunctions of biodiversity; loss and conservation of biodiversity;marine biodiversity; biodiversity inventory and monitoring;forestry and biodiversity conservation; socio-cultural aspects ofbiodiversity; the economic aspects of biodiversity conservation anduse; and the transition from scientific knowledge to politicalaction.

NORWAY/UNEP EXERT CONFERENCE ON BIODIVERSITY

The Norway/UNEP Expert Conference on Biodiversity, held inTrondheim, Norway, 24-28 May, 1993, was hosted by the NorwegianMinistry of Environment in collaboration with UNEP. One of theprimary purposes of the meeting was to bring together scientists,managers, bureaucrats and policy-makers from 80 countries toprovide input to UNEP's preparatory work for the ICCBD meeting. Thethemes discussed at the Trondheim meeting included: ecosystemfunctions of biodiversity; loss and conservation of biodiversity;marine biodiversity; biodiversity inventory and monitoring;forestry and biodiversity conservation; socio-cultural aspects ofbiodiversity; the economic aspects of biodiversity conservation anduse; and the transition from scientific knowledge to politicalaction.

EXPERT PANELS

In November 1992, UNEP's Executive Director established four expertpanels to prepare advice on specific issues for the first ICCBD.Copies of the reports from these sessions are available on requestfrom the Interim Secretariat.

Panel 1 - Priorities for Action and Research Agenda: Thispanel developed a methodology for setting priorities for actionarising out of the Convention. It also recommended an agenda forscientific and technical research and called for the creation of aninterim scientific and technological advisory committee to beestablished as soon as possible.

Panel 2 - Economic Implications and Valuation of BiologicalResources: This panel identified the socio-economic forces thatcause biodiversity loss. The Panel recommended several steps thatmust be taken to address these issues. These steps include:identifying policies and incentive systems that work againstbiodiversity conservation; conducting more research regarding thepotential of economic instruments to combat biodiversity loss; andassessing the values of biodiversity.

Panel 3: - Technology Transfer and FinancialResources: This panel concluded that access to information andcapacity building are key to implementation of the Convention'stechnology transfer provisions. The panel suggested that the ICCBDdevelop guidelines for international cooperation in this regard.Regarding funding arrangements, the Panel suggested that the ICCBDpropose substantive modifications to the GEF. The Panel concludedthat the ICCBD should develop a procedure for estimating the levelof funding needed for implementation of the Convention.

Panel 4 - Safe Transfer, Handling and Use of Living ModifiedOrganisms Resulting from Biotechnology: This panel concludedthat only the Conference of the Parties (COP) can take a politicaldecision regarding the creation of a biotechnology protocol. Thepanel recommended that such an instrument should only covergenetically-modified organisms and should aim at preventing andmitigating the consequences of unintended releases.

MAJOR ISSUES BEFORE THE COMMITTEE

BUREAU: The choice of a Bureau will be the first proceduralmatter. Regional groups will have met before this morning's sessionto decide whether to continue the Bureau from the INC or whether toestablish a new Bureau that could be increased in size.

ISTAC: The possible establishment of an Interim Scientificand Technical Advisory Committee (ISTAC), its tasks, membership andcomposition will be considered.

FINANCES: An overriding concern this week will be financialissues, including the details of the voluntary funds, the choice ofinstitutional mechanism to regulate the funds, and the developmentof criteria for eligible projects. Discussions regarding theinterpretation of the phrase "full and incremental costs" will becritical in this regard.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS: Problems may recur over theintellectual property rights provisions of the Convention,especially over the interpretation of confusing and possiblycontradictory language in Articles 15 and 16. The treaty itselfdoes not call for the abandonment of intellectual property legalregimes. However, some are concerned that this would be theconsequence of the technology transfer and benefit sharing goals ofthe Convention. Discussion will focus on the political compromisethat is reflected in the treaty between the concepts of access togenetic resources (Article 15) and access to technology (Article16). This scheme, with benefit sharing, is contrasted with the"common heritage/free access to resources" approach that has beenused by the FAO in its undertaking on plant genetic resources.

COP: Issues to be addressed by the Conference of the Partiesduring the coming year must be identified. Topics may include: abiosafety protocol or some other mechanism to address this issue;the closing of loopholes in certain articles that excludeactivities in areas thought to be necessary to achieving the goalsof the treaty. For example, this would include expanding Article14 on environmental impact assessments to address migratoryspecies, site selection, and privately-owned lands. Additional workmust be done on implementation of the treaty at the national level,including legislation and country reports.

DOCUMENTATION FOR THIS SESSION

PROVISIONAL AGENDA (UNEP/CBD/IC/1/1 and /Add. 1): The agendawas prepared by the UNEP Secretariat on the basis of UNEP GoverningCouncil Decision 17/30 of May 1993, which established the ICCBD andrequested the Executive Director to convene this meeting. Theaddendum includes annotations to the provisional agenda includingproposals by the Executive Director on the organization of work anda listing of the issues before the Committee.

DRAFT RULES OF PROCEDURE FOR THE ICCBD (UNEP/CBD/IC/1/2):The draft rules of procedure have been adapted from the INC withappropriate changes made to distinguish the ICCBD from the INC.Language has been inserted to allow for the expansion in the sizeof the Bureau. As well, the language in the rules has been madegender-neutral.

ISSUES BEFORE THE ICCBD (UNEP/CBD/IC/1/3): This note fromthe Executive Director outlines the activities undertaken since theconclusion of negotiations. It presents an overview of the issuesbefore the Committee.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE RESULTS OF THE EXPERT PANELS(UNEP/CBD/IC/1/4): This note, prepared by the ExecutiveDirector, summarizes the meetings of the four panels established toprepare advice on issues identified by Resolution 2 of the NairobiFinal Act.

THE FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF LEGAL REGIMES UNDER MULTILATERALTREATIES (UNEP/CBD/IC/1/5 and /Corr.1): This note, prepared bythe Interim Secretariat, is a background document on theprocedures, legal effects and both advantages and disadvantages ofvarious legal regimes including amendments, protocols, annexes,resolutions, declarations or interpretive statements, andreservations.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PROPOSED WORK PROGRAMME: The programme of work, prepared bythe Interim Secretariat, has been revised after consultation withmember states. Concerns were expressed over the division of topicsinto two working groups that did not parallel the working groupsthat had been established in the INC. The revised programme of workclarifies that methods to achieve the conservation and sustainableuse of biological diversity, including technology transfer andcapacity building, are part of the work assigned to Working GroupI for this week's deliberations. Funding, the COP and biosafetyissues are assigned to Working Group II. This document is intendedto replace the schedule found in the annotations to the provisionalagenda.

PLENARY: The session is scheduled to begin this morning at9:30 am although informal consultations on the size and compositionof the Bureau may delay the onset of deliberations. The morning'smeeting will begin with a seven minute slide and music showprepared by the Interim Secretariat entitled, "The Richness of AllLiving Things." Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of UNEP,will deliver opening remarks, followed by a presentation by an NGOrepresentative on the outcome of the Global Biodiversity Forum,held on 7-9 October at IUCN Headquarters. There will be a briefpresentation on the occasion of World Food Day. Ms. Dowdeswell willpreside as the Committee adopts the Rules of Procedure and electsa Chair. The newly elected Chair will proceed first to the questionof the size and membership of the Bureau. The Plenary will thenadopt the agenda for the first session and discuss the organizationof work for the week.

WORKING GROUP I: Deliberations will begin in the afternoonon the topic of "Conservation and Sustainable Use" once the Plenaryconcludes its consideration of the procedural matters. Discussionswill commence with the full range of activities for reducingbiodiversity loss. UNEP, UNDP and the World Bank will provide briefoverviews on the categories of action they have supported. The restof the afternoon session will be left for discussion.

WORKING GROUP II: Deliberations will begin in the afternoonon the topic of the institution(s) operating the financialmechanism, once the Plenary concludes its consideration of theprocedural matters. Debate on this topic is scheduled to continuethrough Tuesday afternoon. GEF Administrator Ian Johnson will speakbriefly on the GEF, and may highlight the outcome of theReplenishment Meeting and Participant's Assembly held two weeks agoin Washington. Discussion will follow on the characteristicsdesired in the institution(s) operating the financial mechanismunder the Convention.

Participants

Negotiating blocs
African Union

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