Report of main proceedings for 11 October 1993

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

The opening meeting of the first session of the IntergovernmentalCommittee on the Convention on Biological Diversity was convened on11 October, 1993 by UNEP Executive Director Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

UNEP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Dowdeswell welcomed theparticipants and called on the delegates to address substance aswell as procedure in the limited time available this week. Shestated that the critical need to achieve sustainability in the faceof threats to survival has brought us together on the eve of theentry into force of the Convention on Biological Diversity on 29December, 1993.

Dowdeswell stated that the Convention is an extremely carefullybalanced deal with far-reaching commitments for all Parties andthat answers are likely to reflect the diversity of the livingworld they are designed to protect. Not only will we need to betolerant of a wide range of approaches for achieving the objectivesof this Convention, but also we should embrace and build ourstrength upon that diversity.

Dowdeswell then proceeded to introduce the new staff of the InterimSecretariat: Angela Cropper, Executive Secretary (Trinidad andTobago); Dr. Arturo Martinez, biologist (Argentina); Dr. JosephMulongoy, biotechnologist (Zaire); Susan Bragdon, lawyer (US);Manab Chakraborty, economist (India); Song Li, financialinstruments specialist (China); and Lone Johansen, communicationsspecialist (Denmark).

Dowdeswell then referred to the agenda specified in Resolution 2 ofthe Nairobi Final Act that was designed to achieve internationalcooperation pending the entry into force of the Convention. Whilenations develop strategies and national action plans onbiodiversity, international technical and financial cooperation isneeded to support those activities. The goal for this week is toelaborate ideas on how such international cooperation might best befacilitated. Dowdeswell insisted that the ICCBD is not anegotiating forum because the Convention has already beennegotiated. The goal of the session is to develop specificproposals for the Conference of the Parties.

Dowdeswell noted the participation of more than 120 governmentdelegations, 80 non-governmental organizations, and manyrepresentatives of UN agencies and other intergovernmentalorganizations.

After her speech, Dowdeswell informed the Plenary that, in theinterest of broad representation, opening statements would be givenby representatives of the Global Biodiversity Forum, FAO, and theBrazilian Government.

GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY FORUM: Yvonne St. Hill presented a reporton the outcome of the three-day Global Biodiversity Forum hosted bythe IUCN in Gland, Switzerland, October 7-9, 1993. The Forum,organized by UNEP, the African Centre for Technology Studies, theWorld Conservation Union and the World Resources Institute,included 150 participants from 50 countries. The purpose was toprovide a "neutral" setting in order to foster an open exchange ofwide-ranging views on issues that are frequently contentious andare currently being negotiated in other multilateral fora. St. Hilloutlined the Forum's key recommendations regarding six majorthemes.

  • Participation and Information: Widespread participation of a diversity of stakeholders is essential to biodiversity conservation. Moreover, NGO access to information and formal deliberations as well as constructive collaboration with the Interim Secretariat should be encouraged.
  • Finance: A diversity of financial means and funding mechanisms is needed. Without addressing the negative impact of certain patterns of trade and debt on biodiversity, the Convention's well-intentioned, project-oriented financing schemes may be rendered ineffective.
  • Institutional Change: In line with the Convention's comprehensive and community-based approach to ecosystem protection, governments should restructure and reform national institutions, laws, policies and accounting mechanisms. In addition, governments should set up multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral national commissions.
  • Intellectual Property Rights (IPR): The potentially negative impact of existing IPRs on biodiversity and their alternatives should be assessed before these regimes are extended. The traditional knowledge embodied in current practices and technologies should also be recognized.
  • Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs): Specific biodiversity criteria should be developed for EIAs, policies and laws. EIA processes should be proactive, precautionary, transparent and participatory. Some countries will require capacity-building in order to conduct EIAs on complex and novel technologies.
  • Biosafety: A biosafety protocol must consider the social, economic, as well as biological implications of the trade and use of modern, and often experimental, biotechnologies.

FAO: Hartwig de Haen addressed the opening plenary yesterdayin commemoration of World Food Day, an annual observance since1979. The theme for 1993 is "Harvesting Nature's Diversity" toemphasize the link between the conservation and sustainable use ofbiological diversity and the themes of food security, sustainableagriculture, environmental management, and international trade incommodities.

De Haen noted that while the new biotechnologies can enhance theproductivity and diversity of domesticated crops and livestock,there are risks of misuse and accidents in their application. Inaddition, the new biotechnologies may increase, at leasttemporarily, the gap between the rich and the poor. He proposedgreater involvement of developing countries in the responsibledevelopment and use of appropriate biotechnologies to meet theirown needs. De Haen referred to socio-economic and politicalproblems - not just ecological ones - as fundamental causes ofbiodiversity loss.

He added that the concept of farmers' rights, introduced by FAOmember nations, recognizes the value of farmers' and ruralcommunities' contributions to the conservation and sustainable useof genetic resources and their right to share in the benefits.Thus, farmers and others who have conserved traditional knowledgeand diverse genetic resources must be compensated.

He concluded that mutual responsibility among nations for theconservation, development, management and use of genetic resourcesand biodiversity are essential for future generations. As well,economic incentives for farmers to conserve biodiversity inagriculture are needed.

BRAZIL: Amb. Rubens Ricpero, Brazilian Minister of theEnvironment and the Amazon Region, noted the innovative principlesof the Convention, such as the recognition of the intrinsic valueof biological diversity. He said that the extent to whichdeveloping countries will implement their commitments to theConvention depends on developed countries' implementation of theircommitments related to financial resources and transfer oftechnology. He noted that in relation to the interim financialmechanism, the notion of "global benefit" is not reflected in theConvention. The role of this Committee is to reflect on thecriteria to be established by the COP for the developing countriesand the financial mechanism to be used. He said that there is noroom for exotic notions alien to this Convention.

PROCEDURAL MATTERS

After Ricupero's speech, Dowdeswell proposed adjourning the meetingto allow time for regional groups to meet. She first invited theheads of the regional groups to meet with her for informalconsultations immediately before these regional group meetings. Inher closing remarks, Dowdeswell asked the regional groups toaddress the outstanding procedural matters and called upon theCommittee to deal expediently with them to ensure that substantivediscussions could commence as soon as possible.

The session was reconvened at 3 pm. Dowdeswell announced that shehad met with representatives of regional groups on three issues:size, composition and the election of the bureau; the necessity ofan additional meeting of the ICCBD; and the possible modificationof the agenda in light of the morning's delay. Since membersrequested a further meeting of regional groups, she suggestedadjourning until 4:30 pm.

The session was reconvened at 5:30 pm. Dowdeswell suggested dealingwith the election of officers first, and announced that anunderstanding had been reached in the regional groups. The task wasdifficult for several reasons: there had been informal arrangementsmade in the past; there was confusion about the nature of the INCBureau; and confusion as to what part of the Bureau had been formaland informal. It was agreed that the Bureau would combine the fivemembers of the previous INC Bureau with two new members, togetherwith the possibility of additional members. The working groups andthe regional groups would be asked to discuss the possibility ofselecting rapporteurs, possibly from Africa and WEOG. It was agreedthat the Bureau consist of the Chair from Chile; Vice Chairs fromDenmark, Kenya, and Russia; the Rapporteur from Pakistan; and theproposed Vice Chair of Working Group I from Eastern Europe and theVice Chair of Working Group II from India.

Dowdeswell proceeded to describe the proposed rules of procedure.She noted that they applied only to the ICCBD, and that later inthe week the Working Groups could take up the issue of rules ofprocedure for the COP. She stated that these were the same rules ofprocedure used during the negotiations, as modified with technicalchanges. Dowdeswell said that the decisions of the ICCBD are notlegally binding, but are recommendations only. At this point theSwedish delegate raised a point of order, suggesting that the newlyelected Chair preside over the deliberations.

The delegate from Brazil, supported by Colombia, on behalf of theG-77, and by Malaysia, proposed that rule 45 be amended. Hesuggested that the phrase, "during its session" be added to the endof paragraph 1. Norway asked if this change would preclude theestablishment of any subsidiary organs during the intersessionalperiod. The Chair responded that with this amendment theestablishment of subsidiary organs would only be valid duringsessions of the Committee. Australia, supported by Sweden, Norway,Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria, disagreed with Brazil'sproposal on the grounds that it was premature. She highlighted theneed to first examine the Committee's programme of work and toidentify how best it could be accomplished over this week. Shenoted her appreciation for the concern for transparent and openprocesses but would regret any restrictions on the capacity of theCommittee to be creative in the completion of its work. Swedenstated that Brazil's proposal raised a policy question rather thanone of procedure. Brazil responded that there were two ways to dealwith this issue: by vote or by brackets. The Chair noted theconcerns raised and said that everyone supports open andtransparent decision making. Austria noted that no vote could beheld until rules of procedure for voting were adopted and thatbrackets could not be used. Due to lack of time the meeting wasadjourned and the matter postponed to today's Plenary.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PLENARY: The Plenary is scheduled to begin this morning at10:00 am although regional group meetings may delay the start ofdeliberations. The first item for consideration will be the rulesof procedure. After adopting the rules of procedure, the Chair isexpected to take up the next item, adoption of the agenda. TheExecutive Secretary of the ICCBD, Angela Cropper, will introducethe revised draft programme of work. It is expected thatdelegation comments on this matter will take up the remainder ofthe morning session.

WORKING GROUP I: After the Plenary resolves the proceduralmatters, Working Group I may commence discussion on the topic"Conservation and Sustainable Use". UNEP, UNDP and the World Bankwill provide brief overviews of the categories of action forreducing biodiversity loss that they have supported.

WORKING GROUP II: If and when Plenary moves on from theprocedural matters, Working Group II will commence discussion ofthe substantive topic of the institution(s) operating the financialmechanism. GEF Administrator Ian Johnson will speak on the GEF andis likely to highlight the outcome of the Replenishment Meeting andParticipant's Assembly held two weeks ago in Washington. If time isavailable discussion will follow on the characteristics desired inthe institution(s) operating the financial mechanism under theConvention.

Participants

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