Report of main proceedings for 12 October 1993

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


In his opening remarks, ICCBD Chair Amb. Vicente Sanchez noted thatover 90% of the UN had signed the Convention on BiologicalDiversity and 31 countries, including most recently thePhilippines, had already ratified it. This highlights theimportance accorded by the UN to the biodiversity issue as well asthe serious responsibilities of the ICCBD in expediting the processso the COP will be able to resolve outstanding issues.

Sanchez then resumed yesterday's unresolved debate on proceduralmatters. He reminded delegates that the draft rules of procedurewere those employed throughout the INC process. After cautioningthe Committee that too much time had already been taken up onnon-substantive matters, he emphasized that the rules of procedurewere intended to help the Committee's substantive work. Sanchezfirst called upon France to address its proposed amendment to Rule28 regarding translation. France decided to modify its amendment toaccommodate concerns raised by the Bahamas.

The Chair then resumed discussion on Rule 45, related to subsidiaryorgans. Explaining that their concern over intersessional activitywas based on geographical realities rather than political concerns,Brazil presented compromise text to their amendment. The newlanguage would permit intersessional meetings that would beopen-ended and according to the terms of reference to be decided bythe Committee. Nigeria raised concerns. The rules of procedure wereadopted with the understanding that Brazil and Nigeria would draftnew wording for this amendment.

The Chair then moved on to the next order of the day: the annotatedagenda and the programme of work. He called upon Angela Cropper,the Executive Secretary, to describe how these matters had beendecided. The Chair reported that the Committee would break into twoworking groups in the afternoon and continue until Plenary resumedsometime on Thursday, with the possibility of an evening Plenary.Sanchez also reported that the Committee would have to establishagendas for both this session and a possible additional meeting ofthe ICCBD. Malaysia made several key points regarding the programmeof work. She warned that this meeting should not be used as anopportunity to rewrite the Convention or to attempt tooperationalize it in ways to further the interests of certaingroups. She also objected to the Interim Secretariat's overlyoptimistic analysis of biosafety, noting that the precautionaryprinciple alone would preclude reference to the "good safetyrecord." Malaysia proposed that biosafety be addressed in WorkingGroup I and that technical cooperation be transferred to WorkingGroup II.

Brazil supported Malaysia's proposals and reminded the Plenary thatthe ICCBD is not a scientific forum but, rather, anintergovernmental committee. While Resolution 2 must be respected,the "eleventh hour" circumstances in which it was approved must beborne in mind. Sweden also supported Malaysia's proposal in lightof the political nature of the topic of technical cooperation andcapacity building. Nigeria requested that the Secretariat preparebackground documents for the issues of ownership and access toex situ collections as well as farmers' groups rights. Indiarequested that priority be accorded to the issues of financialinstitutions, technology transfer and capacity building in WorkingGroup II. The Chair acknowledged the wide support for the Africanproposal and then moved on to brief country statements on nationalactivities.

COUNTRY STATEMENTS: Nigeria stated that a nationalaction plan on biodiversity will be developed pending financial andtechnical support. It has conducted studies with UNEP to ascertainthe type of institutions needed to promote biodiversityconservation. Mexico created a national commission onbiodiversity in 1992. Denmark has developed a nationalbiodiversity conservation strategy. It has increased its GEFfunding contribution and will gradually increase its ODA funding byover 50% in the next decade. The Philippines has establisheda national council for sustainable development to implement Agenda21. Chile stated that its plan of action will be completedthis year. Peru noted the need to build capacity and the useof private companies in the development of gene banks. TheBahamas reported that it has recently established anenvironment ministry and that it is consulting with UNEP in thedevelopment of environmental guidelines that could be used as amodel by similar countries.

GEF: Ian Johnson, GEF Administrator, reviewed recentdevelopments relevant to the ICCBD discussions. The US$300 millionthat has been allocated for biodiversity projects has generatedmuch more debate than the other three functional areas of the GEF.He said that the replenishment would be carried out together withthe restructuring at the amount of two to three times that of thepilot phase. The participants had discussed the paper on "Elementsof a restructured GEF" as a precursor to a final agreement. Henoted agreement regarding: universal participation; and the needfor the GEF to be accountable to the COP for policies, programmepriorities and eligibility criteria for Convention activities.There is support for: a primarily consensus-based decision makingprocess; a functionally independent Secretariat; and a formaldeliberative structure to discuss GEF policies. Discussioncontinues on a system for a participants' assembly. He noted thepresumption that the GEF would not necessarily be the solefinancial mechanism for the Conventions.

FAO: Hartwig de Haen spoke from a summary information paperon the FAO and Resolution 3 of the Nairobi Final Act. The paperlisted three points adopted by the FAO following the Fifth Sessionin April 1993 of the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources relatedto the Convention on Biological Diversity: adaptation of theInternational Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources in harmonywith the Convention; access on mutually agreed terms to plantgenetic resources, including ex situ collections notcovered by the Convention; farmers' rights.


Working Group I was convened for the first time Tuesday afternoonby the newly-elected chair, Professor S.K. Ongeri from Kenya. Thefirst item on the agenda was the selection of the rapporteur,Nordahl Roalds"y from Norway. Moving to the first substantive item,"conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity," the Chairconfirmed that the objective was to share experiences at thenational level, and to articulate views and recommendations for theCOP.

Mexico, later supported by Colombia, suggested that thebiodiversity collections held in Northern countries should beinventoried. India stated that information sharing should becarried out regarding conservation tools and that ex situefforts must be further strengthened to complement the work ofdeveloping countries in restoring species and degraded habitats.The US suggested that Convention Articles 6-14 provide a good basisupon which to develop national programmes and strategies. Hereferred to the newly-established US National Biological Survey,bilateral efforts, and the reform of key sectors that have promotednon-sustainable use in the past. Uganda urged the establishment ofregional programmes to address shared biological resources.Colombia highlighted the need for national inventories ofcultivated plants and wild species, the collection of geneticmaterial, and integration of environmental corridors with protectedareas.

Morocco called for a global study of sites in need of protection.He further stated that in order to achieve the conservation andsustainable use of natural resources, proper in situconservation in agreement with the local population is firstneeded.

Belgium, on behalf of the EC, stated that all countries neededsupport to implement the Convention, and pledged to support eachother in the implementation of Articles 6-19. Full incrementalcosts must be agreed between the financial mechanism and developingcountries. Costa Rica noted that one quarter of the country isprotected as preserved areas and that national legislation underthe Convention has recently been enacted. Canada noted that itsnational biodiversity strategy was developed in an open processwith the participation of all the major stakeholders. He suggestedthat this meeting should focus on quick-start processes fornational biodiversity strategies. Zimbabwe, noting the problemswith its land tenure system, referred to the importance of ensuringlocal population access to wildlife resources. Brazil noted thatsome of the proposals made by the Secretariat went beyond the scopeof the Convention. Many delegations such as Mozambique and Perustated that national implementation is dependent on the completionof national inventories. Syria described its efforts to haltbiodiversity loss through education. Fiji referred to the creationof its conservation areas where traditional communities can livesustainably. The Cook Islands referred to the South Pacificregional approach to resource inventories, management, educationand species preservation. WRI stated that Article 6 enabled Statesand individuals to identify assets and objectives in resourceplanning. GLOBE requested the creation of a "Women and BiodiversityDivision" within the Secretariat to recognize and promote the fullinvolvement of women in all levels of policy and decision-making.

UNDP described its capacity building programmes and its GEF-relatedactivities. UNEP described its involvement in the administration ofCITES and the Migratory Species Convention, GEF-related activities,national case studies and policy development generally. The WorldBank referred to its 30 investment projects, its various funds, andGEF-related issues such as the need for further clarification ofthe concept of incremental costs.


The Chair, Veit Koester of Denmark, announced the possibility of aWednesday night meeting and moved directly to approval of theprogramme of work, amended to reflect decisions from the morningPlenary.

Ian Johnson spoke on the question of full and incremental costs,calling it but one element of an overall decision-making process toidentify and agree on specific actions. The other elements includetechnical viability, social impact, linkages to the nationalstrategy and guidance from the COP. The concept of incrementalcosts will help in defining a framework to access the multiplicityof actions needed, noting that all must be set in a context offlexibility, pragmatism and tests of reasonableness. Incrementalcosts should not be confused with incrementalism.

In the discussion that followed, Johnson stated that when domesticbenefits could be easily "monetized," they would be deducted on acase by case basis. Malaysia stated that the working group was"testing" the GEF to see if it would measure up to expectations.She called "incremental costs" and "global benefits" undefinable,and asking if they would be removed from the GEF vocabulary, shesaid that projects be considered on an individual basis. Inresponse, Johnson justified the concept of incremental costs as anecessary rule for the allocation of limited funds. When asked byNorway about the financing of domestic biodiversity he explainedthat the GEF has not focussed on this. When asked by Costa Ricawhether GEF funding was dependent on a country's ratification,Johnson replied that this was a matter for the COP.

The Chair introduced the next agenda item, "characteristics desiredin the institution(s) operating the financial mechanism under theConvention." The US noted that since this session is not anegotiation, the group should not feel the need to reach consensusand conclusions and asked how the committee's discussion would bereflected in a written summary. The Chair responded thatconclusions would be duly reported. Mexico, supported by Brazil,Senegal and Venezuela, insisted that delegating the outcome of themeeting to a small group for review was unacceptable. Brazil,Argentina and Venezuela suggested sending a message to the GEF.Sweden said a decision must be made regarding the GEF to give itguidance in the restructuring phase. Australia supported the US butsaid the group should not resist reaching conclusions. Colombiasaid that, as a UN working group, they should prepare resolutionsto be transmitted to the COP or the GEF, as was done by the ClimateChange INC. The Chair called the notion of small groups a "ghost"and supported Colombia's suggestion that recommendations from thegroup would go to Plenary and then on to the relevant body.


Belgium, speaking on behalf of the EC, said that they are confidentthat the GEF will be restructured in a way that will enable it toexercise its financing function. Coherence between the COP and theGEF will be facilitated by universal membership in the GEF.Discussion or work on a set of financing institutions would not beuseful towards ensuring a quick provision of financial assistanceto developing countries. The EC urged the Secretariat to commenceconsultations in order to have interim arrangements ready for thefirst COP, while respecting the primacy of the COP to decide onpolicy, strategy, programme priorities and eligibility criteria.The COP should not "micro-manage" projects. There is no need for asubsidiary body on financial arrangements, rather this should bethe task of the Secretariats.

Australia said that the GEF will be the financial mechanism of theConvention and shared the EC's confidence in the restructuring ofthe GEF. Bahamas suggested that rather than focussing exclusivelyon the GEF, the group should devote one day to enumerating thedesired characteristics of the institution.


WORKING GROUP I: Before the Working Group completesdiscussion on item 1, "Conservation and sustainable use ofbiodiversity," the Chair has set aside 30 minutes for delegates torespond to yesterday's presentations by UNDP, UNEP and the WorldBank. The next item to be taken up will be "Scientific andtechnical work between meetings." Depending on how expeditiouslythe Working Group proceeds through the day's agenda, there may bean evening session scheduled for 8:00 pm tonight.

WORKING GROUP II: Working Group II will meet for morning andafternoon sessions to continue discussion of the characteristics ofthe institution operating the financial mechanism and the processfor developing an evaluation framework to propose to the COP. Iftime permits the group will examine the process to estimate fundingneeds and to select the institution to operate the financialmechanism. Look for the G-77 to present their statement on the GEFin response to the EC intervention yesterday.


Negotiating blocs
Group of 77 and China