Curtain raiser

2nd 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 andentered into force at the end of 1993. It contains threenational-level obligations: to conserve and sustainably usebiological diversity and to share its benefits. The treaty reflectsthe policy and scientific recommendations made over many years bya number of groups and experts, beginning with the IUCN'sCommission on Environmental Law and the IUCN Environmental LawCentre in the middle to late 1980s.

Next, a series of expert group meetings was convened by UNEPbeginning in November 1988, pursuant to Governing Council Decisions14/26 and 15/34 of 1987. The initial sessions were referred to asmeetings of the "Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on BiologicalDiversity." By the summer of 1990, sufficient progress had beenmade, including the completion of studies on various aspects of theissues, and a new "Sub-Working Group on Biotechnology" wasestablished to prepare terms of reference on biotechnologytransfer. Other aspects of biodiversity were included, such asin situ and ex situ conservation of wild anddomesticated species; access to genetic resources and totechnology, including biotechnology; new and additional financialsupport; and safety of release or experimentation on geneticallymodified 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 were held in the intervening two years, culminating in theadoption of the final text of the treaty in Nairobi, Kenya on May22, 1992.

Unlike the Climate Change INC, the Biodiversity INC did not makeprovisions for it to continue meeting between the adoption of textand the first Conference of Parties. The IntergovernmentalCommittee on the Convention on Biological Diversity (ICCBD) wasestablished in May 1993 by the UNEP Governing Council.

In the interim, UNEP's Executive Director established four expertpanels to prepare advice on specific issues for the first ICCBD.Panel 1 "Priorities for Action and Research Agenda": developed amethodology for setting priorities for action arising out of theConvention; recommended an agenda for scientific and technicalresearch; and called for the creation of an interim scientific andtechnological advisory committee to be established. Panel 2"Economic Implications and Valuation of Biological Resources":identified the socio-economic forces that cause biodiversity loss;and recommended that several steps be taken to address theseissues. Panel 3 "Technology Transfer and Financial Resources"recommended: that access to information and capacity building arekey to implementation of the Convention's technology transferprovisions and suggested that the ICCBD develop guidelines forinternational cooperation; that the ICCBD propose substantivemodifications to the GEF; and, that the ICCBD should develop aprocedure for estimating the level of funding needed forimplementation of the Convention. Panel 4 "Safe Transfer, Handlingand Use of Living Modified Organisms Resulting from Biotechnology"concluded that only the Conference of the Parties (COP) can take apolitical decision regarding the creation of a biotechnologyprotocol, and recommended that such an instrument should only covergenetically-modified organisms and should aim at preventing andmitigating the consequences of unintended releases.

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.

The first session of the ICCBD met in Geneva for a five day sessionfrom 11-15 October 1993. The meeting was convened with theobjective of preparing for the first meeting of the Conference ofthe Parties and ensuring an early and effective operation of theConvention once it enters into force.

After a halting start, due to procedural problems that resultedfrom the 16-month gap between the last negotiating session for theConvention and this meeting, progress was made in addressing thelong list of tasks mandated to the Committee by the Convention forcompletion before the first Conference of Parties (COP).

The ICCBD established two working groups: Working Group I dealtwith the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity,including the full range of important activities for reducing theloss of biodiversity, the scientific and technical work betweenmeetings and the issue of biosafety; Working Group II tackled theinstitution operating the financial mechanism, the characteristicsdesired in the financial mechanism, a process for estimatingfunding needs, the meaning of "full incremental costs," the rulesof procedures for the COP and technical cooperation and capacitybuilding. Yet, despite several sessions of substantive debate, theWorking Groups were not able to produce reports that could beapproved by the Plenary. When the reports of the working groupswere presented to the Plenary, a number of delegates expressedconcern that they had not seen the documents in their final formand, due to the large number of amendments and changes, could notadopt them at this time. As a last minute solution, the Plenaryadopted only two decisions: the establishment of a scientific andtechnical committee that would meet before the next session of theICCBD; and a request to the Secretariat to use the unadoptedWorking Group reports as guidance during the intersessional period.

INTERSESSIONAL ACTIVITIES

On the 29th December, 1993, the Convention entered into force, 90days after its 30th ratification. As of 10 June 1994, there were 63ratifications. In chronological order, these include; Mauritius,Seychelles, Marshall Islands, Maldives, Monaco, Canada, China,Saint Kitts and Nevis, Ecuador, Fiji, Antigua and Barbuda, Mexico,Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Guinea, Armenia, Japan,Zambia, Peru, Australia, Norway, Tunisia, Saint Lucia, Bahamas,Burkina Faso, Belarus, Uganda, New Zealand, Mongolia, Philippines,Uruguay, Nauru, Jordan, Nepal, Czech Republic, Barbados, Sweden,European Economic Community, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Spain,Belize, Albania, Malawi, Samoa, India, Hungary, Paraguay, Brazil,Cuba, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Dominica, Italy, Bangladesh, Luxembourg,Egypt, Georgia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and NorthernIreland, Chad, and The Gambia.

ENTRY INTO FORCE

On the 29th December, 1993, the Convention entered into force, 90days after its 30th ratification. As of 10 June 1994, there were 63ratifications. In chronological order, these include; Mauritius,Seychelles, Marshall Islands, Maldives, Monaco, Canada, China,Saint Kitts and Nevis, Ecuador, Fiji, Antigua and Barbuda, Mexico,Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Guinea, Armenia, Japan,Zambia, Peru, Australia, Norway, Tunisia, Saint Lucia, Bahamas,Burkina Faso, Belarus, Uganda, New Zealand, Mongolia, Philippines,Uruguay, Nauru, Jordan, Nepal, Czech Republic, Barbados, Sweden,European Economic Community, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Spain,Belize, Albania, Malawi, Samoa, India, Hungary, Paraguay, Brazil,Cuba, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Dominica, Italy, Bangladesh, Luxembourg,Egypt, Georgia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and NorthernIreland, Chad, and The Gambia.

MEXICO MEETING

The Open-ended Intergovernmental Meeting of Scientific Experts onBiological Diversity was held in Mexico City from 11-15 April 1994.It was convened at the request of the first ICCBD to conduct anin-depth review of scientific and technical issues for the firstmeeting of the Conference of the Parties. The report of thisMeeting is found in document UNEP/CBD/IC/2/11.

The items considered at this meeting included: the identificationof scientific programmes and international cooperation related tothe conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity; theorganization of the preparation of an agenda for scientific andtechnological research, and the identification of innovativestate-of-the-art technologies; and the ways and means of promotingdevelopment and transferring such technologies.

SECRETARIAT ACTIVITIES

At the conclusion of the first session of the ICCBD, theSecretariat was instructed to be guided in its work by the contentsof the unadopted working group reports. These include:

  • Preparation of a report on the progress of country studies and the preparation of national biodiversity strategies;
  • Preparation of formats for data entries in order to facilitate information;
  • Institution of regional training programmes on the use of data exchange formats; and
  • Mobilization of funds for workshops on regional approaches;
  • Preparation of a document describing various methodologies that could be used to estimate the financial resources needed to fund multilateral biodiversity assistance;
  • Examination of the relationship between incremental costs to the volume of resources available, the possibility of studying the financial benefits that developed countries derived from the use of biodiversity and that might be made available to developing countries in the form of international cooperation, and the provision of advice to countries intending to prepare biodiversity studies;
  • Invitation to international financial institutions to attend a meeting of the ICCBD to begin to address issues of mutual concern in relation to the implementation of the Committee, including criteria for funding eligibility and modalities for exchange of information between the COP, the financial mechanism under the Convention and other finance institutions and organizations;
  • Redrafting of the rules of procedure for the COP based on the comments in Working Group II;
  • Drafting the financial rules governing the funding of the Secretariat for consideration at the next session;
  • Drawing up a preliminary indicative list of incremental costs, and to look at current or planned projects, in collaboration with FAO, UNESCO, the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, the Secretariat for the Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the GEF to see how the issue was dealt with and what elements were financed as incremental costs;
  • Examination of the methodologies that could be used to define and understand the meaning of the term "full incremental costs";
  • Identification of existing clearing-house mechanisms and existing mechanisms for information exchange and reporting on their expertise;
  • Cataloging of existing databases of relevance to the Convention and identifying their gaps and linkages;
  • Examination of the range of appropriate models for technology transfer; and
  • Examination of and reporting on existing examples and possible models for national legislation for regulating access to genetic resources (with due attention to its possibly conflictual nature).

In the extremely short time period since that session, theSecretariat has managed to address many of the requests, andaccordingly have prepared 24 background documents for this meeting.A list of these documents is found in the annex of the AnnotatedAgenda (UNEP/CBD/IC/2/1/Add.1).

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PROPOSED WORK PROGRAMME: This session of the ICCBD has anextremely ambitious agenda. Discussions within and between theExtended Bureau, the Regional Groups, the Secretariat and delegatesare likely to lead to an early proposal that matters under agendaitem 4.1, which includes those things stipulated by the Conventionfor action by the first COP, be prioritized at this meeting. Thiswill ensure adequate preparation of issues that require decisionsat the first COP, scheduled for the end of November 1994. It islikely that several items in 4.2 and 4.3 will not be addressed atthis meeting. It is also likely that there will be several nightmeetings during the session.

PLENARY: The morning plenary session is scheduled to beginwith opening remarks by ICCBD Chair, Amb. Vincente S nchez (Chile)and the Executive Director. This will be followed by adoption ofthe agenda; organization of work; adoption of the report of theICCBD on the work of its first session, including the reports ofthe Working Groups; and rules of procedure of the Conference of theParties. If this work is completed the plenary will then break andthe two Working Groups will meet.

WORKING GROUP I: It is expected that Working Group I willbegin by addressing Agenda Item 4.1.5, Clearing-House Mechanism forTechnical and Scientific Cooperation, (UNEP/CBD/IC/2/7). Thisdebate is likely to continue on Tuesday morning.

WORKING GROUP II: Working Group II may begin by addressingAgenda item 4.1.3, Financial Rules Governing the Funding of theSecretariat of the Convention, (UNEP/ CBD/IC/2/5).

Tags