Report of main proceedings for 23 June 1994

2nd Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention on Biological Diversity (ICCBD)


Prof. P. Schei of Norway reported on the work of the informal groupconvened yesterday on the multidisciplinarity of the SubsidiaryBody on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA).The Group agreed on the necessity for expertise in molecularbiology, genetics, ecosystem functions and management, landscapeecology, terrestrial and marine (increased focus) systems.Regarding the sustainable use of biodiversity and the fair andequitable sharing of resources, the following were deemed crucial:new sectors such as biotechnology (expertise in biosafety wasstressed); bioeconomics and resource management; and the socialsciences. Substantial legal expertise is needed in the totalimplementation of the CBD. Emphasis was given to the place ofindigenous people. In addition, expertise in the area ofinformation, education, social communication, public awarenessraising and data collection, management and transfer are alsocrucial. The report would be availed to the Group.


The meeting, chaired by the Vice-Chair, Mr. F. Urban (CzechRepublic) considered document UNEP/CBD/IC/2/12, Consideration ofthe need for, and modalities of, a protocol on biosafety. Urbanstated that the Group might want to outline the modalities,including guidelines or codes of conduct, on the need for aprotocol. Many countries recognized the need for ensuring biosafetyand agreed broadly on the need for international action, either inthe form of an international framework which could lead to a morelegally binding agreement, or a more immediate legally bindinginstrument. Broadly classified, these view are:

INTERNATIONAL FRAMEWORK AND GUIDELINES: Germany, on behalfof the European Community noted that two European directives haveestablished a common biosafety regime in the Community. In theshort-term, the development of technical guidelines on biosafetywas favored, without prejudice to the medium-term development ofinternational legal instruments on biosafety, and while assessingthe need for and modalities of a protocol. The Netherlands statedthat an international agreement on biosafety should eventually begiven the form of a binding agreement, and that such an agreementshould pay attention to both capacity building and timing. TheNetherlands supported the recommendations from two regionalmeetings: the African Regional Conference for InternationalCooperation on Safety in Biotechnology held in Zimbabwe in October1993; and a joint US/Dutch meeting in Colombia in June 1994. Inaddition, the UK and Netherlands held an expert-meeting ontechnical guidelines in biosafety in March 1994 whose findingscould be made available as background information. The UK announcedits plan to co-host a meeting on biosafety in 1995 in Asia. Canada,Switzerland, Spain, US and New Zealand and others welcomed theinitiatives of the UK and The Netherlands. Spain stated that it didnot object to carrying out a study on developing a protocol butwanted to develop guidelines as an interim measure. The US statedthat a protocol on biosafety is not warranted. He recognized theneeds specified in Article 19, and stated that guidelines cannot besubstituted for scientific evaluations and needs basedrequirements. Japan stated that decisions on this issue should bemade on the basis of accumulated scientific knowledge based onongoing examinations like those of the OECD.

PROTOCOL: Many countries including Malaysia, Sri Lanka,Colombia, Sweden, Norway, Malawi, India, Uruguay, Tunisia, Denmark,Brazil, Burundi, Zambia, Ethiopia, Gambia, C“te d' Ivoire,Pakistan, Argentina, Morocco Kenya, Nepal and Syria supported theneed for a legally binding agreement on biosafety. Malaysia wasconcerned about the issue of transnational corporations usingdeveloping countries as a place to transfer and test livingmodified organisms (LMOs). He also called for the establishment ofa subsidiary body to consider the issue under discussion and reportto the COP. Sri Lanka noted that LMOs are subject to mutations.Colombia stated that a binding regulatory process will need astructure and pointed out that some of the more serious concerns inthe LMOs may be short-term research needs. It was noted that thereport of the Colombia meeting sponsored by the UK and theNetherlands discussed a body of regulations that could be submittedto the Interim Secretariat. Sweden, supported by Norway and India,noted that concerns expressed in the UNEP Panel IV report regardingpotential threats to biological diversity of LMOs frombiotechnology were not adequately reflected in the documentprepared by the Interim Secretariat. Sweden welcomed the UK andNetherlands initiatives, and invited international organizationsincluding FAO, UNIDO and the OECD, to contribute. He also suggestedthat this issue be put on the agenda of the COP. India wanted anopen-ended mechanism for developing a protocol. Norway indicated anerror in the documents in paragraph 19: the quotation from Agenda21 omitted the words "safety and border-control". He also statedthat a legally binding instrument should be developed as soon aspossible to ensure a common international standard. China wantedguidelines based on regional initiatives that would then lead up toan internationally binding instrument. Denmark stressed the needfor an international agreement but also wanted guidelines. Burundi,supported by Nigeria, emphasized the importance of regional groupmeetings. Brazil and Finland said that the precautionary principleshould prevail. C“te d' Ivoire stated that the real issue wasbioethics and called for a joint African strategy on biosafety.Many developing countries agreed on the need for national capacitybuilding to ensure biosafety measures.

Representatives from three NGOs, Greenpeace, Third World Networkand Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN), stressed theneed for a binding international regulatory mechanism in the areasof testing, release and trade of genetically modified organisms(GMOs) and LMOs. Greenpeace noted that the development of an"international framework", which appeared to be used as a euphemismfor voluntary, non-legally binding guidelines, had been proposed inthe trade on toxic wastes as well. The Third World Network appealedto delegates to learn from earlier experiences of chemical andnuclear technology and put into place safety regulations onbiotechnology given the danger of mutations and non-reversibility.He gave several instances where the ecological risks of transgeniccrops were borne by developing countries. GRAIN, reaffirming this,stated that developing countries were used as testing groundbecause of their weaker legislation and socio-economic problems.The Secretariat is preparing a draft of the proceedings.

In the afternoon, the Group then completed discussion of agendaitem 4.1.4 on the Secretariat as contained in documentUNEP/CBC/IC.2/WG.I/CRP.2.


There was consensus on paragraph 1 that outlines the scopeof the report: attributes of competent international organizations;procedure of receiving offers from interested organizations; andother relevant matters on the establishment of the Secretariat.Paragraph 2 and 3 details the requisite attributes of theinternational organizations. It was agreed that: the two paragraphsshould be merged; and that the preamble of paragraph 2 should bereplaced by that of paragraph 3, preceded by the phrase, "Withregard to paragraph 1 (a) above...." C“te d'Ivoire also wantssubparagraphs 3 (c) and 2 (g) considered together. Sweden proposedan additional sentence to subparagraph 3 (a) that calls for highoverhead costs, paid to the host organization to be avoided byproviding cost-effective administrative services. Subparagraph 3(c) requires that the organization be accessible by and collaboratewith governments. Subparagraph 3 (d) calls for the organization, inconsultation with the host country, to be willing to accommodateany future decisions by the COP regarding the location of theSecretariat.

Paragraph 4: The preamble now reads: "The Working Grouprealizing the need of the autonomy of the Secretariat, recommendedthat interested organizations shall indicate to the COP." Thewords, "possible" and "ability" were deleted from subparagraphs a,b and d as they weaken the provisions. Subparagraph e was alteredto ensure that the decisions to be made by the Secretariat arebased on those of the COP.

Paragraph 5: The amended text reads, "With respect to theprocedure for receiving offers, ...there was discussion whether,under Article 24, paragraph 4 of the Convention, interestedinternational organizations should contact the Secretariat on theirown initiative, or whether the Interim Secretariat should take thetask...." The second sentence now reads, "The Working Group agreedto recommend that, in accordance with Article 24, paragraph 2 ofthe Convention, all interested competent internationalorganizations should notify their interest to the InterimSecretariat before 15 August 1994, accompanied by the details oftheir offer."

Paragraph 6 generated protracted debated due to the listingof six UN agencies as potential Secretariats. The list whichincludes UNEP, UNDP, UNESCO, DPCSD, IOC and the IUCN, with theaddition of the FAO, was retained in spite of the UK and US'concern that this prejudges the selection process.

Paragraph 7 provides for a Secretariat drawn from aconsortium of, or joint effort by, organizations. After a half hourdebate, there was no consensus and the Chair said the Secretariatwould submit new text.

There was no debate on Paragraphs 8 and 9, whichrespectively, provide for the process to evaluate the bids, and thecriteria to determine the location of the Secretariat.

Paragraph 10 focuses on the possibility of the co-locationof the Secretariat with other environmental secretariats. Spain,supported by Costa Rica, Uruguay and others, said the paragraphshould incorporate the idea of decentralization.

Paragraph 11 relates to the possible reviewing andsubsequent relocation of the Secretariat, if found necessary. Therewas no discussion.

Paragraph 12 entails the possible duration of the InterimSecretariat. The word "permanent" was deleted since the CBD doesnot provide for a "permanent Secretariat."


The Group adjourned their meetings scheduled for Thursday asseveral countries expressed concern at having two of its informalworking groups meeting concurrently with Working Group II.

INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON THE FINANCIAL MECHANISM: TheGroup, which is addressing the financial mechanism andinstitutional structure, began by discussing the Secretariat'sdraft report on discussion of the same. The Chairman distributed apaper, "Programme Priorities," which listed six programmepriorities in accordance with Art. 21 (2) of the CBD. It calls forthe COP, at its first meeting, to determine programme prioritiesfor access to and utilization of the financial resources under theConvention. Agreement could only be reached on two of the points.These identified national priority projects intended to achieve theobjectives of the Convention, and sustainable development asprogramme priorities. Several developing countries supported theother proposals, however, some developing countries objected to amore specific list.


The Federated States of Micronesia acceded to the CBD this week,bringing the total to 64.


The CBD is currently before the US Senate. The Committee on ForeignRelations, a sub-committee of the Senate, is scheduled to addressit by the end of next week. It is believed that the sub-committeeis likely to approve it, and send it to the floor of the fullSenate within weeks, where it will achieve the two-thirds majorityvote. Thus, there is good chance that the US will ratify theConvention by the August 30 deadline to assure its presence at thefirst COP.


PLENARY: Between 10:00 and 11:00 am the Plenary will meet todiscuss the rules of procedure. They are likely to finish the firstreading of Rules 26 to 57 contained in document (UNEP/CBD/IC/2/3).

WORKING GROUP I: The Group will possibly consider agendaitem 4.2.5, Status of Report by the Interim Secretariat on actiontaken in response to requests made at the first session of theICCBD. Thereafter, they may consider the report on last Tuesday'sdiscussion on the Subsidiary body.

WORKING GROUP II: Working Group II will meet at 11:00 am andbegin discussion of agenda item 4.1.8, List of Developed CountryParties and Other Parties Which Voluntarily Assume the Obligationsof Developed Country Parties in document UNEP/CBD/IC/2/10.


Non-state coalitions