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The Convention on Biological Diversity, was opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 5, 1992 and entered into force at the end of 1993. It contains three national-level obligations: to conserve and sustainably use biological diversity and to share its benefits. The treaty reflects the policy and scientific recommendations made over many years by a number of groups and experts, beginning with the IUCN's Commission on Environmental Law and the IUCN Environmental Law Centre in the middle to late 1980s.

Next, a series of expert group meetings was convened by UNEP beginning in November 1988, pursuant to Governing Council Decisions 14/26 and 15/34 of 1987. The initial sessions were referred to as meetings of the "Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity." By the summer of 1990, sufficient progress had been made, including the completion of studies on various aspects of the issues, and a new "Sub-Working Group on Biotechnology" was established to prepare terms of reference on biotechnology transfer. Other aspects of biodiversity were included, such as in situ and ex situ conservation of wild and domesticated species; access to genetic resources and to technology, including biotechnology; new and additional financial support; and safety of release or experimentation on genetically modified organisms.

The Governing Council of UNEP next created an "Ad Hoc Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts" in mid-1990 to prepare a new international legal instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It was mandated to take "particular account of the need to share costs and benefits between developed and developing countries and ways and means to support innovation by local people." The legal and technical experts considered prior reports while drafting elements of a convention. The Executive Director of UNEP prepared the first formal draft Convention on Biological Diversity, which was considered in February, 1991, by an "Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee" (INC). The first INC meeting was also known as the third session of the Ad Hoc Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts. Four subsequent sessions of the INC were held in the intervening two years, culminating in the adoption of the final text of the treaty in Nairobi, Kenya on May 22, 1992.

Unlike the Climate Change INC, the Biodiversity INC did not make provisions for it to continue meeting between the adoption of text and the first Conference of Parties. The Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention on Biological Diversity (ICCBD) was established in May 1993 by the UNEP Governing Council.

In the interim, UNEP's Executive Director established four expert panels to prepare advice on specific issues for the first ICCBD. Panel 1 "Priorities for Action and Research Agenda": developed a methodology for setting priorities for action arising out of the Convention; recommended an agenda for scientific and technical research; and called for the creation of an interim scientific and technological 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 these issues. Panel 3 "Technology Transfer and Financial Resources" recommended: that access to information and capacity building are key to implementation of the Convention's technology transfer provisions and suggested that the ICCBD develop guidelines for international cooperation; that the ICCBD propose substantive modifications to the GEF; and, that the ICCBD should develop a procedure for estimating the level of funding needed for implementation of the Convention. Panel 4 "Safe Transfer, Handling and Use of Living Modified Organisms Resulting from Biotechnology" concluded that only the Conference of the Parties (COP) can take a political decision regarding the creation of a biotechnology protocol, and recommended that such an instrument should only cover genetically-modified organisms and should aim at preventing and mitigating the consequences of unintended releases.

The Norway/UNEP Expert Conference on Biodiversity, held in Trondheim, Norway, 24-28 May, 1993, was hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Environment in collaboration with UNEP. One of the primary purposes of the meeting was to bring together scientists, managers, bureaucrats and policy-makers from 80 countries to provide input to UNEP's preparatory work for the ICCBD meeting.

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

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

The ICCBD established two working groups: Working Group I dealt with the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, including the full range of important activities for reducing the loss of biodiversity, the scientific and technical work between meetings and the issue of biosafety; Working Group II tackled the institution operating the financial mechanism, the characteristics desired in the financial mechanism, a process for estimating funding needs, the meaning of "full incremental costs," the rules of procedures for the COP and technical cooperation and capacity building. Yet, despite several sessions of substantive debate, the Working Groups were not able to produce reports that could be approved by the Plenary. When the reports of the working groups were presented to the Plenary, a number of delegates expressed concern that they had not seen the documents in their final form and, due to the large number of amendments and changes, could not adopt them at this time. As a last minute solution, the Plenary adopted only two decisions: the establishment of a scientific and technical committee that would meet before the next session of the ICCBD; and a request to the Secretariat to use the unadopted Working Group reports as guidance during the intersessional period.

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