The Convention on Biological Diversity, was opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 5, 1992 and by the end of July 1993, 165 countries had signed the treaty. It contains three national-level obligations: to conserve and sustainably use biological diversity and to share its benefits. The Convention is based on a broad ecosystem approach rather than on a specific species or ecosystem or site basis, which characterize other international conservation agreements such as CITES and Ramsar.
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. These meetings led to a new treaty on biodiversity separate from but negotiated parallel to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). 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, that 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/negotiating sessions 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. As of the end of July, 1993, 165 countries had signed the Convention. By the end of September, 1993, 30 nations had ratified the Convention. As a result, the Convention will enter into force on December 29, 1993.
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