The opening meeting of the first session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention on Biological Diversity was convened on 11 October, 1993 by UNEP Executive Director Elizabeth Dowdeswell.
UNEP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Dowdeswell welcomed the participants and called on the delegates to address substance as well as procedure in the limited time available this week. She stated that the critical need to achieve sustainability in the face of threats to survival has brought us together on the eve of the entry into force of the Convention on Biological Diversity on 29 December, 1993.
Dowdeswell stated that the Convention is an extremely carefully balanced deal with far-reaching commitments for all Parties and that answers are likely to reflect the diversity of the living world they are designed to protect. Not only will we need to be tolerant of a wide range of approaches for achieving the objectives of this Convention, but also we should embrace and build our strength upon that diversity.
Dowdeswell then proceeded to introduce the new staff of the Interim Secretariat: Angela Cropper, Executive Secretary (Trinidad and Tobago); Dr. Arturo Martinez, biologist (Argentina); Dr. Joseph Mulongoy, biotechnologist (Zaire); Susan Bragdon, lawyer (US); Manab Chakraborty, economist (India); Song Li, financial instruments specialist (China); and Lone Johansen, communications specialist (Denmark).
Dowdeswell then referred to the agenda specified in Resolution 2 of the Nairobi Final Act that was designed to achieve international cooperation pending the entry into force of the Convention. While nations develop strategies and national action plans on biodiversity, international technical and financial cooperation is needed to support those activities. The goal for this week is to elaborate ideas on how such international cooperation might best be facilitated. Dowdeswell insisted that the ICCBD is not a negotiating forum because the Convention has already been negotiated. The goal of the session is to develop specific proposals for the Conference of the Parties.
Dowdeswell noted the participation of more than 120 government delegations, 80 non-governmental organizations, and many representatives of UN agencies and other intergovernmental organizations.
After her speech, Dowdeswell informed the Plenary that, in the interest of broad representation, opening statements would be given by representatives of the Global Biodiversity Forum, FAO, and the Brazilian Government.
GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY FORUM: Yvonne St. Hill presented a report on the outcome of the three-day Global Biodiversity Forum hosted by the IUCN in Gland, Switzerland, October 7-9, 1993. The Forum, organized by UNEP, the African Centre for Technology Studies, the World Conservation Union and the World Resources Institute, included 150 participants from 50 countries. The purpose was to provide a "neutral" setting in order to foster an open exchange of wide-ranging views on issues that are frequently contentious and are currently being negotiated in other multilateral fora. St. Hill outlined the Forum's key recommendations regarding six major themes.
De Haen noted that while the new biotechnologies can enhance the productivity and diversity of domesticated crops and livestock, there are risks of misuse and accidents in their application. In addition, the new biotechnologies may increase, at least temporarily, the gap between the rich and the poor. He proposed greater involvement of developing countries in the responsible development and use of appropriate biotechnologies to meet their own needs. De Haen referred to socio-economic and political problems - not just ecological ones - as fundamental causes of biodiversity loss.
He added that the concept of farmers' rights, introduced by FAO member nations, recognizes the value of farmers' and rural communities' contributions to the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources and their right to share in the benefits. Thus, farmers and others who have conserved traditional knowledge and diverse genetic resources must be compensated.
He concluded that mutual responsibility among nations for the conservation, development, management and use of genetic resources and biodiversity are essential for future generations. As well, economic incentives for farmers to conserve biodiversity in agriculture are needed.
BRAZIL: Amb. Rubens Ric�pero, Brazilian Minister of the Environment and the Amazon Region, noted the innovative principles of the Convention, such as the recognition of the intrinsic value of biological diversity. He said that the extent to which developing countries will implement their commitments to the Convention depends on developed countries' implementation of their commitments related to financial resources and transfer of technology. He noted that in relation to the interim financial mechanism, the notion of "global benefit" is not reflected in the Convention. The role of this Committee is to reflect on the criteria to be established by the COP for the developing countries and the financial mechanism to be used. He said that there is no room for exotic notions alien to this Convention.
[Return to start of article]