The Convention on Biological Diversity was opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 5 June 1992 and entered into force on 29 December 1993. The Convention contains three national-level obligations: to conserve and sustainably use biological diversity and to share its benefits.
The Convention reflects the policy and scientific recommendations made over the 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 mid- to late 1980s. Formal negotiations began in November 1988 when UNEP convened a series of expert group meetings, 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 technology, including biotechnology; new and additional financial support; and safety of release or experimentation on genetically-modified organisms.
In 1990, UNEP's Governing Council established an "Ad Hoc Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts" to prepare a new international legal instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. The Working Group 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." Former UNEP Executive Director Mostafa Tolba 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. The INC met four more times between February 1991 and May 1992, culminating in the adoption of the final text of the Convention in Nairobi, Kenya, on 22 May 1992.
Unlike the INC for the Convention on Climate Change, the Biodiversity INC did not make provisions for it to continue to meet between the adoption of the Convention and the first meeting of the Conference of Parties. Thus, in May 1993, UNEP's Governing Council established the Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention on Biological Diversity (ICCBD) to prepare for the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties and ensure early and effective operation of the Convention upon entry into force.
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. 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," agreed that access to information and capacity building are key to the implementation of the Convention's technology transfer provisions and suggested that: the ICCBD develop guidelines for international cooperation; the ICCBD propose substantive modifications to the GEF; and the ICCBD 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 can take a 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 Norwegian Government, in collaboration with UNEP, also hosted a meeting in preparation for the first session of the ICCBD. The Norway/UNEP Expert Conference on Biodiversity, held in Trondheim, Norway, 24-28 May 1993, brought together scientists, managers, bureaucrats and policy-makers from 80 countries to provide input to UNEP's preparatory work for the ICCBD meeting.
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