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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

The Convention on Biological Diversity was opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Brazil on 5 June 1992 and entered into force on 29 December 1993. It contains three national level obligations: to conserve, to sustainably use,  and to share the benefits of biological diversity. The Convention reflects the policy and scientific recommendations of a number of groups, beginning with substantive inputs from the IUCN. 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 <I>Ad Hoc<D> Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity</I>. By the summer of 1990, a new <I>Sub-Working Group on Biotechnology</I> was established to prepare terms of reference on biotechnology transfer. Other aspects of biodiversity were included, such as in situ<D> and ex situ<D> conservation of wild and domesticated species; access to genetic resources and technology, including biotechnology; new and additional financial resources, and safety of release or experimentation on genetically-modified organisms (also known as <I>biosafety</I>). In 1990, UNEP’s Governing Council established an <I>Ad Hoc<D> Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts</I> to prepare a new international legal instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. Former UNEP Executive Director Mostafa Tolba prepared the first formal draft Convention on Biological Diversity, which was considered in February 1991 by an <I>Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee</I>(INC). The first INC meeting was also known as the third session of the Ad Hoc <D>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. 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 (COP) and to ensure effective operation of the Convention upon its entry into force. UNEP’s Executive Director, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, established four expert panels to provide advice to the first ICCBD: Panel 1-Priorities for Action and Research Agenda; Panel 2- Economic Implications and Valuation of Biological Resources; Panel 3-Technology Transfer and Financial Resources; and Panel 4-Safe Transfer, Handling and Use of Living Modified Organisms Resulting from Biotechnology. In addition, the Norwegian Government and UNEP hosted an Expert Conference on Biodiversity, held in Trondheim, Norway from 24-28 May 1993 to provide input to the preparatory work for the ICCBD. The first session of the ICCBD met in Geneva from 11-15 October 1993. After a halting start, due to procedural problems that resulted from the 16-month gap between the last session of the INC and this meeting, the ICCBD made progress in addressing the long list of tasks mandated to it. The ICCBD established two Working Groups. Working Group I dealt with the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, the scientific and technical work between meetings and the issue of biosafety. Working Group II tackled issues related to the financial mechanisms, the process for estimating funding needs, the meaning of <I>full incremental costs,</I> the rules of procedure for the COP, and technical cooperation and capacity-building. Despite several sessions of substantive debate, the Working Groups were not able to produce reports that could be approved by the Plenary. As a last minute solution, the Plenary adopted only two decisions: the establishment of a scientific and technical committee that would meet before the second session of the ICCBD; and a request to the Secretariat to use the unadopted working groups’ reports as guidance during the intersessional period. The second session of the ICCBD met in Nairobi from 20 June to 1 July 1994. During the two-week session, delegates addressed a number of issues in preparation for the first COP. These included: institutional, legal and procedural matters; scientific and technical matters; and matters related to the financial mechanism. Progress was made on issues including: rules of procedure; the subsidiary body on scientific, technical and technological advice (SBSTTA); and the clearing-house mechanism. However, many delegates felt that substantive negotiations had been hastily postponed on such critical issues as: the need for a biosafety protocol; ownership of and access to ex situ<D> genetic resources; farmers’ rights; and the financial mechanism.

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