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. As of 3 October 1995, 128 Parties had ratified the Convention, which contains three national level obligations: the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. The CBD represents the first time a comprehensive approach has been applied to biodiversity.
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, 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 resources; and safety of release or experimentation on genetically-modified organisms (also known as "biosafety"). 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. Mostafa Tolba, then UNEP Executive Director, prepared the first formal draft Convention on Biological Diversity, which was considered in February 1991 by an "Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee" (INC). The INC met four more times between February 1991 and May 1992, and adopted the final text of the Convention in Nairobi, Kenya on 22 May 1992.