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INTERSESSIONAL ACTIVITIES

SBSTTA: In accordance with decision 1/7 of COP-1, the first meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) was held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris from 4-8 September 1995. Article 25 of the CBD establishes this multidisciplinary subsidiary body to provide the Conference of the Parties and its other subsidiary bodies, with scientific, technical and technological advice. The primary role of SBSTTA is to provide important and impartial scientific, technical and technological input into the political decision-making process of the COP. Delegates attempted to distinguish the highly technical from the purely political on issues such as intellectual property rights (IPR) and technology transfer. The 81 Governments present moved forward on a number of issues, including components of biodiversity under threat, coastal and marine biodiversity, and the form and intervals of national reports. The report of SBSTTA, as contained in UNEP/CBD/COP/2/5, will be presented to COP-2.

Biosafety: In accordance with decision 1/9 of COP-1, an Open-ended Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Biosafety was established to consider existing knowledge, experience and legislation in the field of biosafety and to make recommendations to COP-2 on the need for and modalities of a protocol on the safe transfer, handling and use of any living modified organism (LMO) resulting from biotechnology. A panel of 15 government nominated experts met in Cairo from 1-5 May 1995 to prepare a background document for the meeting. The Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Biosafety met at the Palacio de Congresos in Madrid from 24-28 July 1995. The 83 Governments present prepared a report (UNEP/CBD/COP/2/7) with a view to enabling COP-2 to reach an informed decision regarding a biosafety protocol. However, the scope of the proposed instrument and the speed of its negotiation remain a matter for further debate at this session of the COP.

FAO Global System for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture: In preparation for the Fourth International Technical Conference on the Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, to be held 17-23 June 1996 in Leipzig, Germany, FAO has sponsored nine regional meetings, during which 140 country reports were presented and discussed along with recommendations for the draft Global Plan of Action. Three regions have yet to meet (North America, West Africa and Latin America). Two documents will result from this process: a Report on the State of the World Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and a Global Plan of Action. An update will be presented at COP-2.

Global Biodiversity Forum (GBF): Over 400 participants attended the GBF, which was held 4-5 November 1995 at the Hotel Indonesia, Jakarta. The GBF, which emphasized the role of local communities and benefit-sharing, considered four issue-areas and produced specific recommendations to the COP.

The workshop on marine biodiversity explored sustainable use by coastal communities and recommended: technology transfer for mariculture; and research on marine taxonomy and ecology, on international trade agreements and fishery subsidies, and on pollution, nuclear testing and alien species.

The workshop on access to genetic resources presented case studies on emerging legislation, and on IPR systems not adequate to protect traditional knowledge. The new Philippines Executive Order on access requires collectors to obtain the prior informed consent (PIC) of local communities. Workshop recommendations include: encourage legislation and regional initiatives on access; consider international enforcement such as certificates of origin attesting to PIC; and delay recommendations on model legislation about access until indigenous knowledge is discussed in 1996.

The workshop on forests recommended research on comprehensive approaches to conservation and equitable benefit-sharing in order to identify causes of forest loss and to evaluate: the conservation value of conservation areas and species components; ecosystem services; and global impacts of changes in land use and tenure.

The workshop on decentralization examined the transfer of decision-making from central governments to local communities to promote conservation by internalizing local ownership of resources and promoting action at local levels.

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