COP-2 marked two parallel progressions in the development of the Convention on Biological Diversity. In what might be described as internal affairs, delegates conducted the first review of priorities established by the Convention and COP-1. In doing so, they began to explore and revise the procedures and programme of work. In addition, several aspects of the programme crossed into matters beyond the CBD's own borders. COP-2 prepared or promised inputs to several ongoing international policy processes, initiating the Convention's conduct of essentially external relations. Together these contributed to what Committee of the Whole Chair Lazar termed a maturing process of the CBD.
Delegates attributed the maturation to a mixture of intersessional activities and changes in the political landscape. On the one hand, the work of the SBSTTA and the Open-ended Expert Group on Biosafety provided COP-2 material on which to base its first substantive steps. The output from these two bodies served as a test case for the procedural workings of the CBD, as delegates debated how they would respond to the subsidiary bodies' inputs. On the other hand, the formation of both the CSD's Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its Committee on Trade and Environment, presented COP-2 delegates with opportunities and some urgency to express the Convention's relevance to those bodies' work.
The decisions to be made on the programme of work forced COP-2 to confront such questions as how and how often items would be considered, how SBSTTA advice would be addressed and whether expert panels should be established to elaborate COP-2's recommendations in other subject areas, as had been done for biosafety after COP-1. Debates regarding marine and coastal biodiversity provided one focal point for these questions. On this issue, the contact group agreed to organize a limited experts' panel, only to renegotiate this consensus when the decision reached the full Committee of the Whole. The debate covered participation issues, such as costs and credentials, and the nature and size of representation. It also resulted in a statement that the SBSTTA was the only scientific, technical and technological authority to provide advice to the COP, a clear message that not all SBSTTA recommendations necessarily had to be accepted by COP.
Although the COP has asserted its authority over the SBSTTA, it will need to further specify this relationship. While the SBSTTA has already adopted a modus operandi, the COP has yet to set out such a formal blueprint for its basic functioning. Some delegates emphasized the SBSTTA's advisory and subsidiary nature, others highlighted the need for the body to engage in substantive debate regarding controversial issues. If the SBSTTA is to fulfill its mandate as a scientific, technical and technological body, the questions put to it by the COP must explicitly require scientific, technical and technological advice. Such guidance from the COP will determine not only the composition of delegations but the content of the meetings. The proximity of the meeting of the SBSTTA to the COP meeting may have been problematic as some say it raised the political stakes and contributed to the sense that the SBSTTA was acting, as some delegates put it, as a "mini-COP." Some delegates called on COP-2 to move the dates of SBSTTA-2, but the dates were not changed and the SBSTTA will once again meet two months before the COP.
Another example is related to discussions on biosafety. While debating language defining the composition of the Open-Ended Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety, whose job it will be to elaborate the modalities of a draft biosafety protocol, delegates discussed whether participants in ostensibly scientific panels should be limited to technical experts, or whether government representatives or bureaucrats should join in. Some noted that these procedural disputes masked resistance by some Parties to establishing authoritative panels on certain issues.
COP-2's interactions with the NGO community provide an additional example of the COP's internal evolution. NGOs were allotted a variable role in COP-2: while excluded entirely from the proceedings of the biosafety drafting group, NGOs contributed substantively in other contact and drafting groups. Language about broad stakeholder participation was included explicitly in the decision on forests and biodiversity, and many delegates welcomed the constructive role of NGOs. Business and industry representatives also had a higher profile at COP-2. Delegates acknowledged that biotechnology and related industries have realized that the CBD may be significant to their concerns. Thus, they have added their presence and voices to those of environment and development NGOs at a level approached only within the negotiations for the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The status of the institutional structure to operate the financial mechanism remains contentious. At the heart of the debate is a catch-22: while some delegates claim that only a permanent designation of the GEF will signal a substantial replenishment, others note that replenishment is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for designation.
Although the restructured GEF has attempted to highlight its commitment to the CBD through its two-pronged approach of targeting and mainstreaming biodiversity, its mandate remains in the realm of incremental costs and global benefits. Such a focus is perceived by the South as part of the North's emphasis on conservation which constitutes only part of the CBD equation. In order to address the full scope of the CBD's objectives, delegates may have to broaden the spectrum to include a diversity of financial sources. The Secretariat will need to think creatively and consult widely as it maps out requested information on additional and alternative resources. To break the impasse at COP-3, a balance will need to be struck between flexibility and efficiency.
In its interactions with outside institutions and processes, the CBD has begun to send a concrete message regarding the integration of biodiversity concerns. Perhaps in line with a new era of UN reform, COP-2 has demonstrated an aversion to institutional proliferation instead of creating new bodies, it will draw largely upon existing ones.
Where forests were almost an unmentionable topic at COP-1, the establishment of the IPF has changed things. Delegates in Jakarta expressed the need to inject CBD priorities and principles into IPF deliberations. They also stated that the CBD concerns reach beyond indigenous peoples and forests, the theme for which CBD was assigned responsibility by a UN interagency group.
Delegates took note of the work of the FAO Commission on Plant Genetic Resources, and the programme of work makes provision for consideration of a progress report in 1996. How the COP will address the results of the FAO process is, however, not clear. Some delegations have stated that any protocol on plant genetic resources should be under or within the framework of the CBD, while others have noted that FAO is the proper forum for these issues. The results may be best evidenced after COP-3 considers agricultural biodiversity.
Despite some efforts to maintain a balance between the widespread activities the CBD demands and the depth and quality desired for priorities they have set, delegates produced a large number of wide-ranging decisions. Privately, some Northern delegates expressed the view that, at times, biodiversity conservation seemed relegated to the back burner, given the interest in such issues as IPR, access, technology transfer and biosafety. Others expressed the view that all of these issues were interrelated. For example, many delegates noted the impact of a new world trade regime on conservation and sustainable use issues. The discussion at COP-2 on IPR and technology transfer in particular appeared to reflect frustration felt by many Southern countries towards the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property sub-agreement to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. How this will play itself out in the international arena remains to be seen.
With such a varied and ambitious agenda set by COP-2, the CBD Secretariat and subsidiary bodies have before them an imposing workload for the intersessional period. COW Chair Lazar expressed hope that decision implementation would keep up with the pace of decision-making.
All contact groups discussed how to prioritize intersessional activities. The financial implications of this heavy workload resulted in a budget approximately twice that agreed to at COP-1. Yet the debate over the number and type of intersessional meetings continued through to the final hours. Between now and COP-3, the challenge will be to convert potentially competing agendas into complementary concerns and to make demonstrable progress in pursuing the Convention's three objectives as it continues to come of age.
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