The Convention on Biological Diversity, negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), entered into force on 29 December 1993. To date more than 150 countries have become Parties. Article 25 of the CBD establishes a Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) to provide the Conference of the Parties with timely advice relating to implementation of the Convention.
COP-1: The first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (COP-1) took place in Nassau, the Bahamas, from 28 November - 9 December 1994. Some of the key decisions taken by COP-1 included: adoption of the medium-term work programme; designation of the Permanent Secretariat; establishment of the clearing-house mechanism and the SBSTTA; and designation of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as the interim institutional structure for the financial mechanism.
SBSTTA-1: The first session of the SBSTTA took place from 4-8 September 1995 in Paris, France. Delegates considered operational matters, as well as substantive issues, particularly with regard to coastal and marine biodiversity. Recommendations on the modus operandi of the SBSTTA affirmed its subsidiary role to the COP, and requested flexibility to create: two open-ended working groups to meet simultaneously during future SBSTTA meetings; Ad Hoc Technical Panels of Experts as needed; and a roster of experts.
Substantive recommendations of SBSTTA-1 included: alternative ways and means for the COP to consider components of biodiversity under threat; ways and means to promote access to and transfer of technology; scientific and technical information to be contained in national reports; preparation of an annual Global Biodiversity Outlook by the Secretariat; contributions to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) meetings on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA); and technical aspects of the conservation and sustainable use of coastal and marine biological diversity. On this last issue, SBSTTA- 1 identified three priorities: sustainable use of living coastal and marine resources; mariculture; and the control of alien organisms. Time constraints prevented consideration of education, training and public awareness as key delivery mechanisms for coastal and marine biodiversity conservation, and bio-prospecting of the deep sea bed.
Although the recommendation on coastal and marine biodiversity received a disproportionate share of attention at SBSTTA-1, some States noted that land-based sources of marine pollution had not been sufficiently emphasized. One non-Party to the CBD criticized inclusion of the issue of deep sea bed bio-prospecting as outside the scope of the CBD.
COP-2: The second session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-2) to the CBD met in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 6-17 November 1995. Some of the key decisions taken by COP-2 included: designation of the permanent location of the Secretariat in Montreal, Canada; agreement to develop a protocol on biosafety; operation of the clearing-house mechanism; adoption of a programme of work funded by a larger budget; designation of the GEF as the continuing interim institutional structure for the financial mechanism; consideration of its first substantive issue, marine and coastal biodiversity; and agreement to address forests and biodiversity, including the development of a statement from the CBD to the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) of the Commission on Sustainable Development.
COP-2 approved SBSTTAs medium term programme of work for 1996-97, and also addressed the issue of PGRFA, adopting a statement for input to the FAOs Fourth International Technical Conference on PGRFA (ITCPGR-4). The statement notes the importance of other conventions to the CBDs three objectives, urges other international fora to help achieve these objectives through the CBDs overarching framework and invites FAO to present the outcome of ITCPGR-4 to COP-3.
PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE: The FAO established an intergovernmental Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in 1983, and adopted a non-binding International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, which is intended to promote harmonized international efforts to create incentives to conserve and sustainably use PGRFA. Since the inception of the CBD, the FAO has begun revising the International Undertaking, which originally called PGRFA the common heritage of mankind. Subsequent revisions have emphasized national sovereignty over PGRFA, in line with Article 15 (sovereignty over genetic resources) of the CBD.
The Fourth International Technical Conference on PGRFA met in Leipzig, Germany, from 17-23 June 1996. Representatives of 148 States adopted the Leipzig Declaration, the Conferences key political statement, and a delicately balanced Global Plan of Action (GPA), an international programme for the conservation and utilization of PGRFA. Contentious issues included financing and implementing the GPA, technology transfer, Farmers Rights and access and benefit-sharing. Delegates were also presented with the first comprehensive Report on the State of the Worlds Plant Genetic Resources.
The next round of negotiations on revision of the International Undertaking is scheduled for December 1996.
BIOSAFETY: Since the early 1970s, modern biotechnology has enabled scientists to genetically modify plants, animals and micro-organisms to create living modified organisms (LMOs). Many countries with biotechnology industries already have domestic legislation in place intended to ensure the safe transfer, handling, use and disposal of LMOs and their products. These precautionary practices are collectively known as biosafety. However, there are no binding international agreements addressing situations where LMOs cross national borders.
Article 19.4 of the CBD provides for Parties to consider the need for and modalities of a protocol on biosafety. At COP-2, delegates established an Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety (BSWG), which held its first meeting in Aarhus, Denmark, from 22-26 July 1996. It was attended by more than 90 delegations, which included scientific and technical experts, representing both Parties and non-Parties to the CBD, inter- governmental organizations, NGOs and industry representatives.
BSWG-1 marked the first formal meeting to develop a protocol under the CBD and to operationalize one of its key and most contentious components. Governments listed elements for a future protocol, agreed to hold two meetings in 1997 and outlined the information required to guide their future work.
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