The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) - Short note

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Short note on The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is a multilateral treaty.
The convention has three main goals:

1. the conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity)

2. the sustainable use of its components

3. the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.

Objective of the Convention 

Its objective is to develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It is often seen as the key document regarding sustainable development.

History of the Convention

The convention was opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro on 5 June 1992 and entered into force on 29 December 1993. The United States is the only UN member state which has not ratified the convention. It has two supplementary agreements, the Cartagena Protocol and Nagoya Protocol.

  • The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty governing the movements of living modified organisms (LMOS) resulting from modern biotechnology from one country to another.

  • The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity is another supplementary agreement to the CBD. It provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.

The convention recognized for the first time in international law that the conservation of biodiversity is "a common concern of humankind" and is an integral part of the development process. It sets principles for the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. It also covers the rapidly expanding field of biotechnology through its Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety.

Importantly, the convention is legally binding; countries that join it ('Parties') are obliged to implement its provisions. The convention reminds decision-makers that natural resources are not infinite and sets out a philosophy of sustainable use.

The convention also offers decision-makers guidance based. on the precautionary principle which demands that where there is a threat of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to avoid or minimize such a threat. The Convention acknowledges that substantial investments are required to conserve biological diversity. It argues, however, that conservation will bring us significant environmental, economic and social benefits in return.

The Convention on Biological Diversity of 2010 banned some forms of geo-engineering. As example, Human cloning.

Some of the many issues dealt with under the convention include:

  • Measures the incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.
  • Regulated access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge, including Prior Informed Consent of the party providing resources.
  • Sharing, in a fair and equitable way, the results of research and development and the benefits arising from the commercial and other utilization of genetic resources with the Contracting Party providing such resources (governments and/or local communities that provided the traditional knowledge or biodiversity resources utilized).
  • Access to and transfer of technology, including biotechnology, to the governments and/or local communities that provided traditional knowledge and/or biodiversity resources.
  • Technical and scientific cooperation
  • Education and public awareness.
  • National reporting on efforts to implement treaty commitments.

Implementation by the parties to the convention

Implementation by the parties to the convention is achieved using two means:

National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAP)

National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAP) are the principal instruments for implementing the Convention at the national level. The Convention requires that countries prepare a national biodiversity strategy and to ensure that this strategy is included in planning for activities in all sectors where diversity may be impacted. As of early 2012, 173 Parties had developed NBSAPs.

National Reports

§ in accordance with Article 26 of the convention, parties prepare national reports on the status of implementation of the convention.

Protocols and plans developed by CBD

Cartagena Protocol (2000)

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, also known as the Biosafety Protocol, was adopted in January 2000.

The Biosafety Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology. The Biosafety Protocol makes clear that products from new technologies must be based on the precautionary principle and allow developing nations to balance public health against economic benefits. It will for example let countries ban imports of a genetically modified organism if they feel there is not enough scientific evidence the product is safe and requires exporters to label shipments containing genetically modified commodities such as corn or cotton.

Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (2002)

April 2002, the parties of the UN CBD adopted the recommendations of the Gran Canaria Declaration Calling for a Global Plant Conservation Strategy, and adopted a 16-point plan aiming to slow the rate of plant extinctions around the world by 2010.

Nagoya Protocol (2010)

The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity is another supplementary agreement to the CBD. It provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.

Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020

At the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, held from 18 to 29 October 2010 in Nagoya, a revised and updated Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, 2011-2020 was agreed and published. This document included the "Aichi Biodiversity Targets", comprising 20 targets which address each of five strategic goals defined in the Strategic Plan.

The strategic plan includes the following strategic goals:

Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society

Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use

Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity

Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building

Criticism

There have been criticisms against CBD that the convention has been weakened in implementation due to the resistance of Western countries to the implementation of the pro-South provisions of the convention. CBD is also regarded as a case of a hard treaty gone soft in the implementation trajectory. The argument to enforce the treaty as a legally binding multilateral instrument with the Conference of Parties reviewing the infractions and non-compliance is also gaining strength.

Although the convention explicitly states that all forms of life are covered by its provisions, examination of reports and of national biodiversity strategies and action plans submitted by participating countries shows that in practice this is not happening. The fifth report of the European Union, for example, makes frequent reference to animals (particularly fish) and plants, but does not mention bacteria, fungi or protists at all. The International Society for Fungal Conservation has assessed more than 100 of these CBD documents for their coverage of fungi using defined criteria to place each in one of six categories. No documents were assessed as good or adequate, less than 10% as nearly adequate or poor, and the rest as deficient, seriously deficient or totally deficient.

Scientists working with biodiversity and medical research are expressing fears that the Nagoya Protocol is counterproductive, and will hamper disease prevention and conservation efforts, and that the threat of imprisonment of scientists will have a chilling effect on research. Noncommercial researchers and institutions such as natural. history museums fear maintaining biological reference collections and exchanging material between institutions will become difficult, and medical researchers have expressed alarm at plans to expand the protocol to make it illegal to publicly share genetic information, e.g., via Gen-Bank.

William Yancey Brown when with the Brookings Institution has suggested that the Convention on Biological Diversity should include the preservation of intact genomes and viable cells for every known species and for new species as they are discovered.

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