About UNEP UNEP Offices News Centre Publications Events Awards Milestones UNEP Store
GEO-3: GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK  
UNEP Website GEO Home Page
The Convention on Biological Diversity

The CBD came into force in 1993. It was the first global agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and serves as a blueprint for national action. The Convention establishes three main goals: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources. Many biodiversity issues are addressed, including habitat preservation, intellectual property rights, biosafety and indigenous peoples' rights.

The Convention stands as a landmark in international law, noted for its comprehensive, ecosystems approach to biodiversity protection. The treaty has gained rapid and widespread acceptance. By December 2001, a total of 182 governments had ratified the agreement. A supplementary agreement to the Convention, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, was adopted in January 2000 to address the potential risks posed by cross-border trade and accidental releases of living genetically modified organisms. The adoption of the biosafety protocol is a success for developing countries which called for it. The protocol had been signed by 103 parties and ratified by 9 as of December 2001. The CBD has also influenced the enactment of a law which seeks to regulate genetic resources within the Andean Pact nations of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. The law became effective in July 1996 (Centre for Science and Environment 1999). Despite the success of the convention, negotiations before its adoption were often acrimonious (see box).

The role of developing countries in the CBD negotiations

Unhappy with the early draft of the CBD in November 1991, the Geneva-based South Centre urged developing countries to reject the draft and . 'insist that any negotiation on biodiversity should be linked to a negotiation on biotechnology, and more generally to IPR (intellectual property rights). This combined trend towards the privatization of knowledge and gene resources is a serious threat to the South's development and should be countered.'

During negotiations, the South:

  • stressed national sovereignty over natural resources;
  • called for technology transfer to developing countries on a preferential basis;
  • pushed for supremacy of CBD over other institutions such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); and
  • called for a protocol on biosafety.
Source: Centre for Science and Environment 1999