Convention on Biological Diversity
The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Convention on Biological Diversity, a subsidiary body of the United Nations, adopted the Convention on Biological Diversity on May 22, 1992. It came into force on December 29, 1993.
The Convention is one of the three conventions discussed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (also known as the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit) in June 1992. It works in close connection with the other two Rio Conventions: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. The Convention on Biological Diversity currently has 168 signatories and 196 Parties to the Convention. (Signatories are qualified to ratify, accept or approve a treaty. In UN documents, a ‘Party’ to a treaty is a country that has ratified or acceded to that particular treaty, and is therefore legally bound by the provisions in the instrument.)
India signed the Convention on June 5, 1992 and ratified it on February 18, 1994. (Ratification is an 'international act' whereby a State indicates its consent to be bound to a treaty.) As per the requirements of the Convention, India prepared its first “national biodiversity action plan” in 1999.
The Convention contains 42 articles and two annexures. Articles 1-5 outline the general principles and scope of the convention. Articles 6-11 lay out various measures for the conservation of biological diversity. Article 12-19 demarcate provisions related to scientific and technological research as well as awareness among the public. Articles 20 and 21 deal with the financial considerations. In Articles 22-42, the document presents the organisational structure for the implementation of the convention including provisions related to signing, ratification and arbitration of disputes.
The following are excerpts from 10 of the 42 Articles, which highlight the different aspects of the Convention:
Article 1: The objectives of this Convention, to be pursued in accordance with its relevant provisions, are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.
Article 2: "Biological diversity" means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.
“Genetic material” means any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity.
"Genetic resources" means genetic material of actual or potential value.
Article 3: States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
Article 7: Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate […] (a) Identify components of biological diversity important for its conservation and sustainable use having regard to the indicative list of categories set down in Annex I; (b) Monitor, through sampling and other techniques, the components of biological diversity identified […] paying particular attention to those requiring urgent conservation measures and those which offer the greatest potential for sustainable use; (c) Identify processes and categories of activities which have or are likely to have significant adverse impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and monitor their effects through sampling and other techniques.
Article 8: Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and appropriate: (a) Establish a system of protected areas or areas where special measures need to be taken to conserve biological diversity; […] (c) Regulate or manage biological resources important for the conservation of biological diversity whether within or outside protected areas, with a view to ensuring their conservation and sustainable use; […] (f) Rehabilitate and restore degraded ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened species.
Article 10: Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and appropriate: […] Protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use requirements
Article 11: Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate, adopt economically and socially sound measures that act as incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of components of biological diversity.
Article 15: Recognizing the sovereign rights of States over their natural resources, the authority to determine access to genetic resources rests with the national governments and is subject to national legislation.
Each Contracting Party shall endeavour to create conditions to facilitate access to genetic resources for environmentally sound uses by other Contracting Parties and not to impose restrictions that run counter to the objectives of this Convention.
Article 16: Each Contracting Party, recognizing that technology includes biotechnology, and that both access to and transfer of technology among Contracting Parties are essential elements for the attainment of the objectives of this Convention, undertakes […] to provide and/or facilitate access for and transfer to other Contracting Parties of technologies that are relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity or make use of genetic resources and do not cause significant damage to the environment.Article 20: The developed country Parties shall provide new and additional financial resources to enable developing country Parties to meet the agreed full incremental costs to them of implementing measures which fulfil the obligations of this Convention and to benefit from its provisions.
Focus by Devanshi Parekh.
22 May, 1992