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Folder About the Convention

Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD

At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, UNCED), world leaders agreed on a comprehensive strategy for "sustainable development" – meeting our needs while ensuring that we leave a healthy and viable world for future generations. One of the key agreements adopted at Rio was the Convention on Biological Diversity. The other so-called Rio Conventions are the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Importance of the Convention on Biological Diversity

This Convention is the first global agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It is comprehensive in its goals, and deals with an issue so vital to humanity's future, that it stands as a landmark in international law. It recognizes – for the first time – that the conservation of biological diversity is "a common concern of humankind" and is an integral part of the development process. The agreement covers all ecosystems, species, and genetic resources. It links traditional conservation efforts to the economic goal of using biological resources sustainably. Importantly, the Convention is legally binding; countries that join it are obliged to implement its provisions.

The Convention reminds decision-makers that natural resources are not infinite and sets out a new philosophy for the 21st century, that of sustainable use. While past conservation efforts were aimed at protecting particular species and habitats, the Convention recognizes that ecosystems, species and genes must be used for the benefit of humans. However, this should be done in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of biological diversity.


The objectives of this Convention 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 commericial and other utilization of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies, and by appropriate funding. When formulating its three main objectives the Convention aims to find a balance among conservation, sustainable use and fair and equitable sharing of benefits.

According to the Convention, biological diversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, among others, 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. Sustainable use means the use of components of biological diversity in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of biological diversity, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations.

The Convention on Biological Diversity is not a classical nature conservation convention as its objectives not only refer to nature conservation but also to the utilization that directly serves the society’s interest. Indirectly it has an important message for nature conservation that the sustainable use of the wildlife is only possible if we do everything to prevent its degradation.


The Convention on Biological Diversity, as an international treaty, identifies a common problem, sets overall goals and policies and general obligations, and organizes technical and financial cooperation. However, the responsibility for achieving its goals rests largely with the countries themselves. The Convention identifies the tasks of the Contracting Parties concerning in-situ and ex-situ conservation, the sustainable use of components of biodiversity, research and training, public education and awareness, environmental impact assessment and minimizing adverse impacts, access to and transfer of technology, exchange of information and financial resources.

Operation of the Convention

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the governing body of the Convention, and advances implementation of the Convention through the decisions it takes at its periodic meetings.

The Secretariat arranges for and helps the meetings of the Conference of the Parties and the subsidiary bodies of the Convention and coordinate with other relevant international bodies. Parties contribute to the operational costs of the Convention’s Secretariat.

The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), which reports regularly to the COP on all aspects of its work. Its functions include: providing assessments of the status of biological diversity; assessments of the types of measures taken in accordance with the provisions of the Convention; and respond to questions that the COP may put to the body.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is a financial mechanism, which helps developing countries and countries with economies in transition (EIT) to achieve the objectives of the Convention.

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