6.7.1 The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

The CBD has been the key global convention on biodiversity in recent decades and it has three central goals: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. With 196 Parties in 2018, it establishes international norms and provides a forum for states to cooperate and share information and coordinate policy. In 2010 member states adopted the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, as well as the more specific Aichi Biodiversity Targets, a comprehensive and ambitious array of goals subsequently reflected in many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The midterm assessment of progress towards the Aichi Biodiversity targets concluded that, while progress has been made, it was insufficient to achieve them by 2020 (SCBD 2014).

Box 6.8: The international wildlife trade and CITES

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) came into force in 1975 and had 183 Parties by 2018. International trade of flora and fauna is worth billions of dollars and includes hundreds of millions of species and species parts, including food products, artistic ornaments and many traditional medicines (Broad, Mulliken and Roe 2003; Rosen and Smith 2010). Today, the agreement assigns various degrees of protection to over 35,000 species of plants and animals (CITES 2018).

Species listed in CITES that are traded across borders are subject to controls through a licensing system managed by member countries. CITES species are listed in three Appendices attached to the Convention: Appendix I provides the highest degree of protection, effectively banning all commercial trade in wild-taken alive or dead specimens of the species; trade in specimens on Appendix II is strictly regulated; Appendix III indicates a country has unilaterally asked for the help of other Parties in controlling trade in the species, subject to regulation within its jurisdiction.

The CITES agenda is ambitious, and the Convention is not self-executing: parties must implement and enforce its provisions under national law. This is a difficult task requiring significant educational and enforcement resources, and corruption can be problematic (Bennett 2015).

The CBD’s Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety deals with the international transfer of living modified organisms (LMOs), demanding advanced and ‘informed’ agreement from the importing country prior to the exchange of any LMOs, which includes genetically modified organisms (GMOs) such as seeds. The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity establishes a framework for access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits arising from their utilization, including the transfer of relevant technologies, which directly aims to curb biopiracy and promote equity in future bioprospecting agreements. It has been ratified by 105 countries as of May 2018. The Secretariat of the CBD plays a key role in raising awareness and organizing regional workshops and other capacity-building exercises.

An important mandatory requirement of Parties to the CBD is a commitment to produce National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) with associated targets (see Chapter 13.1). The Global Environment Facility (GEF), through its enabling activities window, provides support to eligible Parties which focuses on revising/updating their NBSAPs considering the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. This support is routed through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Environment (UNEP) as the key implementing agencies (Pisupati and Prip 2015). The CBD also supports the creation of subnational biodiversity strategies and action plans and regional (supranational) plans, and collaborates with the other key multilateral environmental agreements that have biodiversity-related mandates such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (see Box 6.8 and Annex 6-1).