Convention on Biological Diversity


The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was opened for signature at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development on June 5, 1992. Canada was the first industrialized country to sign and ratify the CBD, affixing its signature on June 11 and ratification on December 4 of the same year. The Convention came into force on December 29, 1993. There are presently 193 Parties to the CBD, 192 member states and the European Community.

The official text of the Convention is available through the CBD Clearing-House Mechanism.


In 1993 an Interim Secretariat was established in Geneva, Switzerland until a successful bid was made by the Government of Canada and the Province of Québec to relocate the Secretariat to Montreal, Québec in 1996, where it presently remains.

The Convention is headed by Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias who was appointed as the Executive Secretary in 2012. Mr. Dias is preceded as Executive Secretary by Ahmed Djoghlaf (2005-2012), Hamdallah Zedan (1998- 2005), Calestous Juma (1995-1998) and Angela Cropper (1993-1995).

The functions of the Secretariat as outlined in Article 24 of the Convention are:

  • To arrange for and service meetings of the Conference of the Parties provided for in Article 23;
  • To perform the functions assigned to it by any protocol;
  • To prepare reports on the execution of its functions under this Convention and present them to the Conference of the Parties;
  • To coordinate with other relevant international bodies and, in particular to enter into such administrative and contractual arrangements as may be required for the effective discharge of its functions; and
  • To perform such other functions as may be determined by the Conference of the Parties.

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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 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.

Convention on Biological Diversity

Thematic Programmes and Cross-Cutting Issues

There are seven thematic programmes of work of the Convention on Biological Diversity: Agricultural Biodiversity; Dry and Sub-humid Lands Biodiversity; Forest Biodiversity; Inland Waters Biodiversity; Island Biodiversity; Marine and Coastal Biodiversity; and Mountain Biodiversity.  Each programme identifies actions required to achieve the objectives of the Convention in each biome.  Implementation of the work programmes depends on contributions from all levels of government, the private sector, and other relevant organizations.

A number of cross-cutting issues of relevance to all thematic areas have led to a number of principles, guidelines, and other tools to facilitate the implementation of the Convention.  Some of these cross-cutting issues include: Biodiversity for Development, Climate Change and Biodiversity; Communication, Education and Public Awareness; Economics, Trade and Incentive Measures; Ecosystem Approach; Gender and Biodiversity; Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, Global Taxonomy Initiative; Impact Assessment; Identification, Monitoring, Indicators and Assessments; Invasive Alien Species; Liability and Redress – Art. 14(2); Protected Areas; Sustainable Use of Biodiversity; Tourism and Biodiversity; Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices – Article 8(j); Technology Transfer and Cooperation.

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The Conference of the Parties was established as the governing body of the CBD in
Article 23 of the Convention.

The COP is guided by the Rules of Procedure adopted by Parties in decision I/1 and amended in decision V/20.

It meets every two years to review implementation of the Convention and decide on future advancement.

Decisions of the COP are available through the CBD Clearing House Mechanism.

The COP receives recommendations from the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), and Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Groups who work intersessionally on specific issues.

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The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) is the scientific advisory body that reports to the Conference of the Parties (COP). Its functions, as outlined in Article 25 of the Convention, and further elaborated by the COP, include:

  • providing assessments of the status of biological diversity;
  • preparing assessments of the effects of measures taken in accordance with the provisions of the Convention;
  • identifying innovative, efficient and state-of-the-art technologies and know-how relating to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and ways and means of promoting development and/or transferring such technologies;
  • identifying new and emerging biodiversity issues;
  • providing advice on scientific programmes and international cooperation in research and development related to biological diversity; and
  • responding to questions from the COP and its subsidiary bodies.

The SBSTTA operates under a consolidated modus operandi set out in Annex III of decision VIII/10. At present, it meets twice between each COP and prepares a detailed set of recommendations for consideration by the COP.

The SBSTTA may convene ad hoc technical expert groups (AHTEGs) under the guidance of the COP. The SBSTTA provides oversight to ensure that terms of reference for AHTEGs clearly indicate their mandate, duration of operation, expected outcomes and reporting requirements, and that their mandates are limited to the provision of scientific and technical advice and assessments. The AHTEGs are composed of experts competent in the relevant field of expertise. Reports produced by AHTEGs are submitted to Parties and relevant organizations for peer review.

SBSTTA focal points act as liaisons with the Secretariat on behalf of their Parties with regard to scientific, technical and technological matters related to the Convention and, in doing so, they may undertake the following tasks:

  • developing linkages and facilitating information exchange between the SBSTTA and relevant regional and national agencies and experts;
  • responding to requests from the COP and the Secretariat;
  • communicating and collaborating with other countries' SBSTTA focal points; and
  • collaborating with other national-level focal points for the CBD, and focal points from other biodiversity-related conventions, to facilitate implementation of the Convention at the national level.

Final Reports of the SBSTTA

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Working Groups

Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Groups are created by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to work on specific issues that require a higher degree of focussed attention. The Working Groups provide recommendations to the COP for consideration and adoption.

Article 8(j)

At the 4th meeting of the COP, an Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group was established to address the implementation of Article 8 (j) and related provisions [decision IV/9, paragraph 1].

Article 8(j):

Each contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate:

Subject to national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge innovations and practices.

Convention on Biological Diversity

The initial focus of WG8J was to draft a programme of work for consideration by the COP. The programme of work was adopted by the COP at its 5th meeting in decision V/16, paragraphs 1, 2. Following adoption of the programme of work, the mandate of the WG8J was extended to undertake specific tasks under the programme of work, to review progress on its implementation, and to make recommendations for further actions (decision V/16, paragraph 9).


At its seventh meeting in 2004 the Conference of the Parties established an Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Review of Implementation of the Convention (WGRI) in decision VII/30 paragraph 23.

WGRI was established as Parties recognized the need to more effectively evaluate implementation of the Convention and to monitor progress towards meeting the 2010 Target of the Strategic Plan. Its mandate is outlined in decision VII/30 and additional tasks for the WGRI are outlined in decision VII/26 and in recommendations of the SBSTTA.

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Biosafety Protocol

The Conference of the Parties (COP), by its decision II/5, established an Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Biosafety with a mandate to develop a draft protocol focusing on transboundary movement of living modified organisms that may have adverse effect on biodiversity.

On 29 January 2000, the COP adopted the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The Protocol seeks to protect biodiversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.

For more information on the Biosafety Protocol please visit the Canadian Node of the Biosafety Clearing-House.

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National Focal Points


Mr. Basile van Havre CBD Primary National Focal Point
Access and Benefit Sharing National Focal Point

Cartagena Protocol Primary National Focal Point
ABS National Focal Point
Mr. Scott Wilson Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice National Focal Point
Traditional Knowledge National Focal Point
Mr. David Galbraith Global Strategy for Plant Conservation National Focal Point
Dr. Robert Anderson Global Taxonomy Initiative National Focal Point
Ms. Vienna Pozer Communication, Education and Public Awareness, Informal Advisory Committee
Mr. Charles Shulman Clearing House Mechanism National Focal Point, Informal Advisory Committee
Mr. Olaf Jensen Protected Areas National Focal Point
Ms. Renée Sauvé Marine and Coastal Biodiversity National Focal Point
Mr. Kenneth Ellens Biosafety Clearing House National Focal Point


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