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Summary report, 16 May – 13 June 2021

3rd Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI-3)

The third meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI-3) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) convened virtually to advance the preparations for the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15), currently scheduled to take place in October 2021 in Kunming, China. The session was suspended and will resume in-person when the COVID-19 pandemic allows, to finalize negotiations and adopt recommendations for COP15.

SBI-3 built on the work of an informal meeting in March 2021, where participants had the opportunity to comment on the documents prepared for each agenda item. The meeting addressed items on:

  • review of progress in the implementation of the Convention and the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020;
  • assessment and review of the effectiveness of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety;
  • the post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF);
  • resource mobilization and the financial mechanism;
  • capacity building, technical and scientific cooperation, technology transfer, knowledge management, and communication;
  • cooperation with other conventions, international organizations, and initiatives;
  • mechanisms for reporting, assessment, and review of implementation;
  • review of the effectiveness of the processes under the Convention and its protocols;
  • mainstreaming of biodiversity within and across sectors and other strategic actions to enhance implementation;
  • specialized international access and benefit-sharing (ABS) instruments in the context of Article 4.4 of the Nagoya Protocol;
  • global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism (Article 10 of the Nagoya Protocol); and
  • administrative and budgetary matters.

The meeting convened from 16 May - 13 June 2021 back-to-back with the 24th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA-24). Plenary meetings were held on 16-18 May, 28-30 May, and 11-13 June, with contact groups convening in between. It was agreed that adoption of final outcomes (L documents) will be deferred at a resumed session to be held in person. Approximately 3,000 delegates registered for the meeting, including representatives of 128 parties and other governments and of 190 observer organizations.

A Brief History of the Convention on Biodiversity

The CBD was adopted on 22 May 1992 and opened for signature on 5 June 1992 at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio “Earth Summit”). The CBD entered into force on 29 December 1993. There are currently 196 parties to the Convention, which aims to promote the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. The COP is the governing body of the Convention, and there are currently four bodies meeting intersessionally: SBSTTA; SBI; the Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions; and the Open-ended Working Group on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

Key Turning Points

Three protocols have been adopted under the Convention. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (January 2000) addresses the safe transfer, handling, and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) that may have adverse effects on biodiversity, taking into account human health, with a specific focus on transboundary movements. It entered into force on 11 September 2003 and currently has 171 parties. The Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (October 2010) provides for international rules and procedures on liability and redress for damage to biodiversity resulting from LMOs. It entered into force on 5 March 2018 and currently has 48 parties. The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (October 2010) sets out an international framework for the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and technologies, and by appropriate funding, thereby contributing to the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of its components. It entered into force on 12 October 2014 and currently has 129 parties.

Other major decisions have included:

  • the Jakarta Mandate on marine and coastal biodiversity (COP 2, November 1995, Jakarta, Indonesia);
  • work programmes on agricultural and forest biodiversity (COP 3, November 1996, Buenos Aires, Argentina);
  • the Global Taxonomy Initiative (COP 4, May 1998, Bratislava, Slovakia);
  • work programmes on Article 8(j), dry and sub-humid lands, and incentive measures (COP 5, May 2000, Nairobi, Kenya);
  • the Bonn Guidelines on Access and Benefit-sharing and the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (COP 6, April 2002, The Hague, the Netherlands);
  • work programmes on mountain biodiversity, protected areas, and technology transfer, the Akwé: Kon Guidelines for cultural, environmental, and social impact assessments, and the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines for sustainable use (COP 7, February 2004, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia);
  • a work programme on island biodiversity (COP 8, March 2006, Curitiba, Brazil);
  • a resource mobilization strategy, and scientific criteria and guidance for marine areas in need of protection (COP 9, May 2008, Bonn, Germany);
  • the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, including the Aichi Targets, and a decision on activities and indicators for the implementation of the resource mobilization strategy (COP 10, October 2010, Nagoya, Japan);
  • an interim target of doubling biodiversity-related international financial resource flows to developing countries by 2015, and at least maintaining this level until 2020, coupled with targets aiming to improve the robustness of baseline information (COP 11, October 2012, Hyderabad, India); and
  • a plan of action on customary sustainable use of biodiversity as well as the “Pyeongchang Roadmap,” a package of decisions on resource mobilization, capacity building, and scientific and technical cooperation linking biodiversity and poverty eradication, and monitoring implementation of the Strategic Plan (COP 12, October 2014, Pyeongchang, South Korea).

Recent Meetings

COP 13 (December 2016, Cancún, Mexico) considered: issues related to operations of the Convention, including integration among the Convention and its Protocols; progress towards implementation of the Strategic Plan and the achievement of the Aichi Targets, and related means of implementation; strategic actions to enhance the implementation of the Strategic Plan and achievement of the Aichi Targets, including with respect to mainstreaming biodiversity within and across sectors, particularly in agriculture, fisheries, tourism, and forestry; and biodiversity and human health interlinkages. It also launched consideration of a series of items on emerging technologies, including synthetic biology, gene drives, and digital sequence information (DSI).

COP 14 (November 2018, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt) set up an intersessional working group on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF), and established an intersessional process, including an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) to continue work on DSI on genetic resources under the Convention and the Nagoya Protocol. COP14 further adopted the Rutzolijirisaxik voluntary guidelines for the repatriation of traditional knowledge relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity as well as voluntary guidelines and guidance: on the integration of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures into wider landscapes and seascapes; on effective governance models for management of protected areas, including equity; for the design and effective implementation of ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction; for a sustainable wild meat sector; and for avoiding unintentional introductions of invasive alien species associated with trade in live organisms.

The virtual informal meeting in the lead-up to SBSTTA-24 (February 2021) heard brief statements on most SBSTTA-24 agenda items. Discussions focused on the monitoring framework for the GBF, as well as synthetic biology, and marine and coastal biodiversity.

The virtual informal meeting in the lead-up to SBI-3 (March 2021) considered most of the SBI-3 agenda items through brief statements by parties and observers. Delegates addressed the need to ensure means of implementation for the GBF, with discussions focusing on resource mobilization and capacity development, scientific and technical cooperation, knowledge management, and communication.

SBSTTA-24 (May – June 2021) addressed several scientific and technical matters related to the GBF, as well as items related to synthetic biology, risk assessment and risk management of living modified organisms (LMOs), and marine and coastal biodiversity. Delegates agreed that adoption of final draft decision documents was deferred until SBSTTA-24 can resume in person.

SBI-3 Report

On Sunday, 16 May, SBI Chair Charlotta Sörqvist (Sweden) opened the meeting with a moment of silence in memory of those who passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic. She expressed her confidence for a successful session, stressing the challenges associated with recreating a negotiating format in a virtual setting.

Hamdallah Zedan, Egypt, on behalf of the COP14 Presidency, noted that this virtual formal meeting will address a wide range of agenda items, essential for the CBD and its Protocols towards COP15. He emphasized the need to collectively navigate pandemic-related challenges and move towards the development of an ambitious, robust, and transformative GBF.

CBD Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema underscored that more than 1,830 participants representing 128 countries and many organizations registered for the meeting. She noted that the session will consider 18 agenda items, including vital documents for the development of the GBF and the successful preparation for COP15. She further highlighted that the informal virtual session of SBI-3 in March 2021 allowed for an initial exchange of views, which will be included in the development of the draft recommendations. 

Organizational Matters

On Sunday, 16 May, delegates adopted the meeting’s agenda and approved the organization of work contained in the scenario note (CBD/SBI/3/1, Add.1/Rev.1, and Add.2). Eric Okoree (Ghana) was elected rapporteur of the meeting.

Chair Sörqvist stressed that the meeting’s timing and modalities respond to the current extraordinary circumstances and do not set a precedent for future meetings. She invited delegates to refrain from repeating statements made at the informal meeting and noted that the adoption of L documents will be deferred to a later day, according to a decision by the Bureau.

Rapporteur Okoree, on behalf of all participants, made a statement of appreciation to the Chair, Bureau, Secretariat, and the Government of Canada for financial support. He explained that the meeting report will be approved on 13 June 2021 and will be of a procedural nature, adding that the final outcomes will be deferred for approval at a resumed session to be held in person.

The Secretariat explained procedural issues and technical requirements regarding participating at the virtual meeting and uploading statements.

Review of Progress in the Implementation of the Convention and the Strategic Plan

On Sunday, 16 May, the Secretariat introduced this item, including: draft recommendations; an update on progress in revising/updating and implementation of national biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs), including national targets; an analysis of the contribution of targets established by parties and progress towards the Aichi Targets; review of implementation of the 2015-2020 Gender Plan of Action; and progress towards the Aichi Target 18 on traditional knowledge and customary sustainable use (CBD/SBI/3/2 and Add.1-4). Chair Sörqvist noted the item was also considered during the informal session.

NORWAY stressed that, unless implementation is improved, not only biodiversity, but also climate and sustainable development targets will suffer. She further highlighted the need to involve Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs) in the decision-making process and development of indicators, and enhance awareness on linkages between gender and biodiversity.

ARGENTINA, MALAYSIA, BRAZIL, PERU, and ECUADOR stressed the lack of adequate means of implementation and highlighted the need for adequate funding as well as capacity building, technology transfer, and cooperation. BRAZIL called for reflecting CBD Article 20 (financial resources) in the document, enhanced transparency and accountability in international biodiversity funding, and indicators on resource mobilization. He further called for flexibility in reporting and monitoring mechanisms, taking into account national circumstances and capabilities.

MALAYSIA shared lessons learned from the development of their NBSAP and sixth national report, including consultations involving multiple stakeholders, and stressed the need for enhancing mainstreaming. SOUTH AFRICA urged setting national targets that are aligned and commensurate with the global level of ambition. CAMBODIA underscored investment on ex situ conservation facilities and suggested that youth participation should be reflected in the implementation of the Convention and NBSAPs. UGANDA proposed that NBSAPs should encourage sectoral integration and the inclusion of other sectors, taking into account the needs of women, youth, and IPLCs. ECUADOR noted that some NBSAPs have reflected the participation of IPLCs in a satisfactory manner. He further expressed concern about the partial implementation of the 2015-2020 Gender Plan of Action. PERU underscored the need for a whole-of-government approach to achieve ambitious results and called for tangible and well-focused actions regarding the draft gender plan.

The CBD WOMEN’S CAUCUS suggested a draft recommendation on the need to support and strengthen gender-responsive actions in implementation and mainstreaming of gender issues in biodiversity policy frameworks. The INTERNATIONAL INDIGENOUS FORUM ON BIODIVERSITY (IIFB) and WOMEN’S NETWORK FOR BIODIVERSITY called for organizing international dialogues with Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous women on Aichi Target 18 (traditional knowledge) and the gender plan of action. The GLOBAL YOUTH BIODIVERSITY NETWORK (GYBN) lamented that the virtual setting is impacting the ability of stake- and rights-holders to meaningfully participate in the meeting, and suggested a draft recommendation on taking into account lessons learned from past inefficiencies in implementation. The CBD ALLIANCE requested a structural analysis on the reasons why parties have collectively failed to meet the Aichi Targets. She further called for recognizing the role of women and girls in biodiversity conservation, ensuring their equitable participation in decision making.

Noting broad support for the draft recommendations, Chair Sörqvist said that a conference room paper (CRP) will be prepared.

On Saturday and Sunday, 29-30 May, plenary discussed the CRP, including a draft recommendation and an annex addressing lessons from the review of progress in implementation of the Convention and the Strategic Plan (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.2). Delegates suggested textual amendments, with debate focusing on, among other issues:

  • preambular language recalling parts of, or the entire Decision X/2 (Strategic Plan), which remained bracketed;
  • a paragraph noting with concern that national targets are not collectively commensurate with the level of ambition of the Aichi Targets, with several developing countries proposing to include reference to lack of adequate means of implementation as a persistent obstacle to implementation, which remained bracketed; and
  • paragraphs encouraging organization of national and international dialogues with Indigenous Peoples and local communities, with delegates agreeing to add reference to relevant stakeholders, including women and youth.

Plenary then addressed the annex, which included lessons from the review of progress towards the implementation of the Convention and the Strategic Plan. Delegates debated at length whether to reopen it or not, and whether to keep it or delete it, replacing it with a general reference to the background document containing the review, as synthesized by the Secretariat. They also discussed whether to bracket the entire document, along with the annex, due to lack of full and effective participation of African countries in the virtual sessions because of connectivity issues.

On Friday, 11 June, delegates resumed discussion on the CRP. Chair Sörqvist suggested approving the CRP with brackets on a paragraph in the draft recommendation noting lessons from the review of progress and committing to taking these lessons into account to enhance the implementation of the Convention and the GBF, and the annex, which outlines lessons learned from the review of progress.

Speaking on behalf of the AFRICAN GROUP, the Democratic Republic of Congo stressed that the region is severely disadvantaged by virtual negotiations. He underscored that, while the region entered the virtual negotiations in good faith, challenges are impossible to overcome. He emphasized that all CRP documents relevant to the GBF should be bracketed and renegotiated during a face-to-face meeting. Stressing that the documents will be negotiated during the third meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the GBF and COP15, he called for working toward an ambitious GBF that balances all the objectives of the Convention, including reaching a workable agreement to fairly share benefits from the use of digital sequence information (DSI).

The European Union (EU), AUSTRALIA, COLOMBIA, and MEXICO supported the Chair’s proposal, cautioning against creating a precedent for the remaining CRPs and emphasizing the need to acknowledge the work done in the contact groups. BHUTAN, BRAZIL, ARGENTINA, and MOROCCO supported the request by the African Group to bracket the entire CRP. Following debate, the plenary decided to bracket the entire CRP.

Assessment and Review of the Effectiveness of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

On Sunday, 16 May, the Secretariat introduced this item, including draft recommendations and analysis of information for the assessment and review of the effectiveness of the Biosafety Protocol and the final evaluation of the Strategic Plan for the Protocol for the period 2011-2020 (CBD/SBI/3/3 and Add.1).

MOROCCO and SOUTH AFRICA highlighted inadequacies in implementation, including limited development of national biosafety frameworks due to insufficient human and financial resources, and infrastructure. MOROCCO noted the inclusion of a biosafety target in the GBF will provide significant leverage to continue mainstreaming biosafety in NBSAPs. MOROCCO, supported by many, stressed the ongoing need to strengthen parties’ capacity to implement the Protocol, including through dedicated Global Environment Facility (GEF) funding. COLOMBIA highlighted the need to mobilize financial resources from all available sources, including international cooperation and the private sector.

The REPUBLIC OF KOREA highlighted efforts to support capacity building on biosafety, including through the Korea Biosafety Capacity Building Initiative. MEXICO highlighted the need to apply the precautionary approach to recently developed biotechnologies, including synthetic biology. She further called for: research on socio-economic considerations; strengthening public and IPLCs’ participation in decisions on living modified organisms (LMOs); and integrating a human rights-based approach in the Protocol’s implementation. GUATEMALA stressed the role of regional agreements for implementation.

BRAZIL expressed concern on lack of progress in addressing capacity-building needs and gaps. He emphasized the importance of complying with Annex III of the Protocol (risk assessment), adding that further relevant guidance is of a voluntary nature. He called for more flexible language to recognize the voluntary nature of obligations under Article 26 of the Protocol (socio-economic considerations), taking into account different national circumstances and capabilities, and added that proposed methodologies regarding socio-economic considerations should fall within the scope of Article 26.

The CBD WOMEN’S CAUCUS suggested emphasizing the role of IPLCs, women, and youth in the draft recommendations, adding that gender mainstreaming should be considered throughout the work of the Protocol. IIFB and the THIRD WORLD NETWORK (TWN) requested encouraging parties to make use of the guidance on the assessment of socio-economic considerations, as well as including references to IPLCs, and Indigenous and local practices in the draft recommendations. TWN further stressed the applicability of the Cartagena Protocol for new techniques, including synthetic biology, and gene drives, and the need for additional oversight.

The OUTREACH NETWORK FOR GENE DRIVE RESEARCH noted that effective national biosafety frameworks will allow countries to benefit from a promising field of research.

On Friday and Saturday, 11-12 June, delegates considered a CRP. (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.1), including sections on:

  • national biosafety frameworks;
  • coordination and support;
  • risk assessment and risk management; 
  • living modified organisms or traits that may have adverse effects;
  • liability and redress;
  • handling, transport, packaging, and identification;
  • socio-economic considerations;
  • transit, contained use, unintentional transboundary movements, and emergency measures;
  • information-sharing;
  • compliance and review;
  • public awareness and participation, biosafety education, and training; and
  • outreach and cooperation.

Among other issues, they debated, without reaching agreement: the wording of a reference to the precautionary approach proposed by Mexico; reference to “rights-based approaches” or “human rights-based approaches” in a paragraph on national biosafety frameworks; whether the COP can only invite the GEF to consider specific actions or whether it can make direct requests; and whether to include references to Protocol Articles 22 (capacity building) and 28 (financial mechanism) in a paragraph urging parties to make resources available to support other parties in their efforts to strengthen capacities and enhance implementation of the Protocol.

Regarding liability and redress, delegates discussed whether to note “with regret” the limited number of parties that have ratified the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress. They further debated whether requests to the Secretariat on awareness-raising activities to support ratification efforts should include capacity building and whether they should be subject to the availability of resources. These references were eventually bracketed.

Delegates exchanged opinions on whether parties should be “invited” or “encouraged” to develop approaches that facilitate socio-economic considerations, as well as whether Cartagena Protocol Article 26 (socio-economic considerations) and Article 20 (information sharing) should be referenced, without reaching agreement. Regarding a paragraph encouraging parties to consider IPLCs and cultures when undertaking research on socio-economic considerations, delegates agreed to promote the involvement of IPLCs. They also discussed deleting the reference to cultures and including youth, without reaching consensus.

On outreach and cooperation, delegates debated the inclusion of a paragraph encouraging parties to provide support, especially for developing countries, for effective participation in biotechnological and biosafety research activities. The paragraph was bracketed.

The CRP was approved with these amendments and brackets. An L document (draft decision) will be prepared for consideration by the resumed in-person session of SBI-3.

Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

On Sunday, 16 May, delegates heard introductory remarks from the Co-Chairs of the working group on the GBF. The Co-Chairs invited input from the SBI, including on a set of questions pertinent to the development of the GBF (CBD/SBI/3/4). Co-Chair Basile van Havre (Canada) noted the list of questions should be viewed as a checklist to ensure that all items are covered, noting that some items on the SBI-3 agenda, including resource mobilization and mainstreaming, are directly related to the GBF’s targets. Co-Chair Francis Ogwal (Uganda) stressed the need to take into account experiences and lessons learned from the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan to avoid “doing business as usual.”

Deliberations continued Friday and Saturday, 28-29 May. The Secretariat introduced the relevant documents (CBD/SBI/3/4 and Add.1-2, and CBD/SBI/3/18). Anne Teller (EU), co-lead of the second workshop of biodiversity-related conventions on the GBF, outlined the outcomes of the online workshop (18 January-2 February 2021). She stressed that the executive summary of the final report contains a table of conclusions related to several agenda items under discussion at SBI-3 (CBD/SBI/3/INF/29). She highlighted, inter alia, the need for: integrated approaches for reporting and review; close interaction and cooperation among national focal points of different multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs); and coordination on capacity-building activities, technical and scientific cooperation, and knowledge management.

Discussion focused on:

  • a draft outline for a post-2020 gender plan of action;
  • a communication strategy for the GBF;
  • the implementation plan and capacity-building action plan for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety; and
  • other elements on the development of the GBF, including a decision on the periodicity of COP meetings beyond COP16. 

SWITZERLAND reiterated that the working group (WG) is the main forum to negotiate the GBF, including relevant COP decisions, and stressed the need to hold its third meeting face-to-face or in hybrid form. CANADA noted that both the communication strategy and the gender plan of action should be put forward for further negotiation during the third meeting of the WG. ARGENTINA underscored that the GBF goes beyond goals and targets, highlighting means of implementation and enabling conditions. COSTA RICA emphasized that the objectives of all biodiversity-related conventions should be integrated into the GBF, stressing the importance of common indicators.

Many supported developing a post-2020 gender plan of action, with some highlighting areas requiring clarification. COLOMBIA suggested clarifying some of the draft outcomes, noting the need to ensure access, participation, and benefits for women and girls. ARGENTINA recommended broadening various aspects of the goals. COSTA RICA called for aligning the indicators of the gender plan of action with the GBF indicators. CANADA, COSTA RICA, the UK, AUSTRALIA, and MALAWI noted that the document was available late, and requested a contact group to further discuss and improve it, with some proposing to address it at the third WG meeting. AUSTRALIA called for specific references to Indigenous and rural women and girls. PERU drew attention to the Voluntary Guidelines on Governance of Tenure, endorsed by the UN Committee on Food Security.

On the communication strategy, the EU noted that it should be complementary to the relevant framework adopted at COP13, adding that the mandate of the informal advisory committee should be renewed. He further drew attention to the global coalition “United for Biodiversity.” The UK highlighted efforts to demonstrate the interlinkages between biodiversity loss, climate change, and ecosystem degradation. CANADA and MEXICO stressed the need for further deliberations to develop, and timely adopt, a comprehensive and innovative communication strategy. COLOMBIA emphasized that the strategy should promote participation and education in addition to awareness raising. MALAYSIA and others called for involving all stakeholders. BRAZIL noted that an effective communication strategy must resonate with parties, IPLCs, and stakeholders, and expressed concern at the use of concepts such as nature-based solutions. MALAWI suggested designing a strategy both to support developing the GBF and ensure its uptake after adoption.

On the Cartagena Protocol, the EU said that the draft implementation plan and capacity-building action plan should be discussed as two standalone documents and called for indicators to measure success of capacity-building initiatives. SOUTH AFRICA added that a transformative approach is required for effective implementation, built around a theory of change as the GBF. BRAZIL stressed that capacity-building activities must be developed on a demand-driven basis. 

Regarding the periodicity of meetings, SWITZERLAND noted that two-year intervals are appropriate for COP meetings. The UK said that COP meetings should be held no less than every two years.

The IIFB highlighted the full and effective participation of IPLCs is essential for the success of the GBF and called for measures to stop the marginalization of women and girls. The CBD WOMEN’S CAUCUS and GYBN highlighted the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as a key avenue to mainstreaming biodiversity across sectors, adding it should be incorporated in all MEAs. The CBD WOMEN’S CAUCUS called for further developing indicators for the gender plan of action. GYBN noted its efforts on communication and outreach should be recognized. The INTERNATIONAL UNION FOR CONSERVATION OF NATURE (IUCN) underscored the need for a global species action plan to assist all biodiversity-related conventions in implementing actions for the sustainable recovery of wild species, noting support by South Africa and Morocco. UN WOMEN stressed that successful implementation of the gender plan of action depends on the provision of adequate and predictable human and financial resources. She further called for reviewing deliverables and timelines in the gender plan of action, including a mid-term review.

Chair Sörqvist established a contact group to address the draft implementation plan and capacity-building action plan for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, co-chaired by Rigobert Ntep (Cameroon) and Rita Andork (Hungary). She added that, despite the request by some parties to establish a contact group on the gender plan of action, such a group would not be established due to time limitations. She announced that CRPs will be prepared on the gender plan of action and the communication strategy.

On Sunday, 13 June, Co-Chair Andork reported on the work of the group and presented a CRP, including: a draft recommendation; the implementation plan for the Biosafety Protocol; and the capacity-building action plan for the Biosafety Protocol (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.14). She stressed that the contact group Co-Chairs developed a non-paper, which was discussed in the contact group, containing a single decision on the two separate plans. She noted that some parties preferred two separate decisions, which is reflected in the CRP.

Chair Sörqvist noted that the CRP will be addressed at the resumed in-person session.

Resource Mobilization and the Financial Mechanism

On Monday, 17 May, the Secretariat introduced documents on resource mobilization (CBD/SBI/3/5 and Add.1-3), including three reports of the expert panel on resource mobilization, and documents on the financial mechanism (CBD/SBI/3/6 and Add.1-3).

Resource mobilization: Many parties stressed the need for ambitious and timely financial means of implementation, as part of the GBF, including specific quantitative commitments for developed countries. Many also supported the approach on resource mobilization suggested by the expert panel, including: reducing or redirecting resources causing harm to biodiversity; generating additional resources from all sources; and by enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of resource use. Many called for maximizing synergies engaging all relevant institutions and actors.

Kuwait, for ASIA-PACIFIC, emphasized resource mobilization from all sources, including innovative ones, as well as partnerships with climate-related financing. She further stressed that eliminating subsidies and incentives harmful to biodiversity “could go a long way in addressing the funding gap.”

The EU underscored the importance of mobilizing resources from all sources, private and public, assessing their dependence and impact on biodiversity. He emphasized that international and domestic resource mobilization should be presented in a more balanced manner and underscored the need to act on harmful subsidies and incentives, to reach a positive or neutral outcome for biodiversity by 2030. NEW ZEALAND called for strengthening language about the removal of harmful subsidies. INDONESIA called for bridging the funding gap. NORWAY prioritized: adoption of national finance plans; the need to attract finance from all sources; and work on nature-based solutions based on an ecosystem approach. She highlighted focus on the benefits of biodiversity to people and society, tackling the biodiversity crisis together with the health and climate crisis, and respecting human rights obligations in the GBF. ECUADOR supported initiatives that seek to increase international solidarity, including through avoiding illicit financial flows, reducing debt burdens, and better use of debt-swap mechanisms. COSTA RICA drew attention to income generated by extending protected areas, and the need for fair and equitable benefit-sharing from ecosystem services.

The UK suggested the GBF target on resource mobilization reflect the approach of the panel of experts. GEORGIA proposed including a single target on resource mobilization in the GBF, complemented with additional goals on removal of harmful subsidies and mainstreaming. She noted that the resource mobilization strategy should be adopted together with the GBF at COP15, while the national biodiversity finance plans should be adopted simultaneously with the NBSAPs. JAPAN supported a single and qualitative rather than numerical target on resource mobilization and suggested revisiting the mandate under Article 20.2 to establish, periodically review, and, if necessary, amend the list of parties that voluntarily support the Convention. UGANDA supported provisions on assessments and fiscal reforms, as well as targets on promoting regulatory measures to align flows from financial and business institutions.

INDONESIA highlighted resource mobilization and biodiversity mainstreaming as key for building ecosystem resilience during economic recovery from the pandemic. BRAZIL stressed that multilateral financial flows for biodiversity still represent a small fraction of global biodiversity finance, highlighting, with many, CBD Article 20 and, with ARGENTINA and ECUADOR, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. He noted that proposals for redirecting harmful subsidies will not necessarily reduce the need for additional resources and underscored that resources from access and benefit-sharing (ABS) arrangements should be considered a complementary source. CANADA noted Article 20 contains no reference to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. COLOMBIA called for effective and transparent synergies between climate and biodiversity finance. ECUADOR called for better cooperation between the GEF and the Green Climate Fund.

MEXICO said the new resource mobilization strategy should be responsive to national specificities and integrate action on incentives. ETHIOPIA stressed that funding needs should be identified by parties. ARGENTINA called for reorganizing the objectives of the new resource mobilization strategy to prioritize the need for generating resources. SUDAN underscored the importance of assigning responsibilities for implementation of the strategy, as well as for follow-up and evaluation. PERU prioritized support to the countries of origin of agricultural biodiversity, coupled by targets on genetic diversity conservation, and called for specifically addressing implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on ABS. SOUTH AFRICA noted that the current draft elements of the strategy are insufficient to meet the GBF’s ambition.

On national biodiversity finance plans, many called for flexibility. The EU recognized their importance in supporting national implementation and called for “some room for flexibility” on their content and modalities. ASIA-PACIFIC stressed the different processes, budgetary cycles, and dynamics at the national level, cautioning against a “one-size-fits-all” approach. MOROCCO stressed the need for technical assistance and capacity building for their development. The UK supported flexibility in the methodologies to be used by parties.

The CBD WOMEN’S CAUCUS called for integrating gender considerations in the resource mobilization strategy as well as recognizing the contributions of IPLCs, women, youth, and relevant stakeholders. GYBN emphasized the importance of a whole-of-government approach for resource mobilization. He further stressed, with the CBD ALLIANCE, the need for a time-bound action plan to eliminate harmful subsidies as well as a study on the links between austerity, debt, and the implementation of the Convention. The CBD ALLIANCE further called for strong regulatory action to protect biodiversity and cautioned against corporate capture of multilateral policy making.

The UN DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME (UNDP) highlighted the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) and work towards establishing the Taskforce of Nature-related Financial Disclosure (TNFD). CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY underscored that the root causes of the biodiversity crisis lie on our current economic and financial systems, calling for stability of funding and prioritization of human well-being. AVAAZ suggested encouraging financial institutions to develop and apply tools for redirecting finance for biodiversity conservation. WWF INTERNATIONAL, on behalf of many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), called for a higher level of ambition for resource mobilization, closing the finance gap by the end of the decade, and aligning all financial flows with biodiversity objectives. The BUSINESS FOR NATURE COALITION noted eliminating and redirecting harmful subsidies is a central element of the resource mobilization strategy and suggested increasing green finance through innovative solutions. IUCN called for reorientation of capital flows, and appropriate targets and metrics, stressing that the risk to humanity caused by negative impacts to nature must be disclosed and integrated in public and private investment strategies.

Financial mechanism: Many recognized the GEF’s role as the financial mechanism of the Convention since its inception, focusing on its operational effectiveness, accessibility to the most vulnerable, and potential to contribute to the GBF’s implementation through scaling up support. JAPAN called for timely delivery of the independent review. SWITZERLAND requested timely preparation of the documentation regarding GEF-8 replenishment. CANADA expressed concern with the limited involvement of recipient countries in the GEF assessment. BANGLADESH stressed the need for dedicated GEF support for the implementation of the Convention’s Protocols. The DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO supported creation of a special fund dedicated to implementing the Convention. The CONVENTION ON MIGRATORY SPECIES drew attention to advice by biodiversity-related conventions related to GEF-8.

Chair Sörqvist established a contact group, co-chaired by Ines Verleye (Belgium) and Teona Karchava (Georgia), to address the draft recommendations.

On Sunday, 30 May, contact group Co-Chair Karchava reported that the group met five times from 19-27 May. She noted that a CRP was produced on the financial mechanism (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.7) and underscored divergence in views on resource mobilization, unlikely to be bridged even with additional sessions of the contact group. She added that the Co-Chairs would prepare a separate document with a synthesis of views of parties regarding advice to the GBF working group, which would be discussed in an additional session of the contact group on Wednesday, 2 June.

On Sunday 13 June, contact group Co-Chair Verleye reported that the group held its fifth and final meeting, considering resource mobilization, and that the CRP (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.15) contains a number of unresolved matters. She further drew attention to a Co-Chairs’ text, noting it has not been negotiated and does not represent consensus, but contains parties’ comments on important components to be included in the GBF. Chair Sörqvist said that the Co-Chairs’ text will be transmitted to the WG Co-Chairs.

Delegates then addressed the CRP on the financial mechanism (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.7), retaining brackets around all operative paragraphs. They further addressed the annex, which contains terms of reference for the sixth review of the effectiveness of the financial mechanism. On the annex, Bosnia and Herzegovina, for CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE, and PALAU emphasized that countries with economies in transition, least developed countries, and small island developing states (SIDS) are eligible for financial and technical assistance. JAPAN offered a number of technical amendments to make language compatible with GEF practices and language. Sections on methodology and procedures of implementation were mostly agreed upon, while sections on objectives and criteria contain numerous brackets. The CRP was approved as bracketed and an L document will be prepared for consideration at the resumed in-person session.

Capacity Building, Technical and Scientific Cooperation, Technology Transfer, Knowledge Management, and Communication

Plenary addressed this agenda item on Monday and Tuesday, 17-18 May. On 17 May, the Secretariat introduced the relevant documents (CBD/SBI/3/7 and Add.1-2; CBD/SBI/3/8 and Add.1; CBD/SBI/3/9; and many relevant information documents) addressing, among other matters:

  • a draft long-term strategic framework for capacity development;
  • draft terms of reference for an informal advisory group on technical and scientific cooperation;
  • proposals for an inclusive process to review, renew, and strengthen technical and scientific cooperation in support of the GBF, including options for institutional mechanisms to promote and facilitate technical and scientific cooperation;
  • a preliminary final report on the implementation of the short-term action plan 2017-2020;
  • draft elements of a post-2020 work programme for the Clearing-house Mechanism (CHM);
  • the knowledge management component in the GBF and strategic elements to enhance it; and
  • communication, education, and public awareness activities.

During plenary discussions, many underscored that capacity building is an integral part of the GBF, highlighted relevant financial needs, and stressed greater North-South, South-South, and triangular cooperation.

Palau, on behalf of the PACIFIC SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES (P-SIDS), noting Fiji’s neutral position, and Antigua and Barbuda, for the CARIBBEAN SIDS, highlighted the continued relevance of the programme of work on island biodiversity in the post-2020 era. Stressing SIDS unique characteristics, they underscored the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA Pathway). They proposed the development of a capacity development plan on island biodiversity and the inclusion of experts from SIDS in the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on technical and scientific cooperation.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, for the AFRICAN GROUP, welcomed the strategic long-term framework for capacity building, stressing that its implementation should be based on lessons learned, especially regarding resource mobilization. He further supported independent mid-term and final assessments of the framework. The EU said that the suggested mechanisms for coordination, reporting, and review require further improvement, adding that capacity development for the Cartagena Protocol needs a standalone document. NORWAY recommended initiating a peer-review process on the long-term strategic framework. ETHIOPIA underscored the need for capacity-development action plans for the Cartagena and Nagoya Protocols, and called for the development of guidance for the effective implementation of the GBF. MOROCCO favored strategic and integrative approaches to capacity development, focusing on the self-assessment of parties’ existing capacities and needs. The PHILIPPINES emphasized the need for partnerships based on a strategic, whole-of-society approach, and highlighted the pivotal role of regional and sub-regional organizations for capacity-building programmes. MEXICO called for reinforcing synergies with biodiversity-related conventions on the basis of a solid COP mandate.

COLOMBIA emphasized regional asymmetric capacities, and called for the integration of capacity-development plans in the NBSAPs. MALDIVES called for new and innovative mechanisms for technology absorption and maintenance. UGANDA called for specifying the role of the Secretariat in delivering capacity-building tools. SOUTH AFRICA noted the capacity-building framework must promote a balanced approach with distinctive key roles for the public and private sector, and identify predictable funding sources. BRAZIL highlighted that financial resources are a prerequisite for capacity building, in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. ARGENTINA said capacity-building activities should be based on national priorities. PERU prioritized capacity development for national focal points.

Debate focused on options for institutional mechanisms to promote and facilitate technical and scientific cooperation, including: establishment of a global technical and scientific cooperation support center autonomous from the Secretariat; regional support centers designated by the COP; and initiatives coordinated by the Secretariat in collaboration with partners (CBD/SBI/3/7/Add.2). Some supported the draft recommendation on establishing a global support center and a network of regional centers. Others expressed concerns, pointing to fragmentation and lack of coordination of capacity-building initiatives. P-SIDS supported strengthening existing mechanisms rather than establishing new and regional ones, recalling that tailored instruments already exist through the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Pacific Community. The EU and JAPAN called for further discussion on best options and modalities, with JAPAN expressing concern about a proposed request to the GEF to provide funding for a global support center. SWITZERLAND expressed reservations on the establishment of a global support center, and called for mainstreaming biodiversity considerations into existing mechanisms. NORWAY expressed concern regarding proposed activities by institutions outside the CBD, and called for enhanced efforts within existing institutional structures.

COLOMBIA and MEXICO supported the draft recommendation on establishing a global support center and a network of regional centers. BRAZIL said the activities of the support centers should be aligned with the CBD provisions and be demand-driven to address parties’ priorities.

On knowledge management, the EU highlighted the development of a global knowledge center for biodiversity and the Data4Nature initiative aiming to share environmental data throughout the GBF. MALAYSIA pointed to knowledge exchanges, especially on invasive alien species, synthetic biology, climate change, and digital sequence information. INDONESIA, MEXICO, and ARGENTINA called for strengthening the role of the CHM. MEXICO advised inclusion of traditional knowledge in the CHM, subject to prior informed consent.

On communication, the EU called for ensuring parties’ involvement in the communication strategy, focusing on developing synergies. MOROCCO called for the development of a comprehensive communication strategy that goes beyond awareness raising. UGANDA stressed the need for a high-level communication goal for the GBF, with focus on the urgency of the biodiversity crisis. CANADA said the Secretariat should work in collaboration with parties, and requested submission of a progress report on communication activities. 

IIFB, the CBD WOMEN’S CAUCUS, GYBN, and others reiterated the importance of the full and effective participation of IPLCs, women, and youth in capacity building. The CBD WOMEN’S CAUCUS highlighted bottom-up strategies and transformative gender and culturally appropriate education approaches to empower traditional knowledge holders. GYBN highlighted intergenerational perspectives and the development of disaggregated capacity-building indicators.

Underscoring that emerging technologies should be developed according to the precautionary approach, the CBD ALLIANCE emphasized the need for goals to include technology horizon scanning, assessment, and monitoring. Speaking on behalf of participants to the joint fifth Science-Policy Forum for Biodiversity and the eighth International Conference on Sustainability Science, an observer suggested that parties establish biodiversity observation networks and information facilities, supported by data-sharing policies, capacity building, and guidance to generate the required information. IUCN suggested mentioning existing partnerships, including the Panorama – Solutions for a Healthy Planet initiative, the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in European Overseas Territories (BEST initiative), and the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme.

Chair Sörqvist established a contact group to further discuss contentious issues. The contact group was co-chaired by Alfred Oteng-Yeboah (Ghana) and Haike Jan Haanstra (the Netherlands), with Laura Camila Bermudez (Colombia) as alternate.

On Sunday, 30 May, contact group Co-Chair Haanstra noted that the group met three times from 19-26 May. He reported that revised drafts of a non-paper have been circulated and the group would meet on Thursday, 3 June, to address outstanding issues. On Saturday, 12 June, contact group Co-Chair Haanstra reported on the proceedings of the contact group. He introduced a CRP on capacity building and development, technical, and scientific cooperation, and technology transfer (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.13), noting many issues remain outstanding. Chair Sörqvist said this CRP will be deferred for discussion at the resumed in-person session.

Chair Sörqvist then introduced CRPs on:

  • communication (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.3);
  • knowledge management and the Clearing-house Mechanism (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.4); and
  • evaluation of the strategic framework for capacity building and development to support the effective implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.6).

Delegates then addressed the CRP on communication, addressing the Informal Advisory Committee (IAC) on Communication, Education and Public Awareness and communication-related activities, including the communications strategy accompanying the GBF. Among other issues, they debated, without reaching agreement:

  • the membership of the IAC, including whether to extend it to participants in the “Communications Flotilla” and youth representatives;
  • alternative proposals on the use of action-oriented messages to inform and mobilize action by all actors, including the role of the IAC and the Secretariat in the formulation of the messages and their potential to mobilize financial resources; and
  • linkages with the communication strategy to be developed under the GBF.

Delegates reached consensus on a request to the Secretariat, within available resources and in coordination with parties and stakeholders, to support a range of communication activities needed for initiatives to be undertaken in the upcoming biennium. They bracketed requests to the Secretariat to continue to work on a list of communications activities to support implementation of the GBF and develop additional communication activities in coordination and complementarity with relevant programmes of work, noting that linkages with the GBF require further discussions.

Uganda, on behalf of the AFRICAN GROUP, reiterated the region’s disadvantage in participating in virtual negotiations, and called for bracketing the entire CRP on communication, along with all CRPs relevant to the GBF. He explained the region does not oppose to the content of the CRP as a whole but maintained that all GBF-related items should be agreed upon as a package. NORWAY, COLOMBIA, and MEXICO proposed including a reference in the meeting’s report to explain the challenges, rather than bracketing the entire CRP.

Following discussion, Chair Sörqvist suggested, and delegates agreed, to bracket the entire CRP and invite the African Group as well as other interested parties to note their positions in the meeting’s report. The CRPs on communication, knowledge management and the Clearing-house Mechanism, and evaluation of the strategic framework for capacity building and development to support the effective implementation of the Nagoya Protocol will be addressed at the resumed in-person session.

Mechanisms for Reporting, Assessment, and Review of Implementation

On Tuesday, 18 May, the Secretariat introduced background documents, including options to enhance planning, reporting, and review mechanisms, with a view to strengthening the implementation of the Convention (CBD/SBI/3/11 and Add.1-3/Rev.1), which address, among other issues, national reporting and options for enhancing synergies on national reporting among biodiversity-related and Rio Conventions.

Discussion focused on the proposed “enhanced multidimensional approach” to planning, monitoring, reporting, and review, including:

  • development and reporting of “national commitments” as contributions to the global goals and targets of the GBF;
  • national reports on implementation;
  • country-by-country peer reviews of implementation and global stocktakes of national contributions; and
  • global assessments of progress towards the goals and targets of the GBF.

Welcoming the proposals as a good basis for strengthening the monitoring and review mechanisms, the EU noted NBSAPs remain the main instrument for implementation but need to be strengthened to implement the GBF. He suggested: preparation of modalities for transmitting information on national commitments and headline indicators; global stocktakes by COPs 17 and 19, including data collection and high-level political phases; and continuation of the open-ended forum on implementation.

The UK proposed prioritizing mechanisms that need to be adopted at COP15, including: the development of a common approach for communicating national ambitions, including targets, commitments, contributions, and actions; ways to collate and analyze parties’ ambitions, and to strengthen the review of implementation, including the global stocktake; and developing a streamlined approach to the seventh and eighth national reports.

CHINA, NORWAY, SWITZERLAND, SOUTH AFRICA, and TOGO, among others, highlighted that NBSAPs are the main tool for planning and implementation of the Convention, cautioning against the introduction of national commitments as an additional tool. BRAZIL also noted that implementation of the GBF must be based on improving the efficiency of existing mechanisms, including NBSAPs and national reports, and expressed concern about the proposed multidimensional approach, adding, with ARGENTINA, that national commitments fall outside the scope of Articles 6 and 26 of the Convention. ARGENTINA called for reflecting on lessons learned, including financial and technical limitations for implementation, and the need for balanced implementation of the three CBD objectives. COLOMBIA proposed developing a roster of experts to advise parties on implementation gaps upon their request. Noting that national commitments require more discussion and should remain voluntary, MOROCCO called for exchange of experiences, resources for developing countries to support the new planning and reporting cycles, and optimization of resource use through coordination with relevant processes. NORWAY, SWITZERLAND, and BRAZIL said the Working Group on the GBF should address the item. SWITZERLAND further suggested that a robust reporting and review mechanism should: detect problems and stimulate mutual learning; contain an updated and aligned NBSAP; use headline indicators; and aggregate the results of national reports for global-level assessments. SOUTH AFRICA called for a preliminary global stocktake to ensure that national targets are commensurate with the global targets.

CHINA stressed capacity and financial support is required for developing countries to implement reporting requirements. Many cautioned against adding complexity to national reporting requirements. MALAYSIA, with many, called for synergies with other MEAs to reduce the reporting burden. CAMBODIA suggested establishing a platform to promote cooperation on national reporting. UGANDA called for pursuing an integrated approach, enabling business contributions to the framework’s implementation and to national commitments. PERU emphasized the need for effective monitoring with measurable indicators, developing simple monitoring mechanisms, and improving synergies among the biodiversity-related conventions.

A contact group was established, co-chaired by Andrew Stott (UK) and Gillian Guthrie (Jamaica). On Sunday, 30 May, the contact group Co-Chairs noted that the group met three times from 20-25 May and produced a CRP (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.5). They said that parties were able to reach consensus on various issues or narrow down options where agreement could not be reached. The CRP will be addressed at the resumed in-person session.


On Friday, 28 May, the Secretariat presented documents on mainstreaming biodiversity between and across sectors, including a draft long-term strategic approach to mainstreaming biodiversity and an action plan (CBD/SBI/3/13 and Add.1, and CBD/SBI/3/19), further drawing attention to relevant information documents.

The UK introduced a submission on the engagement of subnational governments, cities, and other local authorities in the GBF. He highlighted the Edinburgh process, a consultation involving subnational and local authorities led by the Scottish government, and the relevant Edinburgh Declaration, which has attracted 150 endorsements and will remain open for signature until COP15.

Delegates stressed the importance of biodiversity mainstreaming for achieving the objectives of the Convention, its 2050 vision of living in harmony with nature, and its central role in the GBF. Many emphasized the role of efficient synergies with other conventions and processes.

Morocco, for the AFRICAN GROUP, stressed the long-term strategic approach should: cover all sectors identified as high-priority in relevant COP decisions; include additional details on capacity-building measures; and better align with the GBF’s goals and targets. He further highlighted the importance of sufficient financial resources and an effective long-term communication plan.

The EU underscored the importance of whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches. He noted that written proposals will be submitted on the long-term strategic approach to mainstreaming and its corresponding action plan, as well as on the harmonization of indicators and milestones with the ones used for the GBF. SWITZERLAND preferred integrating the long-term approach into the GBF, for improved visibility, and called for updating the Convention’s programmes of work to be used as mainstreaming tools. The UK supported regular reviews of the long-term approach. INDONESIA called for solid involvement of the private sector. UGANDA and the UK highlighted the need for mainstreaming biodiversity within business and financial institutions.

BRAZIL stressed that the deliverables under consideration deviate from what was requested in the relevant COP decisions, and that the proposals, especially the action plan, contain a complex set of activities, many of which fall outside the Convention’s scope. Opposing the action plan, he suggested that a COP decision “take note of” the long-term approach. MEXICO called for clarifying and specifying action areas in the long-term approach, suggesting indicators on the engagement of subnational and local governments, as well as on the internalization of positive and negative externalities. CHINA stressed the long-term approach should promote equity and local community participation and integrate green livelihoods, ecosystem restoration, and climate change considerations. COLOMBIA proposed expanding activities on negative incentives beyond agriculture and further called for including actions on mainstreaming in the NBSAPs. ARGENTINA and SOUTH AFRICA proposed reference to the multiple values of biodiversity.

The AFRICAN GROUP supported the continuation of the work of the informal advisory group on mainstreaming. ARGENTINA requested gathering information on funding gaps and capacity required for mainstreaming. The EU noted that the mandate could be reviewed or reinforced, engaging with a broader network of sectoral organizations. MEXICO, the PHILIPPINES, and MALAYSIA supported establishing an AHTEG with broadened terms of reference.

On subnational and local governments, many supported the principles of the Edinburgh process and the proposed plan of action as a flexible framework, calling for the integration of these principles in the GBF.

Stressing governments’ responsibility to ensure fair distribution of natural resources, the CBD WOMEN’S CAUCUS highlighted environmental justice and human rights perspectives, including gender. GYBN called for strong regulatory mechanisms to end unsustainable production, eliminate subsidies, and protect human rights, cautioning against an undue focus on business and finance. The CBD ALLIANCE underscored that discussion on mainstreaming should concern the regulation, rather than involvement, of businesses. ICLEI – LOCAL GOVERNMENTS FOR SUSTAINABILITY drew attention to local biodiversity action plans and suggested that national reports cover development and implementation of local plans.

The BUSINESS FOR NATURE COALITION noted business and finance are key actors for mainstreaming. The INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON MINING AND METALS supported consistent regulation, including biodiversity-inclusive environmental impact assessments.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) drew attention to its strategy and recently adopted action plan on mainstreaming biodiversity across agricultural sectors.

Chair Sörqvist said a CRP would be prepared on engagement with subnational governments, while consultations in a Friends of the Chair group would be held on mainstreaming.

On Sunday, 13 June, Juliana Arciniegas (Colombia) reported on deliberations in the Friends of the Chair group on mainstreaming. She noted that the resulting CRP, including a draft recommendation and an annex on the long-term approach to mainstreaming (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.16), is streamlined, containing few brackets. She added that advice of relevance to the GBF will be forwarded to the Co-Chairs of the Open-ended Working Group.

Chair Sörqvist noted that discussions on the CRP.s on mainstreaming, as well as on engagement with subnational governments (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.8), will be deferred to the resumed in-person session.

Specialized International ABS Instruments

On Saturday, 29 May, the Secretariat introduced the document on specialized international ABS instruments (Nagoya Protocol Article 4.4), including indicative criteria that could be used to identify such an instrument, and what could be a possible process for recognizing it (CBD/SBI/3/14).

Chair Sörqvist called for a moment of silence in memory of Marlé Aguilar, national ABS focal point in Honduras, who recently passed away due to COVID-19.

Malawi, for the AFRICAN GROUP, said that the Nagoya Protocol functions as the prevailing regime in the absence of specialized ABS instruments that meet certain conditions, and cautioned against fragmentation of international ABS instruments. She noted with concern that negotiations to enhance the functioning of the Multilateral System of ABS under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) collapsed over disagreements on digital sequence information (DSI). SOUTH AFRICA and ARGENTINA underscored the sovereign right of parties to recognize a specialized international ABS instrument, with SOUTH AFRICA adding it should be consistent with the CBD and Protocol’s objectives and address IPLC issues. SWITZERLAND proposed a party or group of parties could recognize specialized international ABS instruments. SOUTH AFRICA and MEXICO stressed there should be no hierarchy between the Protocol and any specialized international ABS instrument. The UK noted any indicative criteria should not jeopardize the efficiency of existing ABS mechanisms, in particular the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework of the World Health Organization (WHO). The EU noted that a specialized international ABS instrument must be agreed by an intergovernmental process, but not necessarily be developed via one.

INDONESIA supported inviting relevant organizations and processes to take into account the indicative criteria in their efforts to develop international ABS instruments. SWITZERLAND underscored the need for coordination among instruments and processes through reporting, to ensure mutual supportiveness. MALAYSIA stressed the need for consultations at the level of national competent authorities on the type of resources to be covered by such instruments.

The FAO drew attention to collaboration between the ITPGRFA and the CBD Secretariats to ensure mutual supportiveness in implementing the Treaty and the Nagoya Protocol. The CBD WOMEN’S CAUCUS stressed the need for full and effective participation of rights holders, including IPLCs, women, and youth, in any recognition of such an instrument. TWN stressed the need to ensure consistency with fair and equitable benefit-sharing, in particular when it comes to developments on the sharing of influenza viruses and access to vaccines and other benefits in the context of the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework of the WHO; and called for regular review of specialized agreements by the Meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol.

On Sunday, 13 June, plenary discussed a CRP, including a draft recommendation and indicative criteria for specialized international ABS instruments under Article 4.4 of the Nagoya Protocol (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.11). Delegates debated, without reaching agreement, paragraphs in the recommendation addressing:

  • whether to include references to paragraph 4 of Article 4 or to the entire article;
  • an invitation to relevant international organizations and intergovernmental processes to take into account the indicative criteria in their efforts to “develop” or also “implement” specialized international ABS instruments; and
  • a request for information sharing on the specific genetic resources and/or specific uses, and traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources covered by a specialized instrument.

South Africa, on behalf of the AFRICAN GROUP, requested putting the entire CRP in brackets, due to its relevance for the GBF negotiations, in particular benefit-sharing from DSI. The request was accepted, and the CRP was bracketed.

Global Multilateral Benefit-sharing Mechanism

On Saturday, 29 May, the Secretariat introduced the relevant documents, including a study identifying specific transboundary cases of genetic resources and traditional knowledge, or for which it is not possible to grant or obtain prior informed consent, and a draft recommendation, including a proposal for establishment of an AHTEG on a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism in accordance with Nagoya Protocol Article 10 (CBD/SBI/3/15 and Add.1). Parties expressed divergent views on whether a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism is needed and whether an AHTEG should be established. 

South Africa, for the AFRICAN GROUP, urged advancing the discussion towards developing the relevant modalities for the operationalization of Article 10 and the development of a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism. BRAZIL noted that a growing number of parties recognize cases that require establishing such a mechanism. MALAYSIA highlighted prior informed consent as a fundamental concept of the ABS regime. INDONESIA cautioned against the development of an open access regime and emphasized that DSI is an integral part of genetic resources, calling for implementing the PIC requirement. MEXICO noted the need to weigh the financial costs and other implications of creating a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism.

The AFRICAN GROUP, MALAYSIA, INDONESIA, and BRAZIL supported establishing an AHTEG to develop relevant modalities. The EU and the UK emphasized the collection of cases does not establish the necessity for establishing such a mechanism, thus discussions on modalities are premature. The EU and SWITZERLAND noted that the cases either fall outside the scope of the Nagoya Protocol or require progress in its implementation.

The CBD WOMEN’S CAUCUS supported establishing a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism for cases not covered by the Protocol’s bilateral approach, stressing the rights of IPLCs, women, and youth. The FAO highlighted the Multilateral System of the ITPGRFA, which provides access to over 2.1 million samples, and includes both financial and non-financial benefit-sharing, looking forward to sharing lessons learned.

A contact group, co-chaired by S. Kerketta (India) and Thomas Greiber (Germany) was established to further address the issue. On Sunday, 13 June, contact group Co-Chair Greiber reported on deliberations. He drew attention to a CRP, which contains a draft recommendation largely in brackets and terms of reference for an AHTEG (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.12). He highlighted a proposal in the group that the recommendation be presented to the COP rather than the Meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol.

South Africa, for the AFRICAN GROUP, called for a coordinated approach, noting that issues under the global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism should also be considered during the discussion on DSI at the third meeting of the WG on the GBF.

Chair Sörqvist noted that the CRP will be deferred to the resumed session.

Review of Effectiveness of the Processes under the Convention and its Protocols

On Sunday, 29 May, the Secretariat introduced the relevant document, including a draft recommendation on experience with concurrent and with virtual meetings (CBD/SBI/3/12).

Many underscored that the organization of virtual meetings aims to respond to the current extraordinary circumstances and should not be considered a precedent for holding virtual meetings in the future. They further highlighted structural and technical challenges for developing countries that undermine their full and effective participation in virtual meetings, and called for ensuring transparency and fairness, including through more equitable scheduling of sessions across time zones. The UK proposed rotating meeting times through time zones and enabling submission of written comments in advance to facilitate discussions. MALAYSIA encouraged holding the COP face-to-face when the pandemic-related situation improves. TWN stressed ensuring digital security and called for making available financial savings arising from cancelled meetings to developing countries to address infrastructure-related challenges.

Peru, on behalf of the LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN GROUP (GRULAC), noted that concurrent meetings of governing bodies of the Convention and its Protocols help with promoting synergies, but should ensure adequate time for all items. BRAZIL called for appropriate representation of developing countries, sufficient time for items under the Convention and the Protocols, and streamlining the agendas to reduce the need for contact groups.

A CRP was prepared, including a draft recommendation on experience with concurrent and with virtual meetings (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.10), which will be addressed at the resumed session.

Cooperation with Other Conventions, International Organizations, and Initiatives

On Friday, 11 June, the Secretariat introduced this item, including a summary of activities to cooperate with other conventions and organizations, focusing on their contributions to the preparation of the GBF and toward its implementation (CBD/SBI/3/10) and several information documents. Some parties noted the late publication of relevant documents, reserving their final positions for the resumed session.

Many parties underscored the importance of cooperation and synergies for achieving the objectives of the Convention and the effective development and implementation of the GBF. Others highlighted the need to avoid duplication of efforts, while respecting the different mandates of each convention and maintaining a party-driven approach to cooperation. Some pointed to the Liaison Group of Biodiversity-related Conventions as a mechanism to foster collective action, while others noted the need to integrate biodiversity considerations in all relevant multilateral environmental agreements. The EU and SWITZERLAND highlighted the conclusions of the follow-up workshop of biodiversity-related conventions on the GBF (Bern II), held virtually in January and February 2021.

The EU, MEXICO, SWITZERLAND, and AUSTRALIA emphasized the need to increase ownership of the GBF by all related processes. The EU and MEXICO suggested different agencies assume lead roles in specific parts of the framework. AUSTRALIA and CANADA highlighted the importance of enhancing cooperation, while respecting the mandates of relevant bodies and avoiding duplication of efforts. COLOMBIA urged integration of biodiversity considerations in all relevant agreements.

CANADA suggested fostering synergies with IPLCs and local authorities, NGOs, and groups representing women and youth. The UK underscored enhancing cooperation with the WHO, the World Economic Forum, and the GEF; and noted the promotion of integrated approaches to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, and land degradation during their UNFCCC presidency. JAPAN noted the challenges reported by the GEF on poor follow-throughs on lessons learned and knowledge management leading to low sustainability of some biodiversity-related projects.

NORWAY stressed that establishing a liaison mechanism among parties to the various biodiversity-related conventions at the intergovernmental level will increase transparency, offering co-benefits regarding mainstreaming and efficient resource use. BRAZIL cautioned against creating additional institutional mechanisms that divert resources away from implementation.

MEXICO, with SWITZERLAND, highlighted the need for synergies regarding data management, tools, and methodologies. ECUADOR called for strengthening cooperation on means of implementation.

ARGENTINA called for consistency in implementation while respecting the different mandates of MEAs. Noting cooperation initiatives must be on a party-driven basis and not divert from agreed approaches and terms, BRAZIL cautioned against activities on nature-based solutions.

Stressing the need to take a human rights-based approach in the attainment of CBD objectives and the GBF, the IIFB urged collaborating with human rights instruments, and promoting links with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on biological and cultural diversity. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) drew attention to the project on “Realizing synergies for biodiversity,” the Data Reporting Tool for MEAs, and the “Common approach to integrating biodiversity and nature-based solutions for sustainable development into the UN policy and programme planning and delivery.” FAO highlighted long-standing collaboration between the Secretariats of the CBD and the ITPGRFA, including through a Memorandum of Cooperation, and urged collaboration through national focal points.

On Sunday, 13 June, Chair Sörqvist said that, following a Bureau decision, plenary consideration of the item will continue at the resumed in-person session, and a CRP will be subsequently developed.

Administrative and Budgetary Matters

On Sunday, 13 June, plenary took note of the report on financial and administrative matters of the last biennium (CBD/SBI/3/17/Rev.1), presented by the Secretariat.

Adoption of the Report

On Sunday, 13 June, Rapporteur Okoree presented the draft report of the meeting (CBD/SBI/3/Part1/L.1/Rev.1).

The Secretariat reminded delegates that the following CRPs were deferred to the resumed session:

  • options to enhance planning, reporting, and review mechanisms with a view to strengthening the implementation of the Convention (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.5);
  • evaluation of the strategic framework for capacity building and development to support the effective implementation of the Nagoya Protocol (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.6);
  • engagement with subnational governments, cities, and other local authorities to enhance implementation of the GBF (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.8);
  • post-2020 global biodiversity framework: other matters related to the GBF (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.9);
  • review of the effectiveness of processes under the Convention and its Protocols (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.10);
  • specialized international ABS instruments (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.11);
  • capacity building and development, technical and scientific cooperation, and technology transfer (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.13);
  • implementation plan and capacity-building action plan for the Cartagena Protocol (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.14);
  • resource mobilization (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.15); and
  • mainstreaming of biodiversity within and across sectors and other strategic actions to enhance implementation (CBD/SBI/3/CRP.16).

Following discussions, the Secretariat said that a list of intersessional work arising from the outcomes of the meeting will be provided in an annex to the report.

Regarding a paragraph explaining the African Group’s intention to bracket draft recommendations with a substantial bearing on the GBF, ECUADOR suggested adding that various parties also raised concerns about the disadvantages of virtual negotiations for developing countries and expressed their solidarity with the position of the African Group.

The EU said the Secretariat should organize the peer review of the capacity-building action plan for the Cartagena Protocol to facilitate further discussion on indicators prior to the in-person meeting of SBI-3. The EU further underscored issues on cooperation with other conventions should be duly taken into account by the Co-Chairs of the WG on the GBF.

CANADA stressed the need for knowledge management to incorporate traditional knowledge, also calling attention to intersessional work needed on mechanisms for reporting, assessment, and review of implementation.

With these and other minor amendments, the meeting’s report was adopted.

Chair Sörqvist thanked all participants for their hard work and commitment and suspended the meeting at 10:22 am EDT (GMT-4).

A Brief Analysis of the Meeting

Those involved in international biodiversity policy making just emerged from six weeks of online negotiations. The subsidiary bodies of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)—the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) and the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI)—held back-to-back virtual meetings in an effort to keep up with preparations for the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP), scheduled to be held later this year in Kunming, China. As uncertainty continues with regard to the global management of the COVID-19 pandemic, a series of challenges remains: How can parties make good use of the additional time? How can parties negotiate in a virtual setting in a digitally unequal world with multiple time zones? How can parties make progress even on technical matters when the main task ahead, developing a post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF), is a comprehensive endeavor linked to the entire CBD agenda? How can the CBD maintain momentum for action on biodiversity?

Focusing on the SBI deliberations, this brief analysis first outlines the complications arising from online negotiations. It then draws attention to those agenda items that are deemed to play a central role in the attainment of an ambitious GBF: matters related to access and benefit-sharing (ABS), resource mobilization, and monitoring and review of implementation. In explaining the main negotiating positions and linkages of these items to targets, and biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, it concludes that reaching agreement on the GBF requires bold commitments, not only on conservation, but also on international financial flows and other means of implementation. Finally, it highlights relevant developments outside the virtual negotiating space that can inspire action and maintain momentum in such challenging times.

Staying Online

In the early days of the pandemic, some hailed the opportunity to hold virtual negotiations, noting the environmental and financial benefits of reducing travel, and the potential for increased transparency and public awareness. They soon realized, however, that in a deeply unequal world not everybody shares a fiber-optic cable. Representatives of the African Group repeatedly stressed during the negotiations the constraints countries in the region have been encountering with regard to internet access and uninhibited electricity provision. As these constraints had a severe impact on their full and effective participation in the negotiations, the African Group reserved its position and requested keeping in brackets a number of conference room papers (CRPs) on items of relevance to the GBF. This was done despite the explicit understanding, prior to deliberations, that the session would not formally adopt any final outcome. It would conduct text-based negotiations on the CRPs, but would defer adoption of final outcomes to a resumed session, to be held in person when the pandemic allows. Nevertheless, in view of prior experience with delegations requesting not to re-open discussions on “clean” text, the African Group wished to make sure it would have the opportunity to develop and present a coordinated position, and participate in full capacity in the negotiations. Other developing countries, particularly from Latin America, shared these concerns; the digital divide augmented the socio-economic divisions already deepened by the pandemic.

The online setting comes with additional challenges, including the almost impossible task to accommodate all time zones and the need to secure digital space for closed negotiations. Accommodating all time zones to the extent possible means nobody is expected to negotiate from midnight to five in the morning. This results in a limited number of timeslots, and does not allow for more than a three-hour plenary meeting. As SBI and SBSTTA plenaries were alternating, arrangements for contact groups were even more difficult, with schedules eventually hindering participation from Asia and the Pacific. As full participation was almost impossible, most contact groups established during SBI-3 engaged in preparing the groundwork for upcoming in-person negotiations, but did not even attempt to reach consensus on controversial topics. These included contact groups that addressed critical issues for the development of the GBF, such as the global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism, resource mobilization, and monitoring and review.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Since the Convention’s inception, CBD negotiations have had to balance traditional conservation and sustainable development targets. The equitable use of biodiversity for development and the need for international financial flows to implement conservation objectives have always been at the heart of the debates, given that most biodiversity hotspots are located in the developing world and in lands traditionally occupied by Indigenous Peoples. This is reflected in the Convention’s third objective on fair and equitable benefit-sharing, as well as in policy developments to integrate benefit-sharing into the Convention’s thematic work programmes and operationalize it, mainly through the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing (ABS). This balance was also reflected in the famous “package” adopted in 2010 in Nagoya, which included the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 with its Aichi Targets, the Nagoya Protocol on ABS, and a decision on resource mobilization.

The universe of the Convention has grown since 2010. Two protocols have entered into force, the Nagoya Protocol and the Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. New technologies have challenged the Convention’s mechanisms and processes, with synthetic biology and digital sequence information (DSI) high on the agenda. Meanwhile, the international community has collectively failed to achieve the Aichi Targets and reverse biodiversity loss. The recipe for success in negotiations, however, remains the same: maintaining balance between the CBD objectives on biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, and fair and equitable benefit-sharing; and maintaining balance between commitments on conservation and on means of implementation, including finance, capacity building, and technology transfer.

SBI-3 deliberations reaffirmed this observation. Developing countries repeatedly called for balance between the CBD objectives and emphasized that the goals and targets of the GBF need to include commitments on means of implementation, specifically an increase in international financial flows for biodiversity and policy action to reverse or redirect harmful subsidies. The African Group’s request to bracket ABS-related CRPs, including on specialized international ABS agreements and the global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism, also reflects a focus on benefit-sharing. In particular, as explained by the African representatives, the items are relevant to benefit-sharing from use of DSI—an issue that is considered central to the GBF.

The need for a commitment by developed countries to provide means of implementation was reflected in the deliberations of the contact group on resource mobilization. The resulting CRP. was deferred for consideration at the resumed session, but provides a good picture of the main position of developing countries: the need for developed countries to honor their commitments under Article 20 of the Convention on financial resources, a commitment that cannot be replaced by “new and innovative” funding mechanisms, such as market-based mechanisms. This is backed up by research showing that international financial flows for biodiversity represent only a small fraction of total biodiversity finance, with biodiversity action depending mostly on national funding. A text by the contact group Co-Chairs synthesizing parties’ views on elements on resource mobilization of relevance to the GBF will be transmitted to the Co-Chairs of the Working Group on the GBF, scheduled to meet virtually in August, but it remains to be seen whether compromise solutions can be found.

Developed countries, on the other hand, pushed for improved monitoring and review mechanisms. Arguing that such mechanisms can improve implementation by providing international oversight, and drawing parallels to the Paris Agreement on climate change, they proposed periodic reviews and stocktakes of progress in implementation. Developing countries once again responded that implementation requires means, not control mechanisms. Difficult contact group deliberations were reflected in a CRP, which will be considered at the resumed session.

Maintaining Momentum, Raising Ambition

There is no doubt that crafting an ambitious GBF that the entire international community will aspire to is a complex endeavor. Until international negotiations can resume in person, maintaining the momentum for biodiversity has been a core challenge. A series of online workshops and consultations have been successful in building understanding on complicated issues such as DSI and online meetings have moved the agenda forward. SBI-3 is a step in this process. While constraints linked to the online setting did not allow for the development of compromises, the meeting served its purpose by clarifying negotiating positions, reflecting such positions in documents, and highlighting linkages among agenda items that need to be resolved in tandem for a successful outcome. This kind of technical work is certainly a prerequisite for success; however, it can hardly provide the inspiration required to build a framework that advocates the need for transformative change.

As the biodiversity community awaits the return of in-person negotiations, a series of developments beyond the CBD realm may be helpful in raising ambition heading toward COP15. Launched during the SBI deliberations, the workshop report on biodiversity and climate change co-sponsored by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted that biodiversity loss and climate change are both driven by human economic activities and mutually reinforce each other. Neither will be successfully resolved unless they are tackled together. Also just officially launched, the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, aims to deliver a framework by 2023 for organizations to report and act on evolving nature-related risks. These developments serve to showcase the importance of biodiversity within the larger environmental community and beyond; they build awareness and, combined with the necessary technical work, can build the case for transformative change.

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