Daily report for 2 September 1996

2nd Meeting of the CBD Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA)

The first day of the second session of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical andTechnological Advice (SBSTTA-2) commenced with an opening Plenary. Following this,two Working Groups met in the late morning and afternoon.


The meeting was opened by J. H. Seyani (Malawi), the SBSTTA-1 Chair. He noted thatthe work of SBSTTA is recognized and valued by the Conference of the Parties (COP). Peter Johan Schei (Norway), SBSTTA-2 Chair, noted that SBSTTA is neither a “mini-COP” nor a “drafting group”, and he highlighted the importance of scientific integrity.Speaking on behalf of UNEP’s Executive Director, Jorge Illueca, Assistant ExecutiveDirector, noted that the CBD can only succeed if it is built on a sound scientificfoundation. Calestous Juma, Executive Secretary of the CBD Secretariat, stated that helooked forward to working closely with the SBSTTA Bureau.

The Secretariat introduced the provisional agenda (UNEP/CBD/ SBSTTA/2/1/Rev.1 andSBSTTA/2/1/Add.1/Rev.2). He noted that the Bureau had agreed to delete Agenda Item3.12.2 (bio-prospecting of the deep sea bed) because the Secretariat had not had time toconsult with the Secretariat of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, as required byCOP-2. The Plenary then adopted the Agenda.

The CHAIR invited Bureau nominations from regional groups. The Western Europeanand Others Group (WEOG) nominated Francesco Mauro (Italy) and Peter Johan Schei(Norway), and the African Region nominated a representative from Swaziland and ZeinebBelkhir (Tunisia). The Plenary will reconvene briefly on Tuesday to complete the electionof officers. The Plenary then adopted the organization of work. The CHAIR urgedWorking Groups to return to the final Plenary with agreed recommendations to avoidfurther substantial discussion. He also urged participants to consider ways of making useof the existing scientific community to limit the creation of new subsidiary bodies. TheCHAIR then announced the appointments of rapporteurs: Zeineb Belkhir (Tunisia),Working Group 1; Gabor Nechay (Hungary), Working Group 2; and Setijati Sastrapradja(Indonesia), Plenary.


The CHAIR introduced Agenda Item 3.1 on assessment of biodiversity and methodologiesfor future assessment (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/2). NORWAY distinguished betweenknowledge assessments and status assessments. The US proposed flexible methodologies.CAMEROON noted the conflicting needs for reporting convenience and harmonization.SOUTH KOREA suggested that reporting should be tied to country capacity. GHANAproposed funding for countries lacking capacity. SWEDEN called for adding biodiversityto resource assessment in a number of sectors. NIGERIA called for capacity building toassist assessment and data management. SWITZERLAND said SBSTTA and the CBDshould take advantage of 1995 UNEP assessments. He noted the work of the FAO onagricultural biodiversity. ZIMBABWE noted that some harmful agricultural methods inneed of assessment involve transferred technologies.

Under Agenda Item 3.2, the Secretariat introduced the report on identification, monitoringand assessment of components of biodiversity and processes that have adverse impacts(UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/3). NEW ZEALAND proposed that the Secretariat develop“pragmatic” guidelines on assessments and consider the experience of other biodiversity-related conventions. KENYA proposed that the Secretariat prepare a background paperon freshwater ecosystems. GERMANY noted the importance of biosphere reserves, andcalled for clear priorities on the monitoring of processes and categories of activities.Monitoring and indicators need to be reflected in SBSTTA’s work programme as a jointstanding item.

The MARSHALL ISLANDS, supported by JAMAICA, noted that radioactivecontamination resulting from nuclear testing should be listed as a threat to biodiversity.URUGUAY said that information on laws and regulations should be included in nationalreports and called for assessment of temperate zone ecosystems, particularly grasslandsand wetlands. The UK stressed the importance of national action, capacity building andimproved training. He urged the initiation of intersessional work on identification andmonitoring.

SWEDEN stressed that “assessment” has taken on many different meanings. She saidthere are generally accepted best methods for assessing the status of resources, but nomethods for assessing related components of biodiversity. The NETHERLANDShighlighted his country’s efforts under UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook programme.The US noted that states should consider carefully what they are assessing and why. Hesuggested focusing on short-term strategies as a start.

ARGENTINA questioned a Secretariat reference to biodiversity information beyondnational sovereignty, and the competence of SBSTTA to make financial recommendationsto the COP. The EUROPEAN COMMUNITY drew attention to conventions withdeveloped criteria for identifying components of biodiversity. SRI LANKA addedimproper land management to a paragraph on categories of activities leading to threats tobiodiversity. AUSTRALIA suggested that MOUs be pursued with other organizations andconventions already using indicators. ZIMBABWE noted that the secretariat’s categoriesfailed to take account of the possible harmful effects of non-use of biodiversity, citing theexample of prohibitions giving rise to uncontrolled use. COSTA RICA asked foradditional references to: threatened ecosystems in a section on components of biodiversity;hunting sports and airport/port construction in the categories of activities leading tothreats; and unsustainable consumption habits to a paragraph on ultimate causes of threats.CANADA, commenting on global and national indicator initiatives, said his country haslearned that one cannot wait for the perfect product. BURKINA FASO added over-exploitation of natural resources to categories of activities leading to threats tobiodiversity. PERU added migratory agriculture to the same paragraph.

Under Agenda Item 3.3, the Secretariat introduced the report on indicators for assessingthe effectiveness of measures taken under the Convention (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/4).GERMANY welcomed the establishment of an expert group. SWITZERLAND saidSBSTTA should ensure that this item is on the permanent work agenda for the COP andthe UK called for concentrating on proven successful indicators. COLOMBIA proposedcriteria for the selection of indicator species, including: the availability of taxonomicexpertise; a minimal sample requirement; avoiding groups with seasonal or long-termcycles; low impact sampling; and sensitivity to human activity. AUSTRALIA suggested atimetable for the development of the Clearinghouse Mechanism (CHM). The WORLDBANK said indicators should be straightforward at project level and linked to incentivestructures.


Chair Francesco Mauro (Italy) introduced Working Group 2 (WG2) emphasizing the needfor solid and scientifically-based contributions. The order of items to be discussed waschanged to the following: transfer and development of technology (Agenda Item 3.5);capacity-building for biosafety (3.7); CHM (3.8); indigenous knowledge (3.6); capacitybuilding for taxonomy (3.4); and economic valuation of biodiversity (3.11).

In the afternoon, the Secretariat introduced the document on technology transfer,including biotechnology (UNEP/SBSTTA/2/6), which outlines technology transfer issuesand recommends a liaison group to encourage private sector participation. Duringsubsequent discussion, delegates generally agreed with the document on the role of theprivate sector in the CBD process. MALAYSIA called for elaboration of the linkagebetween biotechnology and biodiversity conservation, particularly in bio-prospecting.GERMANY, CANADA, NORWAY, COLOMBIA, the UK, FRANCE and the USquestioned the need for an additional subsidiary body on technology transfer, as proposedin the Secretariat’s document.

GERMANY stressed the need to integrate the issue of access to and transfer oftechnology with other issues of the Convention. UNCTAD emphasized a number of itsactivities related to the biodiversity process, including work on strategic technologypartnerships and launching the Biotrade Initiative promoting conservation and capacitybuilding. CHINA called for SBSTTA to facilitate the exchange of experts and thepromotion of training with regard to technology transfer.

INDIA emphasized the need to make use of genetic resources to achieve the CBD’sobjective of the equitable sharing of benefits. SWITZERLAND called for incentivemeasures, such as concessional terms, risk sharing and financial mechanisms. CANADAcalled on the CHM to facilitate the interaction between technology users and providers.ZIMBABWE emphasized that transferred technology can sometimes contribute toenvironmental degradation. Supported by THAILAND, he stressed the need forinvestment in capacity building. NORWAY drew attention to the importance of controland management mechanisms for biotechnology.

JAPAN suggested that the proposed liaison group distinguish needs for public versusprivate sector technology. COLOMBIA called upon governments of developed countriesto create incentives for private sector technology transfer. The UK called for a“bottom-up” and a sectoral approach. FRANCE said individual states should decidewhether to provide incentives for technology transfer and called for safeguards forpatented technology.

The US suggested that technology tranfer could be dealt with in specific agenda items.NORTH KOREA called for priority areas for technology transfer. The PHILIPPINEScalled for: an inventory of needed technologies; incentives for private sector technologytransfer; linking technology transfer to biosafety issues; and intellectual propertyprotection without monopoly control. MALAWI recommended developing terms ofreference for a liaison group, and the CHAIR stated that the topic would be revisited later.AUSTRALIA stressed the role of multilateral development banks and intellectual propertyrights to facilitate technology transfer. INDIA highlighted the transfer of indigenoustechnologies to developed countries.

The Secretariat next introduced the document on capacity-building in biosafety(UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/8). The document recognizes the work of the Ad HocWorking Group on Biosafety and outlines overall capacity building needs. TheNETHERLANDS, supported by CANADA, NEW ZEALAND, SWITZERLAND, theUK, and INDIA, called for a twin-track approach to continue discussions on aninternational legal instrument on biosafety while implementing the UNEP InternationalTechnical Guidelines on Biosafety (UNEP Guidelines). Supported by most delegations, hecautioned against duplicating the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group.

The MARSHALL ISLANDS highlighted the need for capacity building. SWITZERLANDsuggested funding capacity building through the GEF. INDONESIA emphasized the linkbetween biosafety and technology transfer. The UK, supported by INDIA, suggested thatCOP-3 develop funding recommendations on capacity building. SOUTH KOREAhighlighted insufficient capacity for risk assessment and management. ARGENTINArecommended regional training programmes on biosafety.

GERMANY suggested confining the discussion to capacity building. AUSTRIA joinedGERMANY and the UK in stating that capacity building for biosafety could not beseparated from other capacity building programmes. COLOMBIA stressed considerationof biotechnology products, risk assessment and management, and social and economicimpacts.


Having taken delivery of what one delegate described as an “encyclopedic” series ofreports from the CBD Secretariat, a number of participants have signaled a desire thatSBSTTA-2 begin to reconcile the conflicting demands of a heavy and complex workloadwith the need to make progress on clarifying objectives and priorities. Another underlinedthe danger that SBSTTA may be “trying to do everything and doing nothing.” A commoncall was: “What first ? What most ?”


WORKING GROUP 1: Working Group 1 will meet at 10:00 a.m. in room 407A

WORKING GROUP 2: Working Group 2 will meet at 10:00 a.m. in room 406.

ROUNDTABLE ON INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE: A roundtable discussionon indigenous knowledge and biodiversity conservation will convene at 1:00 p.m. in room 403B.

Further information