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Summary report, 2–6 September 1996

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

The Second Session of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical andTechnological Advice (SBSTTA-2) to the United Nations Convention on BiologicalDiversity (CBD) met in Montreal, Canada, from 2-6 September, 1996. Many Parties sentscientific and technical experts to the meeting, which was also attended by observers fromnon-Parties, NGOs, indigenous peoples’ organizations, industry groups and scientificorganizations. Delegates grappled with a crowded agenda, including such complextechnical issues as the monitoring and assessment of biodiversity, practical approaches totaxonomy, economic valuation of biodiversity, access to genetic resources, agriculturalbiodiversity, terrestrial biodiversity, marine and coastal biodiversity, biosafety and theclearing-house mechanism.

Despite Chair Peter Johan Schei’s plea to delegates to maintain “scientific integrity” andavoid turning the SBSTTA into a “mini-Conference of the Parties," the issue of identityand the precise role of the SBSTTA in managing the scientific content continued tooccupy many participants as they left for home at the conclusion of the week-longmeeting. While a few issues were covered in adequate technical detail, notably economicvaluation and taxonomy, the primary outcome of SBSTTA-2 seemed to be a desire toreform the process. Publicly, delegates called for sharp limits to the agenda and greaterinvolvement of scientific organizations. Privately, many thought that the Secretariat shouldprovide more focused background documentation that delineates specific options orproposals, and that delegations should be allowed to present case studies based onnational experiences. Another private plea, encouraging governments to send delegationsthat are more technically oriented, reflected the mood that Parties are hungry for progresson key scientific and technical issues under the Convention.


The Convention on Biological Diversity, negotiated under the auspices of the UnitedNations Environment Programme (UNEP), entered into force on 29 December 1993. Todate more than 150 countries have become Parties. Article 25 of the CBD establishes aSubsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) to providethe Conference of the Parties with “timely advice” relating to implementation of theConvention.

COP-1: The first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (COP-1)took place in Nassau, the Bahamas, from 28 November - 9 December 1994. Some of thekey decisions taken by COP-1 included: adoption of the medium-term work programme;designation of the Permanent Secretariat; establishment of the clearing-house mechanismand the SBSTTA; and designation of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as theinterim institutional structure for the financial mechanism.

SBSTTA-1: The first session of the SBSTTA took place from 4-8 September1995 in Paris, France. Delegates considered operational matters, as well as substantiveissues, particularly with regard to coastal and marine biodiversity. Recommendations onthe modus operandi of the SBSTTA affirmed its subsidiary role to the COP, andrequested flexibility to create: two open-ended working groups to meet simultaneouslyduring future SBSTTA meetings; Ad Hoc Technical Panels of Experts as needed;and a roster of experts.

Substantive recommendations of SBSTTA-1 included: alternative ways and means for theCOP to consider components of biodiversity under threat; ways and means to promoteaccess to and transfer of technology; scientific and technical information to be contained innational reports; preparation of an annual Global Biodiversity Outlook by the Secretariat;contributions to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) meetings on plant geneticresources for food and agriculture (PGRFA); and technical aspects of the conservationand sustainable use of coastal and marine biological diversity. On this last issue, SBSTTA-1 identified three priorities: sustainable use of living coastal and marine resources;mariculture; and the control of alien organisms. Time constraints prevented considerationof education, training and public awareness as key delivery mechanisms for coastal andmarine biodiversity conservation, and bio-prospecting of the deep sea bed.

Although the recommendation on coastal and marine biodiversity received adisproportionate share of attention at SBSTTA-1, some States noted that land-basedsources of marine pollution had not been sufficiently emphasized. One non-Party to theCBD criticized inclusion of the issue of deep sea bed bio-prospecting as outside the scopeof the CBD.

COP-2: The second session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-2) to the CBDmet in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 6-17 November 1995. Some of the key decisions taken byCOP-2 included: designation of the permanent location of the Secretariat in Montreal,Canada; agreement to develop a protocol on biosafety; operation of the clearing-housemechanism; adoption of a programme of work funded by a larger budget; designation ofthe GEF as the continuing interim institutional structure for the financial mechanism;consideration of its first substantive issue, marine and coastal biodiversity; and agreementto address forests and biodiversity, including the development of a statement from theCBD to the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) of the Commission on SustainableDevelopment.

COP-2 approved SBSTTA’s medium term programme of work for 1996-97, and alsoaddressed the issue of PGRFA, adopting a statement for input to the FAO’s FourthInternational Technical Conference on PGRFA (ITCPGR-4). The statement notes theimportance of other conventions to the CBD’s three objectives, urges other internationalfora to help achieve these objectives through the CBD’s overarching framework andinvites FAO to present the outcome of ITCPGR-4 to COP-3.

PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE: TheFAO established an intergovernmental Commission on Genetic Resources for Food andAgriculture in 1983, and adopted a non-binding International Undertaking on PlantGenetic Resources, which is intended to promote harmonized international efforts tocreate incentives to conserve and sustainably use PGRFA. Since the inception of the CBD,the FAO has begun revising the International Undertaking, which originally called PGRFAthe “common heritage of mankind.” Subsequent revisions have emphasized nationalsovereignty over PGRFA, in line with Article 15 (sovereignty over genetic resources) ofthe CBD.

The Fourth International Technical Conference on PGRFA met in Leipzig, Germany, from17-23 June 1996. Representatives of 148 States adopted the Leipzig Declaration, theConference’s key political statement, and a “delicately balanced” Global Plan of Action(GPA), an international programme for the conservation and utilization of PGRFA.Contentious issues included financing and implementing the GPA, technology transfer,Farmers’ Rights and access and benefit-sharing. Delegates were also presented with thefirst comprehensive Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources.

The next round of negotiations on revision of the International Undertaking is scheduledfor December 1996.

BIOSAFETY: Since the early 1970s, modern biotechnology has enabledscientists to genetically modify plants, animals and micro-organisms to create livingmodified organisms (LMOs). Many countries with biotechnology industries already havedomestic legislation in place intended to ensure the safe transfer, handling, use anddisposal of LMOs and their products. These precautionary practices are collectivelyknown as “biosafety”. However, there are no binding international agreements addressingsituations where LMOs cross national borders.

Article 19.4 of the CBD provides for Parties to consider the need for and modalities of aprotocol on biosafety. At COP-2, delegates established an Open-ended Ad HocWorking Group on Biosafety (BSWG), which held its first meeting in Aarhus, Denmark,from 22-26 July 1996. It was attended by more than 90 delegations, which includedscientific and technical experts, representing both Parties and non-Parties to the CBD,inter- governmental organizations, NGOs and industry representatives.

BSWG-1 marked the first formal meeting to develop a protocol under the CBD and tooperationalize one of its key and most contentious components. Governments listedelements for a future protocol, agreed to hold two meetings in 1997 and outlined theinformation required to guide their future work.


The second session of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and TechnologicalAdvice to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity opened on Monday, 2 September1996. By the end of the first morning, the Plenary had suspended its work to allow thetwo working groups to meet. Both Working Groups 1 and 2 met until Wednesday, 4September, interrupted only by a brief meeting of the Plenary on Tuesday, 3 September, toannounce the election of new officers to the Bureau. On Thursday, 5 September, thePlenary convened a morning session to discuss SBSTTA’s modus operandi,medium term work programme and 1997 agenda. That afternoon both working groupsmet again, reconvening in the evening to finish drafting recommendations to the COP forconsideration by the Plenary. The closing Plenary met on Friday, 6 September, to reviewand adopt the recommendations put forth by the two working groups.


The second session of the SBSTTA was opened on Monday, 2 September, by J. H. Seyani(Malawi), the Chair of SBSTTA-1. He noted that the work of SBSTTA is recognized andvalued by the COP. Peter Johan Schei (Norway), SBSTTA-2 Chair, noted that SBSTTAis neither a “mini-COP” nor a “drafting group”, and highlighted the importance ofscientific integrity. Speaking on behalf of UNEP Executive Director ElizabethDowdeswell, Jorge Illueca, Assistant Executive Director, noted that the CBD can onlysucceed if it is built on a sound scientific foundation. Calestous Juma, Executive Secretaryof the CBD Secretariat, stated that he looked forward to working closely with theSBSTTA 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 requested byCOP-2. The Plenary then adopted the agenda.

The Chair invited Bureau nominations from each regional group. Several names were putforward, although the process was not completed until a brief Plenary session thefollowing day. The SBSTTA Bureau is constituted as follows: the African Groupnominated Zeineb Belkhir (Tunisia) and Mr. Vilakati (Swaziland); the Western Europeanand Others Group (WEOG) nominated Francesco Mauro (Italy) and Peter Johan Schei(Norway); the Asian Group nominated Mick Raga (Papua New Guinea) and SetijatiSastrapradja (Indonesia); the Eastern Europe Group nominated Gabor Nechay (Hungary)and Issa Omarovich Baitulin (Kazakstan); and the Latin American and Caribbean Groupnominated Braulio Da Souza Dias (Brazil) and Edgar Espeleta-Guttierrez (Costa Rica).

The Plenary then adopted the organization of work. The Chair urged the Working Groupsto return to the final Plenary with agreed recommendations to avoid further substantialdiscussion. He also urged participants to consider ways to consult with the scientificcommunity rather than creating new subsidiary bodies. The Chair then announced theappointments of Rapporteurs: Setijati Sastrapradja (Plenary); Zeineb Belkhir (WorkingGroup 1); and Gabor Nechay (Working Group 2).


Working Group 1 was chaired by Braulio Da Souza Dias (Brazil). The topics discussedwere: assessment of biodiversity; identification and monitoring of adverse impacts;biodiversity indicators; agrobiodiversity; terrestrial biodiversity; and marine and coastalbiodiversity.

The discussion on agrobiodiversity did not result in consensus, and was referred to acontact group on Wednesday evening, 4 September. The contact group met late into thenight with, at times, heated debate, finally reaching a “delicate equilibrium” in the words ofthe Working Group’s Chair. The recommendations adopted by SBSTTA-2 areincorporated into a single document, which includes the report of Working Group 1(UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/L.3).

BIODIVERSITY ASSESSMENTS, IDENTIFICATION AND MONITORING OFADVERSE IMPACTS, AND BIODIVERSITY INDICATORS: Discussions onAgenda Items 3.1 (assessment of biodiversity and methodologies for future assessments),3.2 (identification, monitoring and assessment of components of biodiversity and ofprocesses that have adverse impacts) and 3.3 (review and promotion of indicators ofbiodiversity) were initiated individually, however, there was an early consensus that thethree were inextricably linked and should be considered together. After general comments,therefore, the three were brought together in the Chair’s draft text on recommendations.

Negotiations based on the Chair’s draft text centered around prioritization of activities.From a long list of proposed activities, a number of actions received several expressions ofsupport for prioritization, including: critical methodological review; indicator work;information exchange; analysis of activities with negative impact; refinement of guidelines;and cooperation with other international processes. Capacity building was also stressed,particularly by a number of African countries, including ZAIRE and MALAWI.

A third revision of the Chair’s text (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/ WG.1/CRP.1) included anAnnex containing an indicative framework of activities that have a significant adverseimpact on biodiversity. Delegates deleted the Annex but added specific amendments onthis subject based on previous discussions.

The adopted recommendation summarizes the conclusions of the working group andrecommends next steps. The SBSSTA recommends that the COP accord high priority tothe following tasks: enhancement of developing country capacity in identification;monitoring and assessment; development of the clearing-house mechanism; developmentof national guidelines; a critical review of methodologies; development of core indicatorsand indicators in thematic areas; development of an indicative framework of processeslikely to have significant adverse impacts; and incorporation of biodiversity dimensionsinto resource assessments. Other “important” recommended tasks include: development ofregional/ecosystem-based guidelines; thematic assessments; establishment of costs andbenefits of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use; and development of a review ofmethods for monitoring activities with adverse impacts on biodiversity and options formitigating those effects.

It is recommended that the COP should request that the next meeting of the SBSTTAconsider specific immediate tasks for the Executive Secretary, including: a guideline reportto assist Parties in addressing the above issues with information on assessmentmethodologies; indicators and monitoring techniques and recommendations forharmonization; options for capacity-building in developing countries for applyingguidelines and indicators; and information on indicator development and recommendationsfor a core set of indicators of biodiversity, particularly related to threats. Therecommendations also include peer review of the guidelines and other products, initiationof consultation with other regional and global organizations on including biodiversity inresource assessments, and consideration of indicators, assessment and monitoring togetheras a standing item on the SBSTTA’s agenda.

AGROBIODIVERSITY: After the initial introduction of the Agenda Item 3.9,agricultural biological diversity (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/10), many delegations warnedagainst duplicating the work of the FAO, and AUSTRALIA underscored that the FAO isthe primary task manager on agricultural biodiversity. The CHAIR reassured delegationsthat there was no conflict between the policy role of the COP and the role of the FAO as achief implementation agency.

SWEDEN and DENMARK suggested an approach similar to SBSTTA-1’s extensivetreatment of marine and coastal biodiversity. NORWAY stressed the need for gapanalysis. The US, supported by the EC, highlighted the positive aspects of intensiveagriculture.

After the preliminary discussion, a contact group was formed to reach agreement on finalrecommendations, drawing on extensive written submissions from Sweden(UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/ Info.20) and Brazil. The contact group was formed after theintroduction of a draft summary prepared by the Secretariat. This draft drew criticism forits brevity and failure to fully reflect preliminary discussion in the working group or thewritten submissions.

Following the introduction of a new draft based on deliberations in the contact group,SWEDEN and GERMANY objected to a paragraph on the benefits to biodiversity thathave accrued from sustainable intensification of agriculture, and entered reservations.SWEDEN said the paragraph failed to reflect the current state of knowledge. TheAFRICAN GROUP, supported by MALAWI and COSTA RICA, amended an addition bySWITZERLAND on the important role of science, to signal recognition of the status androle of indigenous science.

The adopted recommendations on agrobiodiversity address the challenge for agriculture toachieve stability and productivity on a sustainable basis, using technologies and practicesto reconcile environmental protection, stable production, economic efficiency andequitable sharing of benefits.

The SBSTTA recommends that the COP: adopt as a key focal area the contribution of theconservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity to sustainable agriculture anddevelop a programme of work, noting the FAO’s offer to contribute in the area of geneticresources; integrate social, economic and environmental considerations; encourage Partiesto implement the Leipzig Global Plan of Action on Plant Genetic Resources for Food andAgriculture; and encourage research and development.

It also recommends that the COP: encourage the transformation of unsustainableagricultural technological approaches and the development, maintenance and mobilizationof local knowledge, with special reference to gender; study the positive and negativeimpacts of agricultural intensification or extensification; conduct a gap analysis (pollinatordecline, soil micro-organisms, biocontrol organisms, wild sources of food, biodiversityfriendly agriculture and market forces, integrated land and resource management,traditional knowledge, degraded landscape restoration, and use of botanical gardens) ofactivities and instruments in cooperation with the FAO and other organizations with theobjective of developing a multi-year work plan at the SBSTTA; and invite the GEF andother international agencies to report on funding.

The SBSTTA also recommended that the COP: encourage case study sharing, using theclearing-house mechanism; strengthen indigenous in situ conservation; conductcollaborative work on criteria and indicators; promote technology transfer using theclearing-house mechanism; promote integrated resource management; encourage farmingsystems that increase productivity and enhance biodiversity; appraise and disseminatetraditional knowledge; encourage ex ante and/or ex post evaluation of impacts; developassessment methods; and identify the key maintenance components of biodiversity inagricultural production systems.

TERRESTRIAL BIODIVERSITY: The adopted recommendations on terrestrialbiodiversity resulted from discussion of document UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/11 on the linksbetween forests and biological diversity, produced at the request of the COP (decisionII/9) to help the Parties determine whether further input to the Commission on SustainableDevelopment’s (CSD) Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) is required.

SBSTTA delegates advocated that the CDB develop links with other conventions,including the Convention to Combat Desertification and the Framework Convention onClimate Change, to avoid duplication and enhance synergism. GERMANY wanted toprioritize coordination with the CSD and financing for combating desertification. Theyacknowledged the need to address the direct and underlying causes of forest loss anddegradation at all levels. CTE D’IVOIRE highlighted concern among Francophonecountries about over-exploitation of forest resources, sometimes involving governments.

While some delegations recommended that the SBSTTA await the outcome of the IPF’sdeliberations before deciding on a work programme on forests and biodiversity,NORWAY pointed out that knowledge gaps already identified by the IPF would existwhatever the outcome. BURKINA FASO warned against delaying CBD implementation.The BIODIVERSITY ACTION NETWORK suggested that some Parties may beattempting to delay the process, and CAMEROON called for an immediate programme ofwork. DENMARK and AUSTRIA suggested a work programme adaptable to IPFdecisions. The PHILIPPINES recommended a focus on in situ conservation andencouraging the participation of indigenous communities. The INTERNATIONALALLIANCE OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF THE TROPICAL FOREST called for astanding forum for indigenous peoples.

The SBSTTA recommended that the COP ask the Secretariat to explore ways and meansto cooperate with the IPF with a view to developing common priorities for furtherconsideration at SBSTTA-3. In addition, it recommended sending the followingsuggestions to the IPF: full integration of biodiversity considerations into IPFrecommendations and proposals and consider ways to deal with gaps in forest biodiversityknowledge; use of an ecosystem approach in the IPF programme element on nationalforest and land use plans, to integrate conservation measures and sustainable use ofbiodiversity; and inclusion of biodiversity conservation and maintenance of forest qualityin the IPF programme on criteria and indicators.

The SBSTTA also recommended that the COP explore ways to cooperate with the UNConvention to Combat Desertification on matters relating to biodiversity and drylands toidentify common priorities. It identified the following research and technological priorities:building the scientific foundation necessary to advance elaboration and implementation ofcriteria and indicators for forest quality and biodiversity conservation; analysis of the roleof biodiversity in forest ecosystems; analysis of measures to mitigate underlying causes ofbiodiversity loss; advancement of approaches to rehabilitate deforested ecosystems andenrich forest biodiversity; identification of knowledge gaps in areas of fragmentation;assessment of ecological landscape models; integration of protected areas into theecosystem approach to sustainable forest management; scientific analysis of the ways inwhich human activities influence biodiversity, in particular forest management practices,and assessment of methods to minimize impact; and development of assessment andvaluation methodologies to measure the multiple benefits derived from forest biodiversity.

COASTAL AND MARINE BIODIVERSITY: At its second session, theConference of the Parties’ decision II/10 and the Jakarta Mandate called for an expertmeeting on marine and coastal biodiversity, with a view to a SBSTTA-2 review of theresults. Little progress has been made on this issue in 1996, with only agreement on aroster of experts.

The SBSTTA-2 debate on Agenda Item 3.12 was based on a report by the ExecutiveSecretary on marine and biological diversity(UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/140) and eventualrecommendations focused on the need for the Secretariat to take a number of actions toimplement COP decision II/10.

Delegates were generally supportive of a draft text introduced by the Chair, urgingimplementation of decision II/10. The MARSHALL ISLANDS called for equitablegeographic representation at the Meeting of Experts, and SAMOA, MAURITIUS, and theMALDIVES called for representation from small island States. JAPAN favored an open-ended Meeting for the sake of transparency. CANADA supported a Global BiodiversityForum (GBF) recommendation for a global state of knowledge assessment. UNEPannounced that it was preparing documentation to assist the implementation of the JakartaMandate. NEW ZEALAND objected to a proposal by SWEDEN to postpone work untilSBSTTA-4.

The recommendation notes that little substantial action on marine and coastal biodiversityhas occurred during 1996, and that decision II/10 should be implemented as quickly andefficiently as possible. It calls on the COP to direct the Secretariat to provide an interimreport at SBSTTA-3 on recommendations from the Meeting of Experts on the followingtopics: availability of resources; identification of the issue area in which the CBD can bemost effective; identification of related work by non-CBD entities; and how other plannedor on-going activities outside the CBD can contribute to the Convention’s proposedactions.

The Secretariat is urged to: convene the first Meeting of Experts, which is to take place inIndonesia early in 1997, and refer available information (including documentUNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/ 2/14 considered at SBSTTA-2) and comments from Parties to thatmeeting; request the Meeting of Experts to assist the Executive Secretary in identifyingpriorities and pragmatic options for implementing COP decision II/10; and strengthen anddevelop special partnership arrangements with competent international organizations andinstitutions including regional bodies. The SBSTTA also recommended that the COPensure that resources are available to implement the work of the Secretariat under theJakarta Mandate, and to fill the related Secretariat posts.


Chair Francesco Mauro (Italy) opened Working Group 2, emphasizing the need for solidand scientifically-based contributions. The topics discussed were: capacity building fortaxonomy; technology transfer including biotechnology; indigenous knowledge andpractices; capacity building for biosafety; the clearing-house mechanism; and economicvaluation of biodiversity. Discussion over specific agenda items was aided by a series oflunch-time seminars organized by delegations and observers, some of which werecharacterized as positive contributions to the technical appraisal of issues. The order of theagenda was rearranged to allow seminars to precede discussion of key items. Therecommendations adopted by SBSTTA-2 are incorporated into a single document thatincludes the report of Working Group 2 (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/L.2).

CAPACITY BUILDING FOR TAXONOMY: Working Group 2’s discussionson Agenda Item 3.4, practical approaches for capacity-building for taxonomy, were basedon document UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/5. There was a general consensus that there is aneed to overcome the current lack of taxonomists, who are essential for nationalimplementation of the Convention. Many countries called for urgent capacity building,“including” training of taxonomists.

The debate focused on establishing alternatives for increasing taxonomic capacity andmaking recommendations for developing SBSTTA’s work programme. Parties agreed onthe need to adopt a more practical direction in taxonomy, linked to bio-prospecting andecological research on the conservation and sustainable use of the components ofbiodiversity.

GERMANY, supported by SWEDEN, called for priority setting in capacity building fortaxonomy. The establishment of regional centers of excellence was favored by NIGERIAand INDIA while opposed by the US, COLOMBIA and NEW ZEALAND. Numerouscountries called for regional training programmes and GEF support. CANADA amendedthe draft recommendation by including recognition that biological collections are the basisof taxonomy and are sources of genetic resources.

The final recommendations to the COP recognize the scarcity of taxonomists, taxonomiccollections and institutional facilities and the need to alleviate this situation to further theimplementation of the Convention. It recommends that national institutions and regionaland subregional networks be established or strengthened and consideration be given toinformation needs for bio-prospecting, habitat conservation, sustainable agriculture andthe sustainable utilization of biological resources. It also reflects the widely expressedconcern that capacity building for taxonomy should be linked to the effectiveimplementation of the CBD. The recommendation called for guidelines for fundingprogrammes, including for the financial mechanism under the Convention. This shouldserve areas such as bio-prospecting, habitat conservation and the sustainable use ofbiodiversity.

The recommendations also stress the need for employment opportunities for trainedtaxonomists, and emphasize national priority setting. The SBSTTA also recognizes theimportance of establishing regional and subregional training programmes. The inclusion oftaxonomic information in the clearing-house mechanism is recommended and greaterinternational collaboration in sharing information is called for. The adoption of mutuallyagreed instruments for exchange of biological specimens is encouraged. The SBSTTAfurthermore requests the COP to consider instructing the GEF to support capacitybuilding in taxonomy through: national, regional and subregional training programmes;collecting and disseminating data and information through the clearing-house mechanism;and strengthening infrastructure for biological collections in countries of origin.

TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER, INCLUDING BIOTECHNOLOGY: TheSecretariat’s document on technology transfer, including biotechnology(UNEP/SBSTTA/2/6), outlined technology transfer issues and recommendedestablishment of a liaison group to encourage private sector participation. Duringsubsequent discussion of the issue, delegates generally agreed with the Secretariat’sdocument on the role of the private sector in the CBD process.

MALAYSIA called for elaboration of the linkage between biotechnology and biodiversityconservation, particularly in bio-prospecting. GERMANY, CANADA, NORWAY,COLOMBIA, the UK, FRANCE and the US questioned the need for an additionalsubsidiary body on technology transfer, as proposed in the Secretariat’s document.

INDIA emphasized the need to make use of genetic resources to achieve the CBD’sobjective of equitable sharing of benefits. SWITZERLAND called for incentive measures,such as concessional terms, risk sharing and financial mechanisms. ZIMBABWEemphasized that transferred technology can sometimes contribute to environmentaldegradation. Supported by THAILAND, he stressed the need for investment in capacitybuilding. NORWAY drew attention to the importance of control and managementmechanisms for biotechnology.

JAPAN suggested that the proposed liaison group distinguish needs for public versusprivate sector technology. COLOMBIA called on governments of developed countries tocreate incentives for private sector technology transfer. FRANCE said individual Statesshould decide whether to provide incentives for technology transfer and called forsafeguards for patented technology.

The PHILIPPINES called for: an inventory of needed technologies; incentives for privatesector technology transfer; linking technology transfer to biosafety issues; and intellectualproperty protection without monopoly control. MALAWI recommended developing termsof reference for a liaison group. AUSTRALIA stressed the role of multilateraldevelopment banks and intellectual property rights to facilitate technology transfer.

After the CHAIR introduced draft recommendations, ANTIGUA and BARBUDA askedfor a reference to the GEF. Supported by CANADA, INDIA, the US, COLOMBIA andthe UK, he also queried the SBSTTA’s competence to institute a liaison group. Theparagraph on liaison groups was deleted. MALAYSIA, COLOMBIA and ANTIGUAAND BARBUDA objected to the proposal by JAPAN and AUSTRALIA to delete theparagraph on identification of appropriate technologies for genetic resource utilization.

In the paragraph on private sector involvement, JAPAN, supported by NEW ZEALAND,the UK and the EC, proposed deleting the sentence urging all Parties to encourage privatesector technology transfer. INDIA, INDONESIA, COLOMBIA, MALAWI andCAMEROON objected. NEW ZEALAND proposed compromise text: “encourage allParties to facilitate the transfer of technologies from the private sector”. In the paragraphcalling on the clearing-house mechanism to facilitate information sharing, COLOMBIA,supported by INDIA and the US, deleted specific references to putting “brokers” intocontact with each other.

The adopted recommendations call for integrating work on access to and transfer oftechnology into sectoral themes related to the SBSTTA’s priority issues. Therecommendations state that future SBSTTA work should focus on technologies relevantto conservation and sustainable use and those that make use of genetic resources, and thatthe role of the financial mechanism in facilitating this should be explored. It emphasizestechnologies in the context of fair and equitable benefit sharing from genetic resourcesutilization and those based on a needs assessment focusing on the means of gainingeconomic and commercial value from genetic resources. The decision recommends thatthe SBSTTA consider ways to involve the private sector through incentive measures infacilitating technology transfer, and states that the clearing-house mechanism shouldfacilitate information sharing on technological innovation.

INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE: Working Group 2 examined the note producedby the Secretariat on Agenda Item 3.6, knowledge, innovations and practices ofindigenous and local communities (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/7), in the context of the threeelements of Article 8(j) in the Convention: preserving the knowledge, innovations andpractices of indigenous communities; promoting their wider application; and encouragingthe equitable sharing of benefits arising from their use.

As proposed by many delegations, representatives of groups of indigenous peopleaddressed the working group. They emphasized the role of indigenous people insustainable development, called for a recognition of the collective rights of indigenouspeoples within their territories and participatory approaches on project development and,supported by numerous countries, called for working groups on indigenous people andbiodiversity. One representative reported on the Inuvialiuit Final Agreement, concluded inCanada in 1984, on indigenous participation in environmental management.

During the debate the need for elaboration of basic terms and terminology used by variousstakeholders became apparent. These terms include: indigenous and local communities;farmers; indigenous knowledge; innovation and practices; and traditional knowledge andmodern science. It was widely recognized that the links between indigenous knowledgeand intellectual property rights, access legislation, human rights and other legal issues needto be explored. The need to adapt existing intellectual property rights or to develop suigeneris regimes to protect and promote knowledge, innovations and practices was alsodiscussed. The PHILIPPINES proposed a study on the impact of the current intellectualproperty rights system on biodiversity. Several countries called on the clearing-housemechanism to contribute to the dissemination of information on these issues.

Many countries supported the development of global and local indigenous networks.INDONESIA recognized the role of indigenous knowledge and practices in advancingscience and technology. Numerous countries called for support from the financialmechanism for projects linking knowledge and practices of indigenous and localcommunities and biodiversity. The US suggested market and non-market mechanisms toconserve traditional knowledge. Some countries suggested that the SBSTTA or the COPshould facilitate dialogue between the formal and informal sciences. ARGENTINAemphasized that SBSTTA should avoid political issues.

In its recommendations to the COP, the SBSTTA recognizes the importance of addressingthe issue of knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities forthe implementation of the Convention. In a late-night session, Working Group 2, however,could not agree on substantive recommendations. The Chair of Working Group 2,therefore, agreed to prepare a non-paper reflecting the diverse views and suggestionsexpressed during the SBSTTA meeting, in time for COP-3. The SBSTTA encouragesrepresentatives of indigenous communities to prepare and distribute information on theirviews and recommendations on the implementation of Article 8(j). The SBSTTAfurthermore recommends that the COP request advice from the SBSTTA on technical andscientific issues, and urges that the indigenous knowledge post within the Secretariat befilled as soon as possible.

CAPACITY BUILDING FOR BIOSAFETY: The document on capacity buildingin biosafety (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/8) 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 onBiosafety.

SWITZERLAND suggested funding capacity building through the GEF. INDONESIAemphasized the link between biosafety and technology transfer. The UK, supported byINDIA, suggested that COP-3 develop funding recommendations on capacity building.ARGENTINA recommended regional training programmes on biosafety. AUSTRIAjoined GERMANY 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.

After the Chair introduced draft recommendations, ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA,supported by NIGERIA, rearranged the paragraph on funding, emphasizing guidance tothe GEF on capacity building. NEW ZEALAND proposed deleting reference to thebiosafety protocol. ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA and MALAYSIA objected. ANTIGUAAND BARBUDA and INDIA stated that GEF funding for biosafety should only berequested in the context of support for capacity building.

The adopted recommendation advocates: avoiding duplication between SBSTTA and theAd Hoc Working Group on Biosafety, with the latter having priority; using theUNEP International Technical Guidelines for Biosafety as an interim measure in view ofthe on-going development of a biosafety protocol; developing guidelines for funding ofcapacity building in biosafety by the GEF; discussing capacity building within the COP inconjunction with technology transfer and risk assessment and management; andincorporating information on biosafety capacity building into the clearing-housemechanism.

CLEARING-HOUSE MECHANISM: The Secretariat introduced the documenton the clearing-house mechanism (CHM) (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/9). The GEF outlinedits contribution to CHM implementation. Several countries emphasized that the CHMshould be based on the CBD, demand-driven and synergy-based. Numerous delegationssuggested regional workshops on the CHM. SWEDEN and CANADA suggestedestablishing an advisory committee. The WORLD CONSERVATION MONITORINGCENTRE proposed testing the prototype. MALAYSIA agreed with SWEDEN inadvocating a pro-active role for the CHM in brokering bio-prospecting contracts.

THAILAND endorsed the publication of a CHM newsletter, and GERMANY stressedthat it should not be limited to electronic information. PERU noted the need for moreinteractive work with national thematic and regional focal points. INDONESIA said thepilot phase evaluation should focus on organization, visualization and decision supportfunctions. CHINA suggested that the SBSTTA organize a training course for developingcountries. SPAIN proposed drawing on national patent office databases. CAMEROONand SWITZERLAND called for information exchanges for countries with existing Internetcompetence.

MALAWI called for funds from developed countries, and for the GEF and other donors toassist capacity building in developing countries. INDIA noted varying levels of capacity tooperationalize National Focal Points. The NETHERLANDS announced cooperation withGermany on developing a World Wide Web site. JAPAN cautioned against an over-ambitious pilot phase. ZIMBABWE urged integrating local knowledge and classificationsystems.

To the draft Chair’s recommendations, ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA added language onthe financial mechanism, thematic foci and pilot projects to enable implementation of theCHM. GERMANY emphasized decentralization and training. CANADA added thatinformation should be controlled by the providers. The US deleted a needs survey ofParties. MALAWI and INDONESIA proposed GEF support. CANADA suggestedreplacing “guidance from experts” with an advisory committee coordinated by theSecretariat. INDIA added guidance in a “transparent manner” and the UK called for an“informal” committee. The paragraph linking the CHM to National Focal Points, includingnational patent offices, was amended by AUSTRALIA to read “for example, patentoffices” at the suggestion of the PHILIPPINES. SWEDEN proposed that the CHMreview case studies of scientific cooperation, and this was incorporated, as modified byINDIA and the US, to be a possible topic of regional CHM workshops.

The adopted recommendation calls on the COP to: request GEF support for capacitybuilding in information technologies including the Internet and for pilot projects; requestthe Secretariat to facilitate regional workshops for defining information needs; and guidethe CHM by setting up an informal advisory committee constituted and coordinated by theSecretariat. The CHM should: be needs-driven and decentralized; support decision makingand involve the private sector; recognize that ownership and control of informationremains with the providers and respect the rights of countries of origin and indigenouscommunities; provide information linkages to National Focal Points; and focus onproviding thematic focal points for linking activities at the national and regional levels.

BIODIVERSITY ECONOMIC VALUATION: Discussion on economicvaluation of biodiversity (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/13) underscored that the issue ofeconomic valuation was particularly relevant to the implementation of Articles 11 and 15of the Convention dealing with Incentive Measures and Access to Genetic Resources.Highlighting the strong value placed on genetic resources in agriculture and thepharmaceutical industry, the document was criticized by several delegations for its narrowfocus. CHILE reported on a regional workshop on Economic Valuation of Biodiversity inMay 1996 as a contribution to the regional implementation of the Convention. Mostdelegations, excluding the US and JAPAN, agreed that the issue should be a standingitem.

MALAYSIA, INDONESIA, NIGERIA and NORWAY stressed that economic valuationshould not be a prerequisite for policy action. INDIA emphasized the commercial value ofbiodiversity. FRANCE, SOUTH AFRICA and CAMEROON cautioned that economicvaluation might preclude symbolic and cultural values. NEW ZEALAND and FRANCEthought that the clearing-house mechanism should be used as a mechanism to disseminateempirical data on economic valuation of biodiversity. The AFRICAN GROUP called forparticipatory approaches. The NETHERLANDS and COLOMBIA proposed focusing oneconomic valuation of genetic resources.

Parties recognized that a better understanding of the full value of biodiversity at thegenetic, species and ecosystem levels will greatly assist the implementation of theConvention. Recognizing the deficiency of information on the economic value ofbiodiversity, they called for further development of methods for providing information oneconomic value, including non-use values. As future work areas they specified case studiesof economic value, research into methodologies and facilitation of access to suchinformation.

The SBSTTA agreed to recommend to the COP that economic valuation should beintegrated into the sectoral and thematic items under its work programme and should bereflected in the relevant agenda items, including incentive measures, agriculturalbiodiversity, genetic resources, environmental impact assessments, inland waterecosystems, and marine and coastal biodiversity. The SBSTTA recommended that theCOP encourage Parties to draw upon research carried out by regional and economicgroupings. With regard to incentive measures, it recommended that the COP support thedevelopment of local-level incentives, participatory approaches in designing newmeasures, and capacity building.


The Plenary convened a meeting on Thursday morning, 5 September, to discuss agendaitems relating to organization and procedure.

MODUS OPPERANDI: The CHAIR introduced Agenda Item 4, modusoperandi (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/16). With regard to the frequency and timing ofmeetings, CANADA and SWITZERLAND called for more time between COP meetings;and a large number of countries called for earlier SBSTTA meetings, but cautioned againstsetting dates that conflict with other meetings. Most countries favored the five-dayschedule for SBSTTA meetings, but EQUATORIAL GUINEA and the PEOPLE’SREPUBLIC OF LAOS called for extensions. Numerous countries urged the Secretariat todistribute the documents earlier. COLOMBIA, FRANCE, CTE D’IVOIRE, MONACO,MEXICO, EQUATORIAL GUINEA and COSTA RICA called for documents in Spanishand/or French. CHINA suggested on-line dissemination of documents.

GERMANY, the UK and MALAYSIA called for thematic approaches to future meetings.FRANCE spoke against permanent agenda items, and several countries called for prioritysetting. GERMANY, INDIA, the UK and SAMOA recommended the Secretariat’sattendance at meetings of other processes. The UK and COLOMBIA recommendedincreasing the scientific content of the SBSTTA and leaving the political issues to theCOP. GERMANY, MALAYSIA, SAMOA, SWITZERLAND, INDONESIA andSOUTH KOREA favored Bureau elections at the end of SBSTTA meetings. SAMOA,SWITZERLAND, INDONESIA, JAPAN, CTE D’IVOIRE and NEW ZEALANDsupported two-year terms.

CANADA and NEW ZEALAND called for Bureau meetings with the Executive Secretaryafter COP meetings. Many countries favored intersessional work, although INDIA didnot. MALAYSIA objected to the concept of a SBSTTA “seal of approval” for researchinitiatives. NEW ZEALAND and the US supported holding scientific and technical panelsat SBSTTA meetings. Several countries called for careful selection of experts andCOLOMBIA stressed the need for transparency. With regard to expert work,GERMANY proposed informal electronic networks and clearing-house mechanismcollaboration with other organizations.

MALAYSIA, SAMOA, COLOMBIA, the MARSHALL ISLANDS, the UK andSWITZERLAND opposed proliferation of ad hoc panels. COLOMBIA,NORWAY, CTE D’IVOIRE and JAPAN supported informal, open-ended liaisongroups. Guidelines and terms of reference for liaison groups were requested. SAMOAasked for financial assistance for attendance, and balanced representation. TheMARSHALL ISLANDS suggested that nominations of experts by Parties include NGOexperts. Several delegations opposed the NETHERLANDS’ proposals to limit expertpanels to 10 members and to rule out regional meetings.

COLOMBIA, the MARSHALL ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND, PAPUA NEW GUINEA,and SAMOA supported regional workshops. COLOMBIA opposed recommendations tocreate “centres of excellence”. FRANCE expressed concern about the expense involved inthe proliferation of new groups and ruled out a special committee to liaise with otherinstitutions. NEW ZEALAND cautioned that a requirement for early translation andcirculation of documentation could interfere with the quality of the preparation ofdocuments and called for representation from indigenous peoples on expert groups.

The US suggested involving scientific societies in a peer review of documents. MALAWIdrew attention to difficulties created by the recent relocation of the Secretariat inMontreal. AUSTRALIA and SWITZERLAND proposed the creation of a global calendarof relevant institutional meetings. NGOs invited the SBSTTA to draw on the expertise ofIGOs, NGOs, related international institutional processes and social scientists, and tofocus attention on the social, political and cultural dimensions of the ultimate causes ofbiodiversity loss. PERU suggested technical panels to augment SBSTTA’s capacity. TheCHAIR invited the Secretariat to prepare a revised text on the modus operandi andconvened a Friends of the Chair group to resolve conflicting proposals.

MEDIUM-TERM WORK PROGRAMME: The Plenary then considered themedium term work programme (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/17). Many delegations called fora focused programme driven by the COP. CANADA, MALAWI and COLOMBIAsuggested inland water ecosystems as the issue to highlight under next year’s thematicfocus on terrestrial biodiversity. INDONESIA and SWEDEN suggested forests.AUSTRIA asked for clarification on priorities. It was proposed that the SBSTTA andCOP Bureaus communicate closely to prioritize work. The UK requested flexibility inresponding to the COP’s decisions.

PROVISIONAL AGENDA FOR SBSTTA-3: The Plenary also considered thedraft provisional agenda for SBSTTA-3 (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/18). INDIA suggestedsetting priorities and COLOMBIA asked for balance on the SBSTTA-3 agenda to includeall CBD objectives. The Chair agreed to attend the upcoming COP Bureau meeting.


The closing Plenary commenced on Friday, 6 September, with substantial debate overorganizational and procedural matters, including the draft recommendation on themodus operandi of SBSTTA, before proceeding to adopt draft recommendationsdeveloped in the working groups.

ORGANIZATIONAL AND PROCEDURAL RECOMMENDATIONS:Delegates first discussed the Chair’s draft recommendation on the<M> modusoperandi of SBSTTA (UNEP/CPD/SBSTTA/2/CRP.1). Several amendmentswere accepted without discussion, such as INDIA’s amendment in Annex 2 that only“some” delegates felt intersessional work would be necessary. There was also agreementon Secretariat representation at meetings of other bodies. With regard to regionalmeetings in preparation for SBSTTA work, the NETHERLANDS’ proposal for specifyingmeetings “for specific items” in combination with other “scientific” regional meetings wasaccepted.

On the paragraph dealing with working languages, numerous countries requested thatSpanish be included. CHINA and HUNGARY, on behalf of the Eastern European Group,also expressed views advocating working languages. A new paragraph initiated by NEWZEALAND was added, suggesting that the Secretariat should prepare a documentanalyzing the implications, particularly financial, “of adding to the working languages ofthe SBSTTA”, and on the preferred languages of the Parties. The final version of theparagraph noted that concern was expressed by “several” delegations, and that “thesedelegations” felt that the other official languages of the UN “should be included asworking languages of the SBSTTA”. MONACO also mentioned problems with Frenchtranslations.

On election of officers, CANADA proposed new language specifying that the Chair’s termof office will begin at the beginning of one ordinary SBSTTA meeting and continue untilthe beginning of the following one. ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA, supported byDOMINICA and JAMAICA, expressed concern about the transitional arrangements. Theneed for satisfactory transitional arrangements was put into a new paragraph.

The US proposed “peer review” and the inclusion of “scientific societies” in a paragraphon liaison groups. After much discussion of scientific societies and the concept of peerreview, and an additional proposal on NGOs with “competence in the field” byARGENTINA, a proposal by SWEDEN was accepted. As a result, a reference to“scientific peer review processes” was placed in a paragraph on the use of a roster ofexperts, along with a suggestion that the Secretariat, along with other bodies, would makefull use of the roster.

In the paragraph on liaison groups, SWEDEN, supported by NEW ZEALAND andANTIGUA AND BARBUDA, proposed that liaison groups should be responsible to theExecutive Secretary alone. Following a proposal by SWEDEN, JAMAICA insisted thatregional as well as global scientific organizations be specified. ARGENTINA noted theneed to ensure competence in the field. A contact group met to formulate compromiselanguage. The paragraph ultimately stated that in the preparation of documentation, and toensure the use of available competence available within international “and regional”organizations, including non-governmental organizations “and scientific unions andsocieties, qualified in fields relating to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity”,the Executive Secretary may establish, in consultation with the Chair and the othermembers of the Bureau of the SBSTTA, liaison groups, as appropriate.

In a paragraph on development of the roster of experts, the NETHERLANDS and INDIAadded a reference to accessibility of the roster through the clearing-house mechanism. TheCHAIR invited the SBSTTA Executive Secretary to read decision II/10 of the COP oncompiling the roster of experts. This was used to replace part of the draft paragraph underdiscussion. SWEDEN said the issue of governmental legitimization of the roster may haveto be taken up by the COP.

The CHAIR next introduced the Draft Provisional Agenda of SBSTTA-3(UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/CRP.2) and suggested that this item be discussed alongwith the Medium-term programme of work for the period 1995-1997(UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/17). He invited consideration of the views expressed at thePlenary, the COP’s view that its agenda should be reflected in the SBSTTA’s workprogramme, and the issues identified at SBSTTA-2 for further consideration. Hesuggested that SBSTTA-3 look at freshwater ecosystems since this was on the COPagenda. He also noted the long list of issues in the draft programme and the need for adiscussion with the COP. It would be difficult for the SBSTTA to provide in-depthanalyses on all the issues.

The NETHERLANDS, supported by AUSTRIA, AUSTRALIA and INDIA, listed theitems on the agenda, including water ecosystems, marine and coastal biodiversity, forests,and agricultural biodiversity, and said a technical discussion would be difficult. He did notknow which experts he should bring to the next SBSTTA. He suggested seeking furtherguidance from the COP on prioritization of the items on the provisional agenda because itwas far too ambitious. AUSTRIA asked that a reference to environmental impactassessments be consistent with that of the CBD. AUSTRALIA recalled that his delegationsuggested codifying agenda items to indicate levels of priority. INDIA added that the COPshould provide guidance on SBSTTA’s advisory role on the issue of identifying andprotecting the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities.ARGENTINA made a reservation on the paragraph on indigenous and local communitiesand said it was not consistent with Article 8(j) of the CBD. The CHAIR agreed that thereis a need for some indication of the issues requiring in-depth work.

The draft provisional agenda for SBSTTA-3 (UNEP/CBD/ SBSTTA/2/CRP.2) wasadopted. Delegates agreed that the third meeting of the SBSTTA will be held in Montrealfrom 14-18 July 1997 (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/19). The adoption of the dates ofSBSTTA-3 took into consideration CANADA’s appeal for the dates to be tentativedepending on the dates of COP-4. ZIMBABWE, on behalf of the African Group, stressedthe need for financial support for developing countries for implementation of theConvention.

SUBSTANTIVE RECOMMENDATIONS: The Chair of Working Group 1presented the draft report of the working group (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/L.3 and Corr.1),which contained the draft recommendations as an Annex. The Plenary adopted thedocument. The Chair of Working Group 2 then presented his draft report(UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/L.2), which also contained draft recommendations as an Annex.On Agenda Item 3.4 (Practical Approaches for Capacity Building), CANADA added tothe preamble the recognition that biological collections are the basis of taxonomyand are also sources of genetic resources. He also suggested deleting the reference toaccess to genetic resources in the paragraph calling for adoption of mutually agreedinstruments for exchange of biological specimens. The UK proposed that this paragraphrefer to “those concerned” rather than “Parties.”

Disagreeing with CANADA’s further suggestion, MALAWI and INDIA insisted onretaining the call for “material transfer agreements” in addition to “equivalent instruments”for exchange of biological specimens. CANADA accepted this compromise andCOLOMBIA expressed approval. The UK proposed deleting the reference to exchange of“information” in the same sentence on exchange of biological specimens, arguing thattransfer of information is already mentioned in the decisions on the clearing-housemechanism. In spite of MOROCCO’s strong opposition, the term “information” wasdeleted .

The recommendation on Agenda Item 3.5 (Technology transfer), was amended bySWITZERLAND so that the involvement of the private sector particularly refers toexamining options for incentive mechanisms. The draft report, with other changesmentioned by the Secretariat, was then adopted. The Plenary then adopted the draft reportof SBSTTA-2 (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/ L.1 and Add.1).

CLOSING STATEMENTS: In a brief closing statement, SBSTTA Chair PeterJohan Schei (Norway) remarked on the need to be “very focused” on scientific andtechnical matters, characterizing the SBSTTA as a “political advisory body.” He addedthat the SBSTTA needs to improve its cooperation with the scientific community and tomake sure that the agenda is not overloaded. He closed the meeting on a positive note,praising delegates for achieving “solid” recommendations incorporating, in particular,improvements to the modus operandi. Finally, he acknowledged the “enormoustask” that had been faced by the new Secretariat in preparing documents for SBSTTA-2,achieved while simultaneously preparing for the first session of the Biosafety WorkingGroup as well as COP-3. He adjourned the meeting at 5:45 p.m.


The second meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and TechnologicalAdvice (SBSTTA) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) waspunctuated by reminders from Chair Peter Johan Schei (Norway) that the subsidiary bodyis neither a “mini-Conference of the Parties” nor a “drafting group.” Indeed he tied thescientific and technical credibility of the body to its ability to maintain a knowledge-basedapproach consistent with its policy advisory role. By the end of the week, however, itappeared as though he was not entirely satisfied that the SBSTTA had kept to its scientificand technical policy advisory mandate.

SBSTTA’S IDENTITY CRISIS: The divergence between the SBSTTA’smandate and its practice has also preoccupied the SBSTTA Bureau where the dilemmahas been characterized as an “identity crisis.” Explanations include the intergovernmentalnature of the meetings, where delegates inevitably arrive with national priorities in mindand are often the same personnel who attend the Conference of the Parties (COP), thuscontributing to the blurring of the “gray zone” between science, policy advice and politics.An observer suggested that there is a mismatch between the nature of SBSTTA and itsmandate. He suggested establishment of a standing body to deal with scientific input,perhaps attached to the Secretariat and drawing on the clearing-house mechanism (CHM)to facilitate communication and exchange.

The latest thinking on the subject at the Bureau level, according to some delegates, is thatthe problem lies with the COP because it has not provided sufficiently clear or specificinstructions on what exactly the SBSTTA should be covering in its work programme.Only the COP has the authority to rationalize the SBSTTA’s work. This is expected to bethe subject of further discussion at COP-3, and there is hope that the extent of theinstitutional gridlock facing SBSTTA has been driven home by the experience at thissession.

Asked whether the Bureau of the COP may have to consider a mechanism for scientificinput that is closer to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whichfeeds into the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process, the SBSTTA Chairsuggested that it was too early to judge. More experience with the current CBDarrangements is required. A final decision will depend on how successfully SBSTTA candevelop intersessional mechanisms to produce papers and integrate scientific inputs, and torelieve the Secretariat of much of this onerous burden.

THE ROLE OF SCIENCE IN THE SBSTTA PROCESS: A common themeheard throughout the week was the relatively small percentage of scientists on delegationsparticipating in the work of the SBSTTA. Privately, several delegates admitted that theywere not familiar with many of the technical issues discussed at SBSTTA-2. For many,ironically, the SBSTTA, which is supposed to be a body of scientific and technologicalexperts, serves as a learning forum on the very issues these experts have come to giveadvice.

COP-3’s treatment of the SBSTTA’s recommendations will provide an opportunity toevaluate the influence of scientists who have already been involved in the process. Again,by analogy to the Climate Change Convention, the function of the IPCC, an internationallyaccepted body of scientific experts, is to provide authoritative and peer-reviewedinformation to back up political decisions taken by the Climate Change Convention’sCOP. The SBSTTA does not have input from a scientific mechanism that enjoys similarstatus to that of the IPCC. As observers have pointed out, the CBD process is in need ofsuch scientific authority.

Look for a peer-review mechanism to be developed under the CBD.

CONCLUSION: Despite the criticism, some delegates expressed their satisfactionthat progress has been made on technical issues in several areas, including the clearing-house mechanism, capacity building on biosafety and taxonomy. The development ofclearer guidelines on the clearing-house mechanism as the infrastructure for informationstorage and dissemination was considered particularly important. Additionally, certainrecommendations regarding practical approaches for capacity building in taxonomyactually reached the level of specifics. For example, the long-debated and finally acceptedparagraph advocates material transfer agreements (a specialized kind of contract definingthe use to which biological samples can be put) for transfer of biological specimens fortaxonomic research.

Nevertheless, the process continues to advance slowly. Referring to “over-sensitivity” tolanguage, one delegate expressed his frustration with the slow progress by calling thesenegotiations a “battle over semicolons”. The crowded agenda at this year’s meeting didnot help matters. Many delegates at SBSTTA-2 expressed frustration with their inabilityto get down to specific technical details in the working groups. Increased use of workinggroups and liaison groups were suggested to speed up the process. In addition to the callfor more focused background papers prepared by the Secretariat, a number of delegatessuggested privately that a series of case studies presented by Parties during futureSBSTTA meetings might help ground the discussion in real world examples. If COP-3exercises restraint in setting the SBSTTA’s 1997 agenda, as recommended at SBSTTA-2,Parties may gain the focus needed to get down to the real business of implementing theConvention on Biological Diversity.


INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON MEDITERRANEANBIODIVERSITY: This symposium, organized by the Agency for New Technology,Energy and Environment of Italy (ENEA), is scheduled for 14-15 October 1996 in Rome.The symposium plans to produce an informal technical report for COP-3. For moreinformation contact: Dr. Paolo Carrabba, ENEA, fax: +39 6 3048 4630,

WORLD CONSERVATION CONGRESS: The meeting of IUCNmembers, partners and other conservationists will take place at the Palais de Congress,Montreal, Canada, from 12-24 October 1996. The three-and-a-half day workshopprogramme aims to find new and innovative ways to tackle the challenges that face theEarth, to harmonize views and action plans and to formulate tangible ways to move aheadand make a difference. Contact Ricardo Bayon, Special Assistant to the Director General,28 Rue de Mauverney, CH-1196, Gland, Switzerland; tel : +41 22 999-0001, fax: +41 22999-0002; e-mail: Also try or .

FIFTH GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY FORUM: GBF-5 is scheduledfor the weekend before COP-3, from 2-3 November 1996 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Forinformation on submitting abstracts or attending the forum contact: Jeffrey McNeely,Chief Scientist, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, 28 Rue Mauverney, CH-1196Gland, Switzerland; tel: +41 22 999-0001; fax: +41 22 999-0025; e-mail:

THIRD CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES: COP-3 is scheduledfor 4-15 November 1996 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a Ministerial Segment from 13-14 November 1996. For more information contact: the CBD Secretariat, World TradeCentre, 413 St. Jacques Street, Office 630, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H2Y 1N9; tel: +1(514) 288 22 20; fax: +1 (514) 288 65 88; e-mail:

WORLD FOOD SUMMIT: The FAO’s World Food Summit, scheduled for 13-17 November 1996 in Rome, Italy, is expected to renew international commitment toeradicating hunger and malnutrition and achieving food security, and adopt a policy andplan of action document. For information contact: the World Food Summit Secretariat,FAO, viale delle Terme di Caracalla, I-00100, Rome, Italy; tel: +39-6/5225 2932; fax:+39-6/5225 5249; e-mail: Also try the World Food Summit Website at


WORKSHOP ON INTERNATIONAL BIOSAFETY: Thisworkshop, sponsored by Friends of the Earth Europe and the European Commission, isscheduled for 12-13 September 1996 in Brussels, Belgium. For more information contactGill Lacroix or Dan Leskin, FOE Biotechnology Programme, 29 rue Blanche, B-1060Brussels, Belgium; tel: +32-2-5420180; fax +32-2-5375596;

UNEP BIOSAFETY WORKSHOP: A technical workshop onbiosafety will be held prior to COP-3 of the CBD in Buenos Aires from 31 October to 1November 1996. Contact Hamdallah Zedan, UNEP Biodiversity Unit, Nairobi, Kenya, fax+254-2 623 926, e-mail UNEP’s International Register onBiosafety, which was launched in Geneva on 8 July 1996, can be found at For more information, contact Michael Williams,UNEP(Geneva), tel: +41 22 979 9242/44, fax: +41 22 7973464,


EXTRAORDINARY MEETING OF THE COMMISSION ONPLANT GENETIC RESOURCES: The FAO Commission on Genetic Resources forFood and Agriculture will meet for its Third Extraordinary Session, from 9-12 December1996, to further negotiations on the revision of the International Undertaking in line withthe Convention on Biological Diversity. The session will be preceded by a two-daymeeting of the working group. For more information, try the FAO Home Page at

SEVENTH SESSION OF THE FAO COMMISSION ON GENETICRESOURCES FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE: This meeting is tentativelyscheduled for May 1997 at FAO Headquarters in Rome. For more information, try theFAO Home Page at Also try


FIRST MEETING OF EXPERTS ON MARINE AND COASTALBIODIVERSITY: Indonesia has offered to host the first Meeting of Experts, which isexpected to convene early in 1997. The exact date is still to be determined. Forinformation contact the CBD Secretariat, World Trade Centre, 413 St. Jacques Street,Office 630, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H2Y 1N9; tel: +1 (514) 288 22 20; fax: +1 (514)288 65 88; e-mail:


INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON FORESTS: The thirdsession of the IPF will be held from 9-20 September 1996 in Geneva and IPF-4 will beheld in New York in 1997. For more information contact: Elizabeth Barsk-Rundquist, tel:+1 (212) 963-3263; fax: +1 (212) 963-1795; e-mail: barsk-rundquist@ For moreinformation, try the UN Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development(DPCSD) Home Page at DPCSD.<C255>

Further information