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The Rio de Janeiro Convention on biological diversity

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The Rio de Janeiro Convention on biological diversity

The Community approves the Convention on Biological Diversity, which seeks to anticipate, prevent and attack the causes of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity at source because of its intrinsic value and because of its ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic value. The Convention also seeks to promote cooperation among States and intergovernmental organisations.


Council Decision 93/626/EEC of 25 October 1993 concerning the conclusion of the Convention on Biological Diversity.


The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed by the Community and all the Member States at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. This Decision approves the Convention on behalf of the European Community.

For many decades there has been a substantial loss of biological diversity worldwide and in Europe due to human activities (pollution, deforestation, etc.). The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that up to 24% of species belonging to groups such as butterflies, birds and mammals have completely disappeared from the territory of certain European countries.

This situation is a cause for concern. Adequate biological diversity limits the effects of particular environmental risks such as climate change and parasite invasions. Diversity is essential for the long-term viability of farming and fishing activities and forms the basis for various industrial processes and the production of new medicines. The conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity are essential to ensure sustainable development and the millennium development goals relating to poverty, health and the environment. At the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, the Heads of State agreed on the need to significantly reduce the loss of biological diversity by 2010. The CBD has been recognised as the main means of achieving this aim. In 2001 the Göteborg European Council adopted the objective of halting the loss of biodiversity in the Union by 2010.

States are responsible for the conservation of their biological diversity and the sustainable use of their biological resources.

There is a general lack of information and knowledge regarding biological diversity. Consequently, it is necessary to develop scientific, technical and institutional capacities to provide the basic understanding upon which to plan and implement appropriate measures with a view to maintaining biological diversity.

The CBD is designed to conserve biological diversity, ensure the sustainable use of this diversity and share the benefits generated by the use of genetic resources, in particular through appropriate access to genetic resources and appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and technologies, and through adequate funding.

States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

Subject to the rights of other States, and except as otherwise expressly provided for in the Convention, the provisions of the Convention apply, in relation to each Contracting Party:

  • in the case of components of biological diversity, in areas within the limits of its national jurisdiction;
  • in the case of processes and activities, regardless of where their effects occur, carried out under its jurisdiction or control, within the area of its national jurisdiction or beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

Each Contracting Party must, as far as possible, cooperate with other Contracting Parties directly or, where appropriate, through competent international organisations both in respect of areas beyond national jurisdiction and on other matters of mutual interest, for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

Each Contracting Party should, in accordance with its particular conditions and capabilities:

  • develop national strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity or adapt for this purpose existing strategies, plans or programmes;
  • integrate, as far as possible and as appropriate, the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into relevant sectoral and cross-sectoral plans, programmes and policies.

Each Contracting Party should as far as possible:

  • identify components of biological diversity important for its conservation and sustainable use, having regard to the indicative list of categories set down in Annex I;
  • monitor, through sampling and other techniques, the components of biological diversity identified, paying particular attention to those requiring urgent conservation measures and those which offer the greatest potential for sustainable use;
  • identify processes and categories of activities which have or are likely to have significant adverse impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and monitor their effects through sampling and other techniques;
  • maintain and organise, by any mechanism, data derived from identification and monitoring activities pursuant to the points set out above.

Each Contracting Party should, as far as possible, adopt economically and socially sound measures that act as incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of components of biological diversity.

The Convention makes provision for the following:

  • establishment and maintenance of programmes for scientific and technical education and training for the identification, conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and its components and providing support for such education and training for the specific needs of developing countries;
  • encouragement of research which contributes to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, particularly in developing countries;
  • promoting the use of scientific advances in biological diversity research in developing methods for conservation and sustainable use of biological resources.

Public education should be promoted and awareness enhanced to highlight the importance of biological diversity through the media and the inclusion of these topics in educational programmes.

The Contracting Parties should facilitate the exchange of information, from all publicly available sources, relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking into account the special needs of developing countries (exchange of information on the results of technical, scientific and socio-economic research as well as information on training and surveying programmes, etc.).

The Convention emphasises the role of indigenous and local communities in conserving biodiversity. These populations heavily and traditionally depend on the biological resources on which their traditions are based.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 93/626/EEC

25 October 1993


Official Journal L 309 of 13 December 1993CorrigendumOfficial Journal L 82 of 25 March 1994


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 23 December 2003 "The implementation by the EC of the Bonn Guidelines on access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing under the Convention on Biological Diversity" [COM(2003) 821 final - Not published in the Official Journal]. The Bonn Guidelines are not legally binding; their purpose is to assist the parties to the CBD when developing and drafting administrative, legislative and policy measures on access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing. They also define the role and responsibilities of users and suppliers of genetic resources.

This communication summarises the measures taken by the Community and stakeholders' initiatives as regards access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing (ABS). Material transfer agreements and stakeholders' codes of conduct are singled out as key instruments. The Commission considers that the following measures could encourage users to fulfil their obligations under the CBD:

  • the creation of a European network of ABS focal points;
  • the establishment of a specific section on ABS in the EC Biodiversity Clearing House Mechanism;
  • the setting up of a register of stakeholders' groups in this clearing house.

The Communication highlights the possible role of arbitration and of ABS focal points to make it easier to address infringements of ABS arrangements, and the potential role of the EC Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) as a voluntary certification scheme for organisations that comply with the Bonn Guidelines.

In relation to facilitating the implementation of the Bonn Guidelines in third countries, the Communication underlines the importance of the implementation of the EC Biodiversity Action Plan for Economic and Development Cooperation and of the Commission's Communication on Life Sciences and Biotechnology. The Communication also highlights the role of the EC in further developing a transparent international regime on access and benefit-sharing.

Council Decision 2002/628/EC of 25 June 2002 concerning the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety [Official Journal L 201 of 31 July 2002].

The aim of the Protocol is to ensure that the transfer, handling and use of living organisms resulting from modern biotechnology do not have adverse effects on biological diversity or human health, while specifically focusing on transboundary movements.

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 5 February 1998 on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy [COM(98) 42 final - not published in the Official Journal]. The problem of the reduction and loss of biological diversity calls for concerted international action. The framework of this action is based on the Convention on Biological Diversity.

This Communication establishes a general framework in which appropriate Community policies and instruments are worked out to meet the obligations under the Convention. The strategy encompasses four major themes within which the specific objectives are determined and implemented, in particular through action plans.

These themes are the following:

  • conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity;
  • sharing of benefits accruing from the utilisation of genetic resources;
  • research, identification, monitoring and exchange of information;
  • education, training and awareness.

See also

The Commission's activities in the field of biological diversity

Last updated: 25.07.2007