Biology Reference
In-Depth Information
These three goals are closely interlinked and form a 'virtuous circle' of mutu-
ally reinforcing elements. The CBD regards the conservation of biological diver-
sity as a common concern of humankind. Biodiversity is important in securing
food supplies, sources of medicines and energy, and ecological balance, among
other things. Yet the twentieth century witnessed the disappearance of species
at 50 to 100 times the natural rate (European Commission 2010 ), and this may
accelerate to 1,000 or 10,000 times by 2020 (Shanahan and Masood 2004 ). The
threat is partly related to the increase in human numbers and partly to the 18-fold
increase in industrial production over the past century.
In order to counter this threat and enable access to biodiversity for sustainable
use (the second CBD goal), benefit sharing is essential. It is one thing to look after
a resource for the general benefit of humankind, and quite another to do so when
one stands to benefit oneself. By giving a large stake in the benefits that flow from
natural resources to their custodians, one may hope to preserve the planet's bio-
diversity better than otherwise. Besides, in the context of increasing criticism from
developing countries regarding the exploitation of their biological resources, it is
much more likely that access for use will be granted if developing countries' con-
cerns are addressed satisfactorily through access and benefit-sharing agreements.
Consequently, the third principle of the CBD - the fair and equitable sharing of bene-
fits from the use of genetic resources - is instrumental in achieving the first two goals.
According to the preamble to the CBD, biological resources fall under the
national sovereignty of states. The sovereignty of states over their (natural)
resources is fully affirmed in articles 2 and 15. Initially it was unclear whether
human genetic resources were to be covered by the convention, with some negotia-
tors in favour and some against their inclusion. This uncertainty was resolved in
1995, when the parties to the convention agreed to exclude human genetic
resources from its scope. 3 Now specifically included in the CBD is 'any material of
plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity … of
actual or potential value' (CBD 1992 : article 2). Traditional knowledge associated
with biodiversity is covered through article 8(j), which is the only provision in the
CBD recognizing traditional knowledge. This provision was included as an
acknowledgement that cultural practices of biodiversity conservation are embedded
in the day-to-day life of indigenous and local peoples and are intrinsically linked to
their communities. Article 8(j) emphasizes the need for parties to the CBD to initi-
ate projects on capacity-building with indigenous and local communities.
As noted above, plants, animals, micro-organisms and traditional knowledge
fall under the decision-making powers of national governments. Based on the
sovereignty principle, each CBD party agrees to develop and implement national
laws to govern access and benefit sharing with regard to non-human biological
3 'The Conference of the Parties … [r]eaffirms that human genetic resources are not
included within the framework of the Convention' (CBD COP Decision II/11, paragraph 2, = 7084 ).
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