CIESIN Reproduced, with permission, from: United Nations Information and Public Affairs Branch. 1993. A new treaty for a new era (press release). Posting to Econet on-line conference Biodiversity, available from; INTERNET.

** Written  7:41 am  Dec 29, 1993 by gn:ipaunep in cdp:biodiversity **



GENEVA/NAIROBI, 29 December 1993 (UNEP) -- Barely 18 months after
its signing at last year's Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the
Convention on Biological Diversity today becomes international

Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP), hailed the occasion as "one of the
most significant recent developments in international law and in
international relations relating to environment and development".

In the face of the greatest extinction of species for 60 million
years as a result of human activities, the treaty commits nations
to protect biological diversity -- ecosystems and genetic
resources as well as species.  The treaty pledges them to use
sustainably the world's plants, animals and all other organisms,
and seeks to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of the
benefits that result from the use of genetic resources,
particularly for developing countries.

Angela Cropper, a Trinidad and Tobago national appointed as
Executive Secretary of the Geneva-based Interim Secretariat last
October, observed:  "At Rio de Janeiro it was generally thought
that it would take three years to obtain 30 ratifications so that
the treaty could come into force.  In fact, it took just half
that time."

In a special statement Ms Dowdeswell declared that the speedy
ratification "is a measure of our concern for protecting this
planet's natural bounty".

The benefits reaped from biodiversity can be found everywhere. 
The rosy periwinkle, a plant found only in the Madagascar rain
forests, has proved of enormous value in combating childhood
leukaemia.  The bark of the Pacific yew in the northwestern
United States is being used to combat certain forms of cancer. 
More than a quarter of all prescriptions in modern Western
medicine contain active ingredients extracted from wild plants. 
Every variety of wheat grown in Canada contains genes introduced
from as many as 14 other countries.  A "useless" wild wheat plant
from Turkey is used to give commercial wheat crops resistance to
disease, while a wild species of coffee, from Madagascar, does
the same.

The planet's food supply also depends on diversity -- the genetic
uniformity of some crops has allowed pests to sweep across
countries, causing crippling damage and, at times, enormous loss
of life.

Habitat destruction is another major threat to biodiversity.  It
is also lost through over-harvesting, chemical pollution and the
inappropriate introduction of foreign plants and animals. 
Climate change threatens to accelerate the current destruction.

The ratification that made the Convention international law came
from Mongolia on 30 September.  Ninety days later -- today 29
December -- the treaty becomes a binding legal document for the
countries that have ratified it, 37 to date.

By mid-December 167 States had signed the Convention, including
the ratifiers.  Many Governments that have signed are in process
of securing ratification, including the United States and
countries of the European Union.  "It is to be hoped that States
that have signed will make New Year resolutions to ratify the
biodiversity agreement early in 1994", Ms. Cropper suggested. 
"Another resolution would be to start implementing it.  The
Convention's commitments need to be integrated into national laws
and policies and into countries' plans for managing their
resources of plants, animals and natural habitats."

The first meeting of Governments that have ratified the
Convention (the first Conference of Parties) is tentatively
scheduled for 28 November - 9 December next year to take some of
the fundamental decisions for advancing the Convention's

Under the treaty, countries promise to develop national plans for
the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, through
making inventories of resources and integrating such plans into
development strategies.  They are also required to enact laws to
protect threatened species and habitats and expand natural
protected areas.

Developed countries are to assist poorer nations in carrying out
their conservation programmes through the use of appropriate
technologies.  The treaty also says that developed countries
shall "provide new and additional financial resources" to
developing countries so that they can carry out their treaty

Agreements for access to genetic resources and the transfer of
biotechnologies are to be promoted.  Countries are encouraged to
preserve the traditional knowledge of indigenous communities in
the conservation and use of biological diversity.  According to
the Convention, this should be done with the active involvement
of indigenous peoples who possess such knowledge, so that they
can benefit from their use.

In chronological order the following countries were the first 37
to ratify the Biological Diversity Convention by 16 December:

Mauritius, Seychelles, Marshall Islands, Maldives, Monaco,
Canada, China, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Ecuador, Fiji, Antigua and
Barbuda, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Guinea,
Armenia, Japan, Zambia, Peru, Australia, Norway, Tunisia, Saint
Lucia, Bahamas, Burkina Faso, Belarus, Uganda, New Zealand,
Mongolia, Philippines, Uruguay, Nauru, Nepal, Czech Republic,
Barbados and Sweden.

                            - 30 -

For more information, please contact:

Interim Secretariat for                 Tel:  (41-22) 979-9111
 Convention on Biological Diversity     Fax:  (41-22) 797-2512
15, chemin des anemones
CP 356.  CH-1219 Chatelaine
Geneva, Switzerland

News Release 1993/36
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