“There are over 150 bilateral, multilateral and global treaties on environment.” Many of these deal with various aspects and parts of biodiversity, starting with convention relating to Fauna and Flora in their Natural State, 1933.
But most of these were specific and sectoral in nature, and there was a need for a comprehensive treaty. The Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992 (CBD) is a legally binding commitment to stop this destruction and secure the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. CBD is a result of prolonged international pressure to respond to the destruction of, and unequal profits derived by the colonial powers from, the biodiversity of the South.
After years of debate, the Convention was agreed upon in 1992 at Rio de Janeiro and came into force in 1993. As felt by many, bio-diversity conservation is today as much political an issue as any other. The core debate is woven around the contentious issue of transfer of biotechnology from North to South on one hand and bio-resources (genetic resources) from South to North on the other.
As alleged by the developing world the IPR regimes like TRIPS hamper the former, by laying down strict IPR measures, and encourage the latter by not checking bio-piracy. Vandana Shiva, a noted activist, has explained contradictions of the crisis at hand in a precise manner thus: “While the crisis of biodiversity is focused as an exclusively tropical and third world phenomenon, the thinking and planning of biodiversity conservation is projected as a monopoly of institutes and agencies based in and controlled by the industrial world”.
Both developed and developing nations (more un 150 states) discussed these divisive issues in Rio de Janeiro in, 1992, and agreed on a convention which recognised the wide ranging implications of biodiversity use and conservation and its ‘ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic values’.
The CBD opened up new prospects for developing countries in dealing with their resources and it affirmed the sovereign right of nation-states to their own biological resources. The CBD comprises of 31 articles.
The first few articles deal with general principles, definitions and objectives and the last few deal with formal details (e.g. structural details of the conference of parties, the secretariat etc.), and implementation details.
The Substantial parts (articles 5 to 17), deal with various aspects of biodiversity such as identification and monitoring, conservation in natural or human modified surroundings, rational or sustainable use, creation of awareness, impact assessment of activities likely to affect biodiversity, access to genetic material, safeguarding of relevant traditional knowledge and practices and exchanges of information and technology between the countries.
But unfortunately the convention remains a weak instrument; it instructs the states to bring about certain changes in their laws and in functioning to achieve the Convention’s objectives but neither lays down a specific time frame (like TRIPS does) nor provides a method to do this. It is vague on many important issues and ineffective in implementation which is its biggest drawback.