Appendix 2: Main international agreements and instruments directly relevant for biodiversity
Major international agreements relevant for biodiversity to which Belgium is a Party:
|Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972)||09/02/1978|
|Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) (Canberra, 1980)||20/05/1982|
|Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (Washington, 1973)||03/10/1983|
|Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) (1980)||22/02/1984|
|Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (Bonn, 1979)||27/04/1990|
|Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) (1992)||11/05/1995|
|United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC) (Rio, 1992)||16/01/1996|
|Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (FAO) (Leipzig, 1996)||23/06/1996|
|Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (WHC) (1972)||24/07/1996|
|United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) (Rio, 1992)||22/11/1996|
|United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) (Rio, 1992)||30/06/1997|
|Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, 1971)|
|United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (1984)||13/11/1998|
|Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo, 1991)||09/06/1999|
|Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus, 1998)||21/01/2003|
|International Whaling Convention (IWC) (1946)||09/07/2004|
|Protocol on Biosafety (Cartagena, 2000)||15/04/2004|
|Pan-European and Council of Europe agreements|
|Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) (Bern, 1979)||20/04/1990|
|European Landscape Convention - Council of Europe (Florence, 2000)||28/10/2004|
|Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS), endorsed at the Ministerial Conference ‘Environment for Europe’ (Sofia, 23-25 October 1995) by the environment ministers of 55 European countries.|
|The Ministerial Conferences on the Protection of Forests in Europe (Strasbourg 1990, Helsinki 1993, Lisbon 1998, Vienna 2003) are important. Sustainable forest management has been defined and the conferences gave the care for biodiversity a central position in forest policy and forest management.|
|Kiev Resolution on Biodiversity (2003)|
|Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (ASCOBANS) (1992) (under the auspices of the CMS)||14/05/1993|
|Agreement on the conservation of populations of European Bats (EUROBATS) (1994) (under the Bonn Convention)||14/05/2003|
|Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) (under the CMS)||13/04/2006|
|Council Regulation on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein (338/97)|
|The Birds Directive (79/409/EEC)|
|The Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC)|
|The Water Directive (2000/60/EC)|
|The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC)|
|Environmental liability Directive (2004/35/CE)|
|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].- Commission Communication of 27 March 2001 to the Council and the European Parliament: Biodiversity Action Plan for the Conservation of Natural Resources (Volume II)- Commission Communication of 27 March 2001 to the Council and the European Parliament: Biodiversity Action Plan for agriculture (Volume III)- Commission Communication of 27 March 2001 to the Council and the European Parliament: Biodiversity Action Plan for fisheries (Volume IV)- Commission Communication of 27 March 2001 to the Council and the European Parliament: Biodiversity Action Plan for economic and development cooperation (Volume V)|
|- Commission Communication of 22 May 2006: "Halting Biodiversity Loss by 2010 – and Beyond: Sustaining ecosystem services for human well-being".[COM(2006) 216 final]
- Commission Communication of 03 May 2011 to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020” [COM(2011) 244 fina]
- Commission Communication of 20 September 2011 to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: “Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe" [COM(2011) 571 final ]
|Benelux Convention concerning hunting and the protection of birds (1970)|
|Benelux Convention on nature conservation and landscape protection (1982)|
Below are some of the major agreements related to the protection of biodiversity
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD or CBD) is the first binding convention under international law to focus on biodiversity in a global and comprehensive context.
The CBD entered into force on 29 December 1993. Belgium signed the Convention on 5 June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro and ratified it on 22 November 1996. The 3 objectives of the CBD are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources, for example by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies, and by appropriate funding (art. 1 of the CBD).
In the framework of the CBD, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (2000), ratified by Belgium in 2004, is the only international instrument dealing exclusively with GMOs, in particular in relation to their impacts on biodiversity. In order to avoid potential adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity resulting from living modified organisms (LMOs), this protocol (pursuant to CBD Art. 8 g) establishes procedures for the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms, mainly during their transboundary movements. It sets up a global mechanism of procedures for imports and exports of LMOs. The protocol foresees in particular a procedure for advanced informed agreement, based on a scientific risk evaluation for biodiversity and human health, providing a multilateral framework to help importing countries take evidence-based and legally defensible decisions. Moreover, the Protocol invites the Parties to take into account, when taking a decision on importation of LMOs, the socio-economic considerations of the impact of these LMOs on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, especially with regard to the value of biodiversity to indigenous and local communities.
At the European level, in February 2001 the EU adopted new legislation (Directive 2001/18/EC) on the deliberate release into the environment of GMOs. Following this directive and in conformity with the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, authorisations for field trials or commercialisation of GMOs are dependent on procedures of risk assessment for the environment and human health. On the other hand, regulation 1946/2003 EC establishes the obligations of the EU as a GMO exporter consistently with the Cartagena Protocol.
Birds Directive, Habitats Directive and NATURA 2000
At European level, the implementation of the 1979 “Birds Directive” (Council Directive 79/409/EEC) and the 1992 “Habitats Directive” (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) and the establishment of the Natura 2000 network, constitutes a fundamental tool to carry out the objectives of the CBD.
The Birds Directive concerns the conservation of all species of naturally occurring birds in the wild within the territory of Member States and prescribes the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPA) to guarantee the survival and reproduction of sensitive species.
The Habitats Directive complements the Birds Directive and concerns the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora, with the exception of birds and their habitats. The Habitats Directive establishes a common framework for the conservation of wild animal and plant species and natural habitats of Community importance. This Directive covers both terrestrial and marine habitats and takes into account economic, cultural, social and recreational needs of local communities. Special Areas for Conservation (SAC) have to be designated for the conservation of habitats and species of Community importance.
Together, the SPAs and SACs form the Natura 2000 network.
CITES is a multilateral environmental agreement, created to make international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants sustainable and to ensure that it does not threaten their survival. Every species that is or in the future might be endangered by trade, is listed on one of the three CITES annexes. If a species is placed on these lists, the trade in that particular species is subject to strict regulations. By continuous follow-up of the status of the population, trade in specific species-country combinations may be prohibited. The principle of sustainable use is a major factor in these decisions. CITES only allows trade in those species whose population status can cope with the loss of individual members captured for trade.
Belgium became a Contracting Party to the 1973 Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1984.
The 1971 Convention on the protection of wetlands, or Ramsar Convention, is an international treaty which provides the framework for local, regional and national actions and international cooperation for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands, i.e. to stop the progressive encroachment on and loss of wetlands now and in the future, recognising the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value. The Ramsar Convention was ratified by Belgium in 1986.
The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (also known as the CMS or Bonn Convention) aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range. It is an intergovernmental treaty concerned with the conservation of wildlife and habitats on a global scale. CMS Parties strive towards protecting migratory species threatened with extinction as well as migratory species that would significantly benefit from international cooperation, conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them.
Within the framework of CMS, regional agreements can be concluded for species included in Annex II. For Belgium the following agreements are important:
- The Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS)
The Bat Agreement aims to protect all 45 species of bats identified in Europe, through legislation, education, conservation measures and international cooperation with Agreement members and with those who have not yet joined.
- The Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (ASCOBANS)
The aim of the Agreement is to promote close cooperation among Parties with a view to achieving and maintaining a favourable conservation status for small cetaceans. A Conservation and Management Plan forming part of the Agreement obliges Parties to engage in habitat conservation and management, surveys and research, pollution mitigation and public information. To achieve its aim, ASCOBANS cooperates with Range States that have not (yet) acceded to the Agreement, relevant intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations.
- The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA)
AEWA covers 235 species of birds that are ecologically dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle. The geographical area covered by the AEWA stretches from the northern reaches of Canada and the Russian Federation to the southernmost tip of Africa. The Agreement provides for coordinated and concerted action to be taken by the Range States throughout the migration system of waterbirds to which it applies.
The Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the World Heritage Convention, WHC) was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972 and is an important instrument of international cooperation to protect and transmit to future generations the world’s outstanding natural and/or cultural heritage.
The Convention aims to encourage the identification, protection, and preservation of Earth’s cultural and natural heritage. Cultural heritage refers to monuments, groups of buildings, and sites with historical, aesthetic, archaeological, scientific, ethnological, or anthropological value. Natural heritage covers outstanding physical, biological and geological formations, habitats of threatened species and areas with scientific, conservation or aesthetic value. The level of biodiversity within a given site is a key indicator of its importance as a natural property.
The Convention recognises that nations have a duty to ensure the identification, protection, conservation, presentation, and transmission to future generations of their cultural and natural heritage. By adhering to the Convention, nations pledge to conserve not only the World Heritage Site(s) situated within their territories, but also to improve the protection of their national heritage as a whole.
The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, or Bern Convention, is a binding international legal instrument in the field of nature conservation, which covers the whole of the natural heritage of the European continent and extends to some African states. The convention aims to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats and to promote European cooperation in that field. It was adopted and signed in Bern in September 1979, and came into force on 1 June 1982. The protection of migratory species lends the Convention a distinct dimension of North-South interdependence and cooperation.
All marine legislation is situated under the “umbrella” of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), drawn up in Montego Bay on 10 December 1982 and ratified in Belgium by the law of 18 June 1998. This convention may justifiably be considered to be the (written) constitution defining the system governing the seas and the oceans at world level.
Belgium is a Party to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR, 1992). Its Annex V deals with the protection and conservation of the marine ecosystem and its biological diversity. Tools to achieve this include the protection of certain species and habitats and the establishment of marine protected areas.
Belgium is a member of the Commission, which manages the marine living resources of Antarctica. The Commission applies both the precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach. Given that the area covers 12 % of the oceans, the measures adopted potentially have a significant impact. The close institutional ties with the Committee for Environmental Protection instituted by the Madrid Protocol of the Antarctic Treaty and its leading role in the conservation of the Antarctic environment make it a unique player in the Antarctic region.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is a body that was created by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (1946). It currently numbers 66 members. Since the 1987 moratorium on commercial whaling, its annual meetings have covered the setting up of a cetacean stock management scheme that addresses control and animal welfare considerations. Stock assessments are being conducted by the Scientific Committee. While the possible resumption of commercial whaling depends on the adoption of such a scheme, a conservation agenda is being developed with a view to tackling other pressures than commercial and scientific whaling: collisions, pollution, underwater noise, etc.
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation)
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations leads international efforts to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living. The FAO helps developing countries and countries with economies in transition to modernise and improve their agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices and ensure good nutrition for all.
Of particular relevance to the Convention is the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA).
The CGRFA intends to ensure the conservation and sustainable utilisation of genetic resources for food and agriculture, as well as the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use, for present and future generations. The PGRFA addresses among other things access to ex situ collections not addressed by the Convention. It was adopted by the FAO Conference by consensus in November 2001 and entered into force on 29 June 2004. It is a legally binding instrument which has the following objectives: (1) The conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture; (2) The fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use for sustainable agriculture and food security, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Treaty covers all PGRFA but its original Multilateral System covers only a restricted list of PGRFA which are included in Annex 1 of the Treaty. Since June 2006 a standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) has been adopted with the view to facilitate access and benefit sharing of PGRFA.
Another instrument of particular relevance to the implementation of the CBD is the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (1996) (formerly adopted during the FAO’s Fourth International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources). It has been endorsed by the Conference of Parties of the CBD and the World Food Summit and is recognized as a major contribution to the implementation of the CBD in the field of Agrobiodiversity. It consists of 20 activities concerned with in situ and ex situ conservation, sustainable use of Plant Genetic Resources and is a comprehensive framework for actions at community, national, regional and international levels. It emphasises as priority the necessity to build strong National Programmes for the safe conservation and the utilization of Plant Genetic Resources. The Second Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Second GPA) was prepared under the aegis of the CGRFA and adopted by the FAO Council at its 143rd Session in November 2011. It reaffirms the commitment of governments to the promotion of plant genetic resources as an essential component for food security through sustainable agriculture in the face of climate change.
Another important biodiversity-related action plan is the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources, which was adopted at the International Technical Conference on Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture held in Switzerland, in September 2007, and which was subsequently endorsed by all FAO Member Nations at the Thirty-Fourth FAO Conference in
November 2007. It is the first internationally agreed framework for the management of biodiversity in the livestock sector. It calls for the development of technical guidelines to support countries in their implementation efforts. Guidelines on the preparation of national strategies and action plans for animal genetic resources were published in 2009 and are being complemented by a series of guideline publications addressing specific technical subjects.
Conservation of animal genetic resources – ensuring that these valuable resources remain available for future use by livestock breeders – is one of the four strategic priority areas of the Global Plan of Action. These guidelines focus on conservation “in vivo”, i.e. maintaining live populations rather than storing frozen genetic material. They complement separate guidelines on Cryoconservation of animal genetic resources published in the same series. They have been endorsed by the CGRFA.
The United Nations programme for education, science and culture (UNESCO) was founded on 16 November 1945. The main objective of this specialised United Nations agency is to contribute to peace and security in the world by promoting collaboration between nations through education, science, culture and communication in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.
UNESCO’s Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB) develops the basis, within the natural and the social sciences, for the sustainable use and conservation of biological diversity, and for the improvement on a global basis of the relationship between people and their environment.
Other important instruments
The Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (endorsed at the 3rd Ministerial Conference 'Environment for Europe' in 1995) intends to stop and reverse the degradation of biological and landscape diversity values in Europe. The Strategy reinforces the implementation of existing measures to ensure conservation and sustainable use of biological and landscape diversity and identifies additional actions that need to be taken over the next two decades. The Strategy also provides a 20-year (1996-2016) vision for Europe structured into four 5-year action plans. The first five-year action plan (1996-2000) specifically set out to remedy the deterioration in the state of the key biological and landscape systems, and to strengthen the coherence of these systems; particular focus was laid in this period on integrating pan-European priorities into national policy and initiatives based on the national biodiversity strategies, programmes and plans each government were to set up to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Action Plan stimulated the development of national ecological networks and the realisation of a Pan-European Ecological Network in 10 years.
The Benelux Convention concerning hunting and the protection of birds (1970) contains regulations with regard to consultation concerning the dates for the opening and closing of the hunting season, minimum dimensions for land used for shooting, the use of arms and methods permitted for hunting, transport and marketing of game, etc.
The Benelux Convention on nature conservation and landscape protection (1982) aims at regulating concerted action and cooperation among the three Governments in the field of conservation, management and rehabilitation of the natural environment and landscapes. In practice, this means the harmonisation and coordination of relevant policy principles and instruments of each of the three countries with regard to transboundary natural areas and landscapes of value by means of the development of protection and management concepts, the establishment of an inventory, demarcation and granting of protective status to these areas and consultation on development projects which might adversely affect these areas.