The Earth’s biological resources are vital to humanity’s economic and social development. As a result, there is a growing recognition that biological diversity is a global asset of tremendous value to present and future generations. At the same time, the threat to species and ecosystems has never been so great as it is today. Species extinction caused by human activities continues at an alarming rate.
In response, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) convened the Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity in November 1988 to explore the need for an international convention on biological diversity. Soon after, in May 1989, it established the Ad Hoc Working Group of Technical and Legal Experts to prepare an international legal instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. The experts were to take into account “the need to share costs and benefits between developed and developing countries” as well as “ways and means to support innovation by local people”.
By February 1991, the Ad Hoc Working Group had become known as the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee. Its work culminated on 22 May 1992 with the Nairobi Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The Convention was opened for signature on 5 June 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio “Earth Summit”). It remained open for signature until 4 June 1993, by which time it had received 168 signatures. The Convention entered into force on 29 December 1993, which was 90 days after the 30th ratification. The first session of the Conference of the Parties was scheduled for 28 November – 9 December 1994 in the Bahamas.
The Convention on Biological Diversity was inspired by the world community’s growing commitment to sustainable development. It represents a dramatic step forward in the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.