Convention on Biological Diversity

The United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed in 1992 on the occasion of the UN-Summit on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro by more than 150 states. It was entered into force on 29 December 1993 according to international law and ratified at the end of 2019 by 196 states and the European Union - including Germany.

The Biodiversity Convention, in its basic fundamentals goes way beyond the contents of earlier environmental protection and species protection agreements (e.g. The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS); the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora - CITES). One the hand, the term biological diversity is further defined and on the other hand, the goals are clarified under which the protection and the use of biodiversity world-wide are to be seen (Art.1 CBD).

The CBD has three aims (Art. 1 CBD):

  • The conservation of biological diversity
  • The sustainable use of its components
  • The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources

The CBD links the protection and the use of the biological diversity with economic, political, administrative, legal (personal property and human rights) and scientific instruments on the national and international level, over the operability of ecosystems and for maintaining the life base of mankind world-wide and in the long term. In the CBD, not only is attention dedicated to the conservation of biological diversity (Art. 8 & 9 CBD), research and training (Art. 12 CBD) and the public education and awareness (Art. 13 CBD), but also to the use of biological diversity, in particular access to genetic resources and the transfer of technology (Art. 15-19 CBD). Biological diversity use may take place in the sense of the CBD only according to the sustainable principals, which interconnects ecological, economic, social and political interests. Principles for sustainable use are provided in the "Ecosytem approach" of the CBD (Dec. COPV/6).

A further characteristic of the convention is that the member nations do not only commit themselves by the ratification of the agreement, to preserve the biodiversity in their own country, but also to support other countries (in particular developing countries) during their implementation of the convention goals. Apart from the aspect of sustainable use another key function "benefit-sharing" comes into play.

The complete convention text is found in six languages (Arab, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) as pdf file on the homepage of the internationalen Clearing-House Mechnismus ( A German version of the CBD is available on the web page of theGerman Clearing-House-Mechanism.

In the sense of the CBD (Art. 2) "biological diversity" means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

In the sense of the CBD (Art. 2) "sustainable use" means the use of components of biological diversity in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of biological diversity, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations.

What does one understand as "Benefit-Sharing"?

The CBD specifies that access to biological diversity must be accompanied with the principle of fair "benefit sharing." According to the CBD, fair benefit-sharing is for all those countries and/or affected local groups concerned to receive financial reimbursement for providing access to their genetic resources or traditional knowledge over their use for international participants. Necessary for fair-benefit sharing is prior informed consent (PIC; Article 15.5) and mutually agreed terms (MAT; Article 15.4) for access to genetic resources.