Press Releases

    UNEP/106
    18 April 2002

    UNEP CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

    Governments to Advance Work on Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

    THE HAGUE, 17 April 2002 -- With the legally-binding Protocol on Biosafety gaining momentum towards its entry into force, delegates from over 160 governments as well as non-governmental, intergovernmental and indigenous and private sector organizations will meet here for continuing discussions from 22-26 April.

    The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity aims to ensure the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms that result from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health.

    "The Cartagena Protocol recognizes that biotechnology has an immense potential for improving human welfare but that it could also pose risks to biodiversity and human health," said Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). "The Protocol promises to minimize these risks by establishing an effective system for managing the transboundary movement of living modified organisms."

    "As of 28 February 2002, the Protocol had a total of 13 ratifications and accessions and 103 signatures. It will enter into force on the ninetieth day after the fiftieth instrument of ratification, accession, approval or acceptance, has been deposited with the Secretary General of the United Nations", said Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

    "This third meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Cartagena Protocol needs to make significant progress in order to ensure a smooth entry into force for the Protocol when the day arrives," he added.

    The Intergovernmental Committee for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (ICCP) was established by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to prepare for the first Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (COP-MOP 1). The Committee first met from 11-15 December 2000 in Montpellier, France and then again from 1-5 October 2001 in Nairobi, Kenya. The current meeting is being held back-to-back with the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention.

    In The Hague, the ICCP will address the following issues: decision making; information sharing; capacity building; compliance; handling, transport, packaging and identification; liability and redress, monitoring and reporting, the Secretariat, guidance to the financial mechanism, and rules of procedure for the meeting of the Parties; and consideration of other issues necessary for effective implementation of the Protocol.

    Ambassador Philemon Yang of Cameroon, Chairman of the ICCP, noted that some progress was made during the first two meetings on a number of issues. Concrete outputs so far have included: the development and implementation of the pilot phase of the Biosafety Clearing-House (a mechanism for international exchange of biosafety-related information), adoption of an Action Plan for Building Capacities for the Effective Implementation of the Protocol, and establishment of a roster of over 400 experts who provide advice and other support to developing country Parties on risk assessment.

    "Information sharing and capacity building, especially for developing countries, are some of the critical priority requirements for the successful implementation of the Protocol," said Ambassador Yang. "We need to empower countries to make informed decisions."

    The first and the second meetings of the ICCP also prepared a number of recommendations, which will be considered by the COP-MOP.

    This third meeting will also consider the report of the CBD Executive Secretary on the status of the Protocol, including the designation of National Competent Authorities and National Focal Points for the Protocol and for the Biosafety Clearing-House, as well as progress in implementing the recommendations made by ICCP 2. Reports of inter-sessional meetings convened pursuant to the previous ICCP recommendations will be discussed, namely: the regional meetings on the Biosafety Clearing-House and the Technical Experts Meetings on Handling, Transport Packaging and Identification for paragraph 2(b) and 2(c) of Article 18) and for paragraph 2(a) of Article 18.

    It is expected that the meeting will prepare further recommendations that will advance preparations for the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Protocol.

    Additional Information

    1. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted on 29 January 2000 in Montreal, Canada, after more than three and a half years of negotiation. It will enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification, accession, approval or acceptance with the Secretary General of the United Nations.

    2. The Intergovernmental Committee for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety will cease to exist when the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Protocol is be held, i.e. after the Protocol has entered into force.

    3. The roster of experts was established to provide advice and other support to developing country Parties to conduct risk assessment, make informed decisions, develop national human resources and promote institutional strengthening, associated with the transboundary movements of living modified organisms.

    4. Additional information about the Protocol is available at: www.biodiv.org/biosafety/

    For further information, please contact:
    Cristina Stricker: +1-514-287-7031,
    cristina.stricker@biodiv.org

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