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Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity 
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Montreal, Quebec, Canada H2Y 1N9 
Tel: +1 514 288 2220
Fax: +1 514 288 6588 
Internet http://www.biodiv.org 


The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) was established in 1994 to provide the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention and, as appropriate, other COP subsidiary bodies with timely advice relating to the implementation of the Convention. 

Organization and Dynamics

Membership: SBSTTA is a multidisciplinary body, open to participation by all Parties and comprising government representatives competent in all the relevant fields of expertise. Specific mention is also made that the scientific and technical contribution of non-governmental organisations to the fulfilment of the mandate of SBSTTA will be strongly encouraged. 

Whenever appropriate a limited number of ad hoc technical expert groups on specific priority issues on the programme of work of the SBSTTA may be established for a limited duration. A maximum of three are permitted to exist at any given time with 15 members each at most. 

Work and Outputs

SBSTTA's priority functions are: 
- The provision of scientific and technical assessments of the status of biological diversity; 
- Identification of innovative, efficient and state-of-the-art technologies and know-how relating to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and advice on the ways and means of promoting development and/or transferring such technologies;
- The provision of advice on scientific programmes and international cooperation in research and development related to the conservation of biological diversity and sustainable use of its components. 

Recent Meetings

First Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Inter-Sessional Working Group on Article 8(j) was held in Sevilla, Spain from 27-31 March 2000. The working group is mandated to address five specific areas: Application and development of legal and other forms of protection for the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities; Implementation of Article 8(j) and related provisions; Development of a programme of work; Priorities, opportunities for collaboration and implementation of the work programme; and, Measures to strengthen cooperation among indigenous and local communities. In the days preceding the meeting, the Fourth International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity was held in Sevilla. 

SBSTTA-5 was held 31 January to 4 February 2000 in Montreal. The agenda was divided between discussions in plenary and two working groups. Reports were presented on the following issues: Cooperation with other bodies; Pilot phase of the clearing-house mechanism; Review of the Global Taxonomy Initiative; guiding principles for the prevention, introduction and mitigation of impacts of alien species. On Specific issues in on-going work programmes on thematic areas reports were considered for: Inland water biological diversity; Marine and coastal biological diversity, concerning particularly coral bleaching; and, Forest biological diversity. On Priority issues, reports were considered in the thematic areas of: Programme of work for dryland, Mediterranean, arid, semi-arid, grassland and savannah biological diversity; and, Agricultural biological diversity. Concerning priority cross-cutting issues, reports were considered on: Ecosystem approach; Development of indicators of biological diversity; and, Sustainable use of the components of biological diversity. Finally, reports were also considered on Mechanisms for implementation, including: the Establishment of guidelines for the second national reports, including indicators and incentive measures; and, Ad hoc technical expert groups: terms of reference, and rosters of experts and proposal on a uniform methodology for their use (For more detail see UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/5/3). It has been noted that identifying ad hoc expert groups and their terms of reference for the various ecosystem and cross-cutting themes will have a definite impact on how those ecosystem work programs will be implemented (BIONET, Brief Analysis and Review of Items for Discussion at CBD SBSTTA-5). 

A Panel of Experts on Access and Benefit-Sharing met in San José, Costa Rica from 4-8 October 1999. It was established by the COP as a regionally-balanced panel of experts appointed by governments, composed of representatives from the private and the public sectors as well as representatives of indigenous and local communities. The mandate of the Panel is: to draw upon all relevant sources, including legislative, policy and administrative measures, best practices and case-studies on access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing arising from the use of those genetic resources, including the whole range of biotechnology, in the development of a common understanding of basic concepts; and, to explore all options for access and benefit-sharing on mutually agreed terms including guiding principles, guidelines, and codes of best practice for access and benefit-sharing arrangements. 

A Norway/United Nations Conference on the Ecosystem Approach for the Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity was held in Trondheim, Norway from 6-10 September. It was identified as having played an important role in bridging the gap between science and policy-making. At that time a brainstorming meeting was held on peer review and scientific assessments under the Convention by the Secretariat and hosted by the Government of Norway (see UNEP/CBD/COP/5/INF/1). The Secretariat has also convened a liaison group meeting on the ecosystem approach with UNESCO, held in Paris, 15-17 September 1999. 

Other Areas of Work

SBSTTA had made contributions to both the Jakarta Mandate on Marine and Coastal Biological Diversity as well as to the Biosafety Protocol.... 

(MORE DETAIL) National Reports: The Secretariat of the Convention is compiling a synthesis of the first round of national reports (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/5/INF/6). 

Roster of Experts: The first meeting of the SBSTTA recommended the establishment of a roster of experts with experience and expertise in the fields of relevance to the Convention. The roster would be based on nominations received in writing from the Parties and from competent entities and would be updated by the Clearing-House Mechanism for technical and scientific cooperation when this mechanism is fully operational. Rosters of Experts have been established for four ecosystems. The mechanisms now have to be developed to draw on these rosters effectively. The aim is that SBSTTA will produce multidisciplinary assessments based on an ecosystems approach. 

Experiences with Organization and Dynamics

The work of SBSTTA is driven by the programme of work of the COP and participants are representatives of governments. In the past, this has led to some difficulties, sometimes described as 'politicization' (Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Summary of SBSTTA-2) or a 'mini-COP'. Related observations were made about both SBSTTA 2 and 3. At SBSTTA-3 a report was presented entitled 'Overall Assessment of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice' (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/3/10 of 14 July 1997), which made recommendations on issues, including: functions, rules of procedure, frequency and timing of the SBSTTA, documentation, organization of work during the meetings, ad hoc technical expert group meetings, contribution of non-governmental organizations, cooperation with other relevant bodies, regional and subregional preparatory meetings, focal points, roster of experts. 

Delegates at SBSTTA-5 noted that the substantive nature of reports and appointment of expert groups was a sign of a “more mature implementation stage”. In line with this observation, the Parties have raised some crucial issue for further work, including the need for SBSTTA to: prioritize its agenda; clarify its functions and the guidance it receives from the COP; balance transparency with efficiency; more balanced regional representation; and, use existing scientific knowledge and expertise more effectively. 

Information Technology

The Convention has an extensive internet site, maintained by the Clearinghouse Mechanism. The website also acts as host for the joint website of the biodiversity-related conventions

The joint website of the biodiversity-related conventions (the CBD, CITES, CMS, Ramsar and the World Heritage Convention) is a resulted of the programme approved by the 20th Special Session of the UN General Assembly (June 1997) for the further implementation of Agenda 21, giving special priority to collaboration among the Conventions and to the enhancement of information capacities as requisites for sustainable development. There is a growing recognition that while each instrument does stand on its own, with its own defined objectives and commitments, there are also linkages and inherent relationships between all of them. These conventions operate in the same ecosystems. The website offers a good comparative overview, and includes a table with links being listed according to 20 criteria. (see http://www.biodiv.org/rioconv/websites.html

The Clearinghouse Mechanism was established to promote and facilitate scientific and technical cooperation for the implementation of the objectives of the Convention. The guiding principles of the CHM are to be “neutral, cost-effective, efficient, accessible, independent, and transparent”. One of its main features is its bottom-up approach and the fact that it is nationally driven. Efforts are currently underway to establish National Focal Points for the CHM. 


Report on Cooperation with other bodies: This is a review of ongoing activities conducted by the CBD Secretariat. The most recent one was submitted to SBSTTA-5 (See Doc. UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/5/2). The Report pays specific attention to collaboration in four expert groups (ecosystem approach, agro-biodiversity, indicators and drylands); possible activities for implementing SBSTTA's work program; and a review of various data and information gathering activities (the Millennium Assessment of Global Ecosystems, the World Conservation and Monitoring Centre and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility). 

Specific Cooperative Activities: .... 


Prepared by Jan-Stefan Fritz for the Second Report on International Scientific Advisory Processes on the Environment and Sustainable Development, 2000
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