2.3 Summary of the Workshop

The workshop, held in London on 26-27 September 1996, was attended by 35 experts from 16 countries, including representatives of ten national focal points for the Convention and 12 representatives of the scientific networks associated with the study, together with members of the project Core Team, the European Commission DGXI, ETC/NC and EEA staff and representatives of international non-governmental organisations. The workshop was viewed by the EEA as an opportunity for the national focal points to the Convention to exchange information and ideas, to judge their performance (and problems in implementation) in relation to others, and to examine both mutual problems and possible mutual solutions. Overall it was hoped that the workshop would enable team building.

The European Commission representative stressed the fact that the European Community is a Contracting Party to the Convention. All EU States have now ratified the Convention. The European Commission had an important role to play in order to propose and to achieve concerted Community action towards the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It was noted that previous Conferences of the Parties and meetings of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) dealt with overloaded agendas without achieving very concrete progress in the implementation of the Convention. The Commission representative underlined the urgent need to see real progress. The Community already had legislation in place (i.e. the Habitats Directive) which allowed Member States to achieve part of the objectives of the Convention. Building upon the current Community legislation and action, the Commission’s proposal for a Community Biodiversity Strategy would be developed and presented to the Council of Ministers and to the Parliament in 1997. The Community Biodiversity Strategy should not be confused with the "Pan-European Landscape and Biological Diversity Strategy" developed under the auspices of the Council of Europe. The Community Biodiversity Strategy would deal with the three objectives of the Conventions and concentrate on the integration of biodiversity concerns in relevant sectoral and cross-sectoral policy areas. It would be complementary to the strategies of the Member States and be prepared in close cooperation with them.

The international perspective was given by the current chairman of SBSTTA (Peter Schei). The implementation of the Convention was being developed through a series of interpretations and recommendations at meetings of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) and SBSTTA, and decisions at the CoPs. The Convention should be considered as an umbrella convention which enabled consolidation of related regional and global conventions (e.g. the Berne Convention). He suggested that the national strategies and action plans of EEA Member Countries should, as a minimum, cover: Article 6 concerning the integration of biodiversity into the various sectors, which should be a specific responsibility for EEA Countries; Article 11 concerning incentives which exist but counter biodiversity; Articles 16, 17, 18 and the Clearing House Mechanism concerning the provision of information to developing countries; Article 19 concerning biotechnology; and Articles 20 and 21 concerning financial resources. Cooperation with east European countries was important, as was the importance of biodiversity to the bigger issue of sustainable development. Implementation standards for reporting, control and evaluation mechanisms should be set, together with a system for internal control (self regulation).

To illustrate issues raised at the national level, four Member Countries were invited to make short presentations on their progress with implementation of the Convention (see Box 3).

Box 3: Illustration of issues raised at national level

Finland: The strategy was ‘to enhance cooperation and understanding among Ministries, relevant agencies, research institutions and organisations’, and involved obtaining a commitment at the personal level, for example from the various Ministries. A biodiversity adviser now sits on every official government committee. The Ministries of Traffic, Health, and Social Services, however, were having problems in understanding the technical language used in aspects of the issues involved.

Portugal: The coordinating body was not a defined structure but an existing government Institute with official responsibility for nature conservation. It has established linkages between the Government Agencies or Ministries, but these have mainly concerned the development of protocols that constituted follow-up actions and the application of existing national legislation. A national strategy for implementation was yet to be produced, and a tangible coordinating body was required.

United Kingdom: The first Biodiversity Plan was published in 1994, and provided goals and objectives in the form of 59 broad targets. Subsequently a Biodiversity Steering Group was established, comprising four subgroups and including representatives from the different sectors, which defined biodiversity in more detail and advised the Government of specific, costed targets. 1252 targeted species are to be monitored in order to detect change, and 38 key habitat types. 14 habitat action plans have been produced, and national targets have been translated into local biodiversity action plans. 57 initiatives are under development (for example, promoting public awareness and education). The international dimension needed to be further developed, and the EU Common Agricultural Policy was seen to be a major problem area needing reform if biodiversity action plans were to work.

The Netherlands: A ‘strategic plan of action’ sat at the apex of many nature conservation, foreign affairs, economic and social policy documents, and provided a formal analysis of the relevant parts of many policies as a means of identifying legal gaps and ensuring biodiversity was treated as a cross-sectoral issue. There was, therefore, no budget for biodiversity per se, because this was subsumed in the budgets of the different sectors, and the term ‘additional money’ should be used. There was an Interdepartmental Working Group on Biodiversity, housed in the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Fisheries, and involving two other Ministries, and a Netherlands Biodiversity Platform which enabled NGOs to work together on an informal basis. Problem areas concerned cooperation between international secretariats, translating policy into action, the participation of local and regional authorities, and the appeasement of nature conservation groups.

The workshop then went on to address four specific issues in smaller working groups:

  • minimum standards for implementation of the Convention and criteria for success;
  • problems in national implementation of the Convention;
  • linking knowledge on biodiversity status and trends with the effectiveness of the Convention;
  • the approach to cross-sectoral integration.



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