3.3.4 Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted at the Rio Summit
in 1992. It addresses one of the most pressing issues of the modern era, sustainable
management of the living resources of the planet. It also, for the first time,
adopts a comprehensive rather than a sectoral approach to the conservation of
the planet's biodiversity and sustainable use of its biological resources. In
the four sessions of the COPs, the Parties developed a mechanism for the normative
development of the Convention and its implementation. The Convention provides
for "access to and transfer of technology" in Article 16. When this
is read with Article 19 dealing with "handling of biotechnology and distribution
of its benefits", it reflects the years of North-South debate in other
fora over the issue of technology transfer and the issue of intellectual property
rights (Glowka et al., 1994).
The closely interlinked provisions along with Articles 16 and 19 are Articles
12 (research and training), 17 (exchange of information), and 18 (technical
and scientific cooperation). Together they seek to "provide and/or facilitate
access for and transfer to other Contracting Parties" of: technologies
relevant to the conservation of biological diversity, technologies relevant
to the sustainable use of its components or technologies that make use of genetic
CBD includes provisions for biodiversity-rich developing countries to regulate
access and, eventually, to the use of these resources. This approach is now
being carried out in access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing agreements
around the world (Reid et al., 1993). A key component of the CBD supporting
such mechanisms was the recognition of national sovereign rights over genetic
The CBD specifically addresses access to and transfer of technology relevant
to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, including biotechnology.
Such access and transfer to developing countries should be facilitated under
fair and favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms
where mutually agreed and in accordance with the financial mechanism (GEF).
The situation calls for a careful balance between technology needs, financial
requirements, appropriate regulatory frameworks and cooperation among countries.
In this context - and for any other international agreement with technology
transfer provisions - national strategies to determine technological needs play
an important role.
The CBD also established that transfer should be under terms which recognise
and are consistent with intellectual property rights over these technologies.
Since the CBD is concerned directly with access to and use of genetic resources,
IPRs have played a more central role than seems likely in the context of climate
change. The debate has also been highly contentious, with some developing countries
arguing that TRIP provisions may need to be amended or set aside in the context
of the CBD, and a number of western governments and industry groups strongly
contesting this position (e.g. UNICE, 1997). Technology transfer in the
case of technologies related to genetic resources, particularly the biotechnology
which is largely developed by the private sector, presents certain differences
with respect to climate change related technology transfer.