Biodiversity issues have been high on the agenda of the IUCN Environmental Law Programme (ELP) since its inception. In particular, the ELP has contributed significantly to the development of a number of important international conventions on the conservation and sustainable use of species and ecosystems, as well as biodiversity per se. Among them: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The ELP has also addressed a wide range of issues related to the implementation of biodiversity-related international instruments. Recently, key topics have included Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS), Marine Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services, Protected Areas and other cross cutting issues.

The ELP has been actively engaged in numerous events concerning international environmental governance, including the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), the International Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the IUCN World Conservation Congress and the Conference of Parties to the UN conventions on biodiversity and climate change.

Access and Benefit-Sharing

The ELC has been working on ABS issues and supporting the negotiations relating thereto for over ten years.

The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources is one of the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the CBD in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan created an international framework which provides for concrete measures, rules and procedures to implement the CBD´s third objective. 

A highlight of the ELP’s work on ABS in 2012 was the successful launch of the IUCN Explanatory Guide to the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of the Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity at the 11th meeting of the CBD Conference of the Parties in Hyderabad, India.

At the national level, the ELC has been supporting the Saudi Wildlife Conservation Agency, an IUCN member, to draft a National Strategy for ABS. The draft National Strategy for ABS in Saudi Arabia was presented at a stakeholder workshop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in February. Based on the feedback received from representatives from different Saudi government ministries and agencies at the workshop, the draft strategy was finalized and submitted to the Saudi Wildlife Conservation Agency.


Marine Biodiversity

The ELC has been working on marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) in developing legal and policy options for governing the high seas and seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction in order to promote conservation and equitable use.

The need for such work stems from a legal and now political dispute regarding the legal status of marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This legal dispute revolves around a larger issue regarding the equitable use of marine resources beyond national jurisdiction and has severe impacts on collective efforts to conserve the global ocean in the future.

As a way to contribute to the international negotiation process under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a series of background papers has been prepared. 

At the EU level, the ELP works as a partner in the EU-funded project “Marine Microbial Biodiversity, Bioinformatics and Biotechnology (MicroB3)”. This project aims to develop innovative bioinformatic approaches and a legal framework to make large-scale data on marine viral, bacteria; archaeal and protists genomes and metagenomes accessible for marine ecosystems biology and to define new targets for biotechnological applications.

Together with other partners, the ELC will conduct research on legal frameworks for ABS related to marine genetic resources in order to develop standardized material transfer agreements for pre-competitive and competitive research access.


Wildlife Trade

The ELC is collaborating in a joint TRAFFIC-IUCN project looking at the European Commission (EC) Wildlife Trade regulations. As part of the assessment of the effectiveness of the EC Wildlife Trade Regulations, the ELC undertook an in-depth analysis of the provisions and developed a number of guidance documents on specific issues related to the implementation of the EC regulation. They covered current practice in Member States, legal interpretation of the provisions and guidance for enforcement officers under a number of possible scenarios.

Greening the World Economy

The ELC started the development of Guidelines for Policy and Legislation on integration of biodiversity aspects in extractive industry activities in 2011. The project team continued to advance the work in 2012 with two drafts and a number of working sessions, peer reviews and consultations.

During the CBD COP11 in October, the ELC co-organized a side-event on "Private Sector Engagement and Best Practices for Enhancing Biodiversity Management”. The purpose of this event was to bring policymakers, experts, and companies together to share knowledge and lessons learned, promote best practices for biodiversity conservation by private companies and define principles that create an enabling environment for biodiversity management.

IUCN's work on Biodiversity