December 2010



Biological resources are vital for humanity’s survival and for the economic and social development of nations. Food security and discovery of new medicines are put at risk by the loss of biological diversity. Vital goods and services that are often taken for granted, such as clean air and fresh water, are threatened by the deterioration of ecosystems. However, biological diversity is under threat around the world as Ecosystems are being damaged or destroyed and species are disappearing.

There is an intrinsic value in nature and biological resources which need to be protected. It is therefore the responsibility of mankind to ensure the diversity of such biological resources. Biological diversity constitutes a reservoir of resources, which can be used to achieve economic potential. The underlying cause of biodiversity loss is the explosion in human population, now at 6 billion, but expected to double again by the year 2050. The human population already consumes nearly half of all the food, crops, medicines, and other useful items produced by the Earth’s organisms, and more than 1 billion people on Earth lack adequate supplies of fresh water.

It is the reckoning of the intrinsic value to nature of such biological resources and the imminent threat its destruction pose to the ecosystem that led to the Convention on Biological diversity.

The Convention on Biological diversity stems from the conference on environment and development, which took place in Rio de janerio in 1992 – the Rio ‘earth summit’. Its main objective was to seek to;

  1. Protect genetic diversity,
  2. slow the rate of species extinction and
  3. Conserve habitats and ecosystems, earth’s biological resources, which form the basis of our food, fibre and many industrial materials.


The Convention on Biological diversity is made up of 42 Articles which sets out a programme to reconcile economic Development with the need to preserve all aspects of biological diversity.


Article 1

Article 1 of the Convention on Biological diversity states the following objectives as being those of the convention:

  1. The conservation of biological diversity
  2. The sustainable use of its components; and
  3. The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources


What then is biological diversity?

The Convention on Biological diversity defines biological diversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”.

While states have the sovereign right to exploit their own resources, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States, it has to be stressed that issues linked to the protection of Biological diversity transcend national boundaries. Therefore, the Convention of Biological Diversity reflects an international intent to promote and protect biological resources for all the benefits which accrue from them.

The Convention on Biological diversity contains few directly enforceable provisions. The Convention’s decision-making body – the Conference of the Parties (COP) – has adopted a wide range of programmes of work, guidelines and other measures to create a global framework for national and regional action. The Convention on Biological diversity addresses the biological diversity of the world’s main habitat types (forests, agricultural land, dry-and sub-humid lands, oceans and coastal areas, inland waters, mountains and islands), and also ‘cross-cutting’ issues, such as protected areas, access and benefit sharing, incentives, and invasive species.

In one stroke, article one encapsulates the entire objective to be strived for by the international community and provides that framework for action and protection of biological resources.

Article 8

Each party shall establish a system of protected areas to conserve biological diversity, develop guidelines for the selection, establish and management of these areas; rehabilitate and restore degrading ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened species; prevent the introduction of control or eradicate those alien species that threaten ecosystems, habitats and species.

The diverse biological resources found within any particular environment plus all the surrounding physical attributes of such environment constitute the ecosystem. The continued existence of biological resources and humans depend on the ecosystem.

Humans benefit from the smooth-functioning of the ecosystem in many ways. Healthy forests, streams, and wetlands contribute to clean air and clean water by trapping fast-moving air and water, enabling impurities to settle out or be converted to harmless compounds by plants or soil. The diversity of organisms, or biological diversity, in an ecosystem provides essential foods, medicines, and other materials. But as human populations increase and their encroachment on natural habitats expand, it brings detrimental effects on the very ecosystems on which they depend. The survival of natural ecosystems around the world is threatened by many human activities: bulldozing wetlands and clear-cutting forests—the systematic cutting of all trees in a specific area—to make room for new housing and agricultural land; damming rivers to harness the energy for electricity and water for irrigation; and polluting the air, soil, and water.

It is with this in mind that the Convention on Biological diversity contains the provision in article 8, sometimes called the ‘in-situ conservation’, which mandates parties to the convention to take steps to manage ecosystems and habitats for the continued existence of biological diversity in any such habitat. All species require a minimum amount of habitat for survival. Wildlife habitat reserves are established to meet these requirements for as many species as possible. Some national parks, wilderness areas, and other protected habitats are suitable for the survival of a wide range of species. This requires member states and indeed nations to create and manage protected areas where all the difference species of plants and animals are protected against outside tempering. This has the effect of allowing the natural course of events to control all such biological resources.
The world’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park, was established in Wyoming in 1872 to protect an area of incredible natural beauty. In 1873, the American Association for the Advancement of Science petitioned Congress to halt unwise use of natural resources, the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 authorized what would become known as National Forests, and the Lacey Act of 1900 established the first wildlife protection measures by restricting commercial hunting and the trade of illegally killed animals. In Nigeria, the establishment of several national parks and reserves are in concurrence with the principles embedded in the above article. The Yankari national reserve is an example of one of such protected areas.

Article 10

Each contracting party shall Integrate consideration of the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources into national decision-making, adopt measures to avoid or minimise adverse impacts on biological diversity; protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation and the sustainable use requirements, support local populations to develop and implement remedial action in degraded areas where biological diversity has been reduced; and encourage co-operation between governmental authorities and the private sector in developing methods for the sustainable use of biological resources.

This article has immense importance to biological diversity. This is because it has five main arms attached to it.

Despite the fact that members of the international legal regime are sovereign, the Convention on Biological diversity encourages parties as sovereign nations to inculcate and integrate the conservation and indeed the protection of biological resources into its municipal national decision-making processes. This means that it is not enough for member nations or parties to the convention to merely agree and sign the provisions of the convention, such members must take the extra step of including such objectives of the conference into its national decision-making process. This allows individual nations to make special arrangements considering the peculiarity of the environment and ecosystem within its territorial boundary.

Indeed it’s inevitable that certain biological resources form part of man’s source of survival. However, such resources must be managed and consumed in ways that encourage its continued existence. Article 10 encourages parties to the convention, recognizing the importance of biological resources to humans; adopt measures to avoid or minimize any impact on biological diversity and to protect or promote customary use of biological resources that are compatible with conservation requirements. For instance, Human activities have exerted pressures put on marine, coastal and inland water ecosystems. Biological diversity concerns have to be integrated into the management of marine resources, water and fisheries on one hand and these customary usages. The European Union Biological diversity Strategy, as an example, had put forward broad objectives for the fisheries sector, while the Biological diversity Action Plan for Fisheries, adopted in 2001, made specific recommendations to protect biological diversity from the impact of marine fisheries and aquaculture. The Action Plan for Environmental Integration, adopted in 2002, contained guiding principles, management measures and a work programme to move towards an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries, and to limit the environmental impact of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). These objectives, integrated into the reformed CFP, include:

  1. reducing fishing pressure to sustainable levels;
  2. improving fishing methods to reduce discard, by-catch and impact on habitats;
  3. protecting non-target species and habitats; and
  4. Decreasing the environmental impacts of aquaculture.

This has the cumulative consequence of maintaining stability and avoiding or minimizing adverse impact on biological diversity and of the depletion of biological resources.

In addition to this, nations are urged to support local populations to take remedial steps in areas where biological diversity has already been depleted. The bottom-line here is that in whatever policy decision made by nations, proper consideration must be made with reference to the environment and the biological resources. However, for the sake of these biological resources and the concrete benefits which come with them, governments and private sectors are encouraged to work hand in hand in order to secure the continued survival of such biological resources. In summary, article 10 advocates the sustainable use of components of biological diversity.

Article 11

Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate, adopt economically and socially sound measures that act as incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of components of biological diversity.

These talked about biological resources are also sources of survival of lots of persons. Irrespective of legal frameworks put in place, certain groups of persons would not discontinue from interfering with biological resources for good legitimate reasons. The reason for this can not be far-fetched; several of these biological resources are the very essentials for survival and development. In order to ensure the sustainable use and indeed the protection of biological resources, several economic and social incentives must be put in place to encourage such people not to otherwise over-exploit these biological resources. A successful example of this is what is obtainable in Brazil, where in exchange for dirt and garbage, the government swaps a sizeable amount of fruits in exchange for such garbage. This might not necessarily be the appropriate example, but the point been made here is the social and economic incentive made available here to encourage citizens to swap their dirt and garbage and in turn promote sanitation.

Such incentives would prove very effective in dissuading people with no other choice from overexploiting the biological resources. This in turn allows for the continued existence and indeed stability of all such biological resources.





The Convention on Biological Diversity is an international instrument demonstrating the international community’s concern about the depletion of the biological resources. However, these biological resources are found in the individual nations that make up the international community. Therefore, individual nations must take positive steps in order to stem the gradual depletion of these biological resources which would consequently ensure the availability of these resources for mankind’s use.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s