International Agreements

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was established on the occasion of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization, and the global Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 are important supplementary agreements which were adopted under the umbrella of the CBD. In 2021, it is planned to establish a new global biodiversity framework to replace the Strategic Plan, which has now expired.

Other conventions also exist which cover certain species or particular natural environments, such as the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals CMS, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora CITES, and the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, etc. Switzerland is also a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services IPBES, which was established in 2012, and of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility GBIF.

All of these agreements contribute to the implementation of the global Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 and the efforts made to attain the Biodiversity Targets for 2020 (20 Aichi Targets). The latter were adopted in October 2010 in Nagoya (prefecture of Aichi) for the concrete implementation of the CBD. In the discussions on the new post-2020 global biodiversity framework, Switzerland is advocating the further strengthening of synergies in the international biodiversity regime. Furthermore, it is actively involved in discussions regarding an implementation agreement to the United National Convention on the Law of the Sea UNCLOS for the conservation of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.


1. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

The Convention on Biological Diversity (Biodiversity Convention, CBD) was adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Convention now has a total of 196 Parties. It was ratified by Switzerland on 21 November 1994.

The signatory states of the CBD undertake to conserve biodiversity in their own territories, support appropriate measures for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in developing countries, and regulate equitably access to genetic resources and their utilisation.

In April 2002, the Parties to the CBD undertook to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss significantly by 2010. Unfortunately, the target agreed for 2010 was not attained. The global Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 and new biodiversity goals for the decade to 2020, known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, were defined at the Conference of the Parties in Nagoya in October 2010. The measures to be attained under the strategic plan and goals include the elimination of counterproductive incentives, the improved interconnection of protected areas and the sustainable use of areas with an economic function.
To ensure the long-term conservation of biodiversity, the Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) developed a national biodiversity strategy, which was approved by the Federal Council on 25 April 2012. The associated action plan was likewise approved on 6 September 2017; this sets out concrete measures for the ten strategic goals to conserve biodiversity in Switzerland long term.

A new global framework for biodiversity is to be adopted at the next Conference of the Parties (COP) for the period after 2020. This will replace the expired Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, setting new targets for 2030 and 2050. Some of the elements Switzerland is pushing for are: a clear and concise framework with measurable targets and indicators that address the most important global causes of biodiversity loss; a framework that applies to the entire international biodiversity regime and strengthens and leverages synergies between different conventions and processes; and finally, an effective implementation mechanism that allows the success of measures to be assessed and lessons to be learned.


2. Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

Under the umbrella of the Biodiversity Convention, the same states also adopted the Cartagena Protocol on Biodiversity in the year 2000. This was ratified by Switzerland in 2002. The Cartagena Protocol is an international law instrument concerned with the environmental and health issues that arise in relation to the use of genetically modified, living organisms. It is designed to ensure the safe transport and use of living organisms that have been modified using biotechnology, which could pose risks to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

The Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol was passed in Nagoya in 2010 as a supplement to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The supplementary protocol specifies international rules and processes in relation to liability and redress in the event of damage caused to biodiversity by genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It was ratified by Switzerland on 27 October 2014 and came into effect on 5 March 2018; its provisions are harmonised with the applicable Swiss Gene Technology Act (GTA SR 814.91).


3. Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (Access and Benefit-Sharing, ABS)

The Nagoya Protocol, which was negotiated within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), regulates access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilisation (Access and Benefit-Sharing, ABS). It is a tool in implementing the third objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity and contributes to the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of its components. There is often an interrelationship between the traditional knowledge of indigenous and local communities and genetic resources. That is why the Nagoya Protocol also contains provisions concerning access and benefit-sharing when such knowledge is used.

Switzerland ratified the Nagoya Protocol on 11 July 2014. It came into force on 12 October 2014. New provisions (NCHA Art. 23n – q. 24h, para. 3 and 25d) were introduced into the Federal Act on the Protection of Nature and Cultural Heritage (NCHA, SR 451) in order to implement the protocol in Switzerland. The associated Nagoya Ordinance (NagO, SR 461.61) came into force on 1 February 2016. Its purpose is to apply the provisions concerning genetic resources in the Nature and Cultural Heritage Act and implement the Nagoya Protocol in Switzerland.


4.   Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially Waterfowl Habitat was concluded in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971. This makes it one of the oldest international agreements on the protection of nature. The Ramsar Convention came into force in Switzerland in 1976. The secretariat for the Ramsar Convention is located in Gland (canton of Vaud).


5.   Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Convention on Migratory Species, CMS) was concluded in Bonn, Germany, in 1979 and entered into force in Switzerland on 1 July 1995. The CMS secretariat is located in Bonn.


6. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

Also known as the Washington Endangered Species Convention, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was passed in Washington in 1973. It entered into force in Switzerland on 1 July 1975. The CITES secretariat is in Geneva. The authority responsible for the CITES in Switzerland is the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO).


7. Bern Convention

The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats was signed by the Council of Europe in Bern in 1979. It is the first agreement to regulate the protection of biodiversity at European level.

The aim of the Bern Convention is to conserve wild flora and fauna and their habitats, and to promote cooperation between European countries in the conservation of biodiversity. Particular attention is paid to threatened and particularly sensitive species. The Bern Convention implements many of the global goals defined in the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) at regional level.


8. International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) was passed in Rome in 2001 and came into force in Switzerland on 20 February 2005. The authority in Switzerland responsible for the ITPGRFA is the Federal Office for Agriculture FOAG.


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Last modification 01.03.2021

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