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Biodiversity talks give boost to biosafety inland waters and forest

Bratislavia, Slovakia/Nairobi, 15 May 1998 - A major intergovernmental meeting on the Convention on Biological Diversity is concluding here today with important agreements on a future biosafety treaty, international programmes on inland water ecosystems and forests, and other critical issues.

"We have succeeded in generating new momentum to ensure that future generations continue to benefit from the world's biological richness," said Mr. Josef Zlocha, President of the Conference and Slovakia's Environment Minister. "We have launched new initiatives on forests - perhaps the most economically and biologically valuable of all ecosystems - and on inland waters, which are under enormous stress in all regions of the world."

The meeting also agreed on the need to complete a protocol on biosafety by February 1999. Recognizing that biotechnology can offer considerable benefits to human society while posing potential risks to the environment and human health, governments launched talks on biosafety in 1996. It has been decided to hold the fifth round of talks from 17 - 28 August 1998 and the concluding round in February 1999.

"The adoption of the biosafety protocol will demonstrate the practical impact that the Convention on Biological Diversity can have for all of us living on this planet," said Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). "Both communities and businesses will benefit from a widely accepted system for minimizing the risks from transboundary movements of living modified organisms," he said.

"Another achievement here in Bratislava has been the clear recognition that scientific and technological knowledge must underpin action on biodiversity if we are to be successful," said Calestous Juma, the Convention's Executive Secretary. "There has also been widespread support for the active participation of civil society, including non-governmental organizations, indigenous and local communities, and the business sector."

Other decisions being adopted today relate to the ongoing international programme on marine and coastal area ecosystems, the importance of traditional knowledge and indigenous peoples, the equitable sharing of benefits from genetic resources, the development of a clearing house mechanism, cooperation with other treaties and intergovernmental processes, and incentives for conservation and sustainable use.

Early in the meeting, a roundtable on biodiversity attended by 54 ministers and deputy ministers of environment emphasized the need to integrate biodiversity concerns into all human activities. The ministers also expressed the need for environmentally sustainable tourism and for strong private sector involvement in supporting the Convention's goals.

Over 1,300 participants and 152 countries (plus the European Community) participated in the 4 - 15 May meeting, known formally as the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-4) to the Convention on Biological Diversity.


Note to journalists:

Minister Zlocha, Executive Director Töpfer, and Executive Secretary Juma will brief the press today at 1:15 in the Press Conference Hall.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact UNEP/IUC at
(+41-22) 917 8242, fax (+41-22) 797 3464,

Official documents and other information can be found via the
Internet at

UNEP News Release 1998/28 For more information, contact:

Tore J. Brevik
Director, Information and Public Affairs
UNEP headquarters
P.O.Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: (254-2) 62-3292
Fax: (254-2) 62-3927

Robert Bisset,
UNEP Media and Communications Officer
Tel: +254-2-623084, Fax: +254-2-623692,

UNEP Web Site:

Thursday 14 May 1998
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