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Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO's commitment to biodiversity

International governance mechanisms


International conventions

Several international conventions focus on biodiversity conservation. Together, these form the main global governance mechanism on biodiversity. UNESCO hosts the secretariat of one of the eight major biodiversity-related conventions: the World Heritage Convention. Among international site-based instruments, the World Heritage Convention sets the highest standards for inscription in terms of the required biodiversity values and the integrity, protection and management requirements of sites. Among biodiversity-related conventions it is unique in its efforts to protect cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value, recognizing the close linkages between cultural and biological diversity.

The other biodiversity-related conventions are:

  • the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD),
  • the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands,
  • the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS),
  • the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),
  • the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC),
  • the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA), and
  • the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The heads of the secretariats of the biodiversity-related conventions meet regularly through a formal liaison group, in order to enhance coherence and cooperation in implementation.The governing bodies of the biodiversity-related conventions have committed to the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, adopted by the Conference of Parties to the CBD. The post-2020 global biodiversity framework is expected to be adopted in 2020.


The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body established in 2012. As of 2019, IPBES has 130 member States. IPBES is a global science-policy platform tasked with providing the best-available evidence to inform better decisions affecting biodiversity and ecosystems services. UNESCO is one of the platform’s main institutional partners, along with FAO, UNDP and UNEP, and has provided support and engagement from the very early stages. In particular, UNESCO has played a key role in implementing the first work programme of IPBES (2014-2018) by co-organizing and hosting several key workshops such as for the conceptual framework of IPBES, which integrates indigenous and local knowledge with science. In March 2018, in Medellin, Colombia, representatives of 127 governments approved five landmark assessment reports describing the state of knowledge about biodiversity, ecosystems and nature’s contributions to people. Four of the assessments cover different world regions, and the fifth examines land degradation and restoration, both regionally and globally.

These regional assessment reports are critical to understanding the role of human activities in biodiversity loss and its conservation, and our capacity to collectively implement solutions to address the challenges ahead. The findings of these five 2018 IPBES reports provide information detailed throughout this website. They also provided key inputs to the new comprehensive IPBES global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services, released in 2019. It is the first such evaluation since the authoritative 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.


Technical Support Unit for the IPBES Task Force on Indigenous and Local Knowledge Systems

UNESCO's Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems programme (LINKS) supports IPBES by hosting the Technical Support Unit for the IPBES Task Force on Indigenous and Local Knowledge Systems. The technical Support unit has developed a series of Indigenous and Local Knowledge reports based on international dialogue workshops. These reports present case studies of indigenous and local knowledge systems that aim to contribute to IPBES assessments.



Indigenous knowledge within the framework of IPBES

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) provides a mechanism recognized by both the scientific and policy communities to synthesize, review, assess and critically evaluate relevant knowledge.

The LINKS programme supports IPBES in its work to ensure respect for indigenous knowledge within the Platform.