Clearing-House Mechanism

Information and technology

The term "clearing-house" originally referred to a financial establishment where checks and bills are exchanged among member banks so that only the net balances need to be settled in cash. Today, its meaning has been extended to include any agency that brings together seekers and providers of goods, services or information, thus matching demand with supply.

Biological diversity is the variety of life on Earth, from the simplest bacterial gene to the vast, complex rainforests of the Amazon. Human beings are an integral part of this diversity, as is the food, medicine, clothing and other biological resources that sustain us.

Recognizing the importance of biodiversity to our daily lives and the pressure that human activities are placing on our living world, governments adopted the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992 as a framework for action.

From the start it was understood that scientific knowledge and technological know-how would have a vital role to play in the implementation of the Convention. However, expertise in managing information and technology varies enormously from country to country. For this reason, the Convention has established a "Clearing-House Mechanism" to ensure that all governments have access to the information and technologies they need for their work on biodiversity.

Accessing Information and Sharing Knowledge

The clearing-house is based on the philosophy that broad participation and easy access must be a top priority. Its information and knowledge should be easily accessible and widely shared in order to contribute to the implementation of the Convention.

  • contribute significantly to the implementation of the CBD and its Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 through effective information services and other appropriate means
  • Promote and facilitate technical and scientific cooperation, knowledge sharing and information exchange
  • Establish a fully operational network of Parties and partners

The Clearing-House is coordinated by the Executive Secretary and overseen and guided by an Informal Advisory Committee (IAC) set up by the Parties to the Convention. The committee works in a transparent and cooperative manner to promote awareness of the multiple needs and concerns facing various communities, countries and regions.

In addition, a network of national focal points for the mechanism is being established to address matters relating to technical and scientific cooperation. The Parties have emphasized the need to strengthen the role of these focal points. Building a network of non-governmental organizations and other institutions working on biodiversity could contribute to this goal. Establishing National, Regional, Subregional and Thematic Clearing-House Focal Points for specific topics could also help.

Resources and activities

The Clearing-House Mechanism seeks to support the Convention's thematic and cross-cutting programmes of work by promoting cooperation, exchanging information and developing a network of partners. The mechanism's first priority was to ensure universal access to the Convention's official records. The texts of the Convention and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, lists of signatories and Parties, and official reports and documents have been made available through the Convention's website, on CD-ROM and in paper form. Since then, the range of available information has been greatly expanded. Users can now readily access case studies, national reports, and other relevant documentation.

  • Compatible with different levels of national capacity
  • Needs-driven
  • Structurally decentralized
  • Provides access to information
  • Supports decision-making
  • Has no vested interest in controlling the expertise or information
  • Created for the mutual benefit of all Parties and other stakeholders

The Clearing-House also seeks to increase public awareness of Convention programmes and issues. It is establishing an Internet-based system to facilitate greater collaboration among countries through education and training projects, research cooperation, funding opportunities, access to and transfer of technology, and repatriation of information.

An important initiative was the creation of the Central Portal of the Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH) to support the Cartagena Protocol. This on-line system facilitates the exchange of legal, scientific, environmental and other relevant information related to living modified organisms (LMOs).

The Secretariat of the Convention is promoting the clearing-house and its goals through workshops addressing the scientific and technical information needs of developing countries. These workshops give priority to issues identified by the countries themselves, such as assessing national capacities for implementing the Convention, improving access to new information technologies and expertise, and strengthening Public Education and Awareness.

For more information

The Clearing-House Mechanism web site is located at

Further information is also available at:
  Clearing-House Mechanism
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity

413 Saint-Jacques Street, Suite 800
Montreal, QC H2Y 1N9, Canada
+1 514 288 2220
+1 514 288 6588 or