The Convention on Biological Diversity provides a global legal framework for action on biodiversity. It brings together the Parties in the Conference of the Parties (COP) which is the Convention’s governing body that meets every two years, or as needed, to review progress in the implementation of the Convention, to adopt programmes of work, to achieve its objectives, and provide policy guidance.

The COP is assisted by the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), which is made up of government representatives with expertise in relevant fields, as well as observers from non-Party governments, the scientific community, and other relevant organizations. SBSTTA is responsible for providing recommendations to the COP on the technical aspects of the implementation of the Convention.

Other subsidiary bodies have been established by the COP to deal with specific issues as they arise. These are called “ad hoc open-ended Working Groups” because they are established for a limited mandate and period of time, and because they are open to all Parties as well as the participation of observers. Current Working Groups are:

Working Groups make recommendations to the COP, and, as is the case for the Working Group on Access and Benefit-Sharing, may also provide a forum for negotiations of a particular instrument under the Convention.

The COP and SBSTTA may also establish expert groups or call for the organization by the Secretariat of liaison groups, workshops, and other meetings. Participants in these meetings are usually experts nominated by governments, as well as representatives of international organizations, local and indigenous communities and other bodies. Unlike SBSTTA and the open-ended Working Groups these are usually not considered as intergovernmental meetings. The purpose of these meetings vary: Expert groups may provide scientific assessments, for example, while workshops may be used for training or capacity building. Liaison groups advise the secretariat or act as for cooperation with other conventions and organizations.