Identification, Monitoring, Indicators and Assessments


Background and status

The Conference of the Parties first addressed the issue of indicators of biological diversity at its second meeting, when it endorsed paragraph 4 of Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) recommendation I/3 (decision II/8), which stated:

"There is a need for each party to start assessing the effectiveness of measures taken under the Convention. However, methods for assessing the effectiveness of measures to conserve or sustainably use biological diversity should be reviewed. The use of indicators of biological diversity and the status of its components is particularly time- and cost-effective. Several indicators are currently being used and developed. They should be reviewed and their use promoted".

In response to this endorsement, SBSTTA 2 reviewed indicators for assessing the effectiveness of measures taken under the Convention. COP 3 endorsed SBSTTA's resulting recommendation II/1 (decision II/10). This recommendation dealt with, inter alia, the review and promotion of indicators of biological diversity and made a number of general observations on indicator development and use. It advocated a two-track approach: in the short-term use should be made of indicators known to be operational, while in areas needing advances in knowledge longer-term programmes involving research and capacity-building should be developed (decision III/10, paragraph 2; SBSTTA recommendation II/1, paragraphs 9, 19).

Among the priority tasks identified in SBSTTA recommendation II/1 was the development of a core set of indicators for national reports and of indicators in thematic areas important to the Convention, particularly coastal and marine ecosystems, agricultural biological diversity, forests and freshwater ecosystems (SBSTTA recommendation II/1, paragraphs 7, 12).

The Executive Secretary was requested to produce, in consultation with a liaison or expert group: a guideline report to assist Parties, particularly in preparation of national reports, containing, inter alia, information on indicators and monitoring techniques; a listing of current approaches to indicator development and recommendations for a preliminary core set of indicators of biological diversity, particularly those related to threats; and a list of options for capacity-building in developing countries in the application of guidelines and indicators for subsequent national reports (SBSTTA recommendation II/1, paragraph 23). Accordingly, the Executive Secretary convened a liaison group, which met in Wageningen, the Netherlands, 30 May2 June 1997. The report and recommendations of this group were considered by SBSTTA 3, resulting in recommendation III/5. The annex to this recommendation contained a preliminary outline of work under the two-track approach, to be undertaken chiefly by the Secretariat and liaison group.

COP 4 endorsed SBSTTA recommendation III/5 and requested the Executive Secretary to undertake the work outlined in the annex in accordance with the guidance contained in that recommendation, for consideration at SBSTTA 4, noting also that further work on indicators should take account of the development of the ecosystem approach (decision IV/1 A, paragraphs 3, 4). Recommendation III/5 stressed that the primary role of indicators in this context should be as a tool for management of biological diversity at local and national level and assessing the implementation of the Convention, but also recognized that they may have a wider role and further stressed that in future the development of regional and global indicators would be necessary to address specific aspects of the world's biological diversity (SBSTTA recommendation III/5, paragraphs 2, 3).

COP 5 repeated its request to the Executive Secretary to carry out the programme of work on indicators approved in decision IV/1 A and to present a report on this to COP 6 (decision V/7, paragraphs 1, 5).

In decision VI/7 B, the Conference of the Parties requested that the Executive Secretary:

  • Report on the development and use of indicators in all thematic areas and cross-cutting issues to SBSTTA prior to COP 7 (paragraph 1); and
  • Convene a technical expert meeting to further develop the three annexes on ongoing work on indicators on the following issues (paragraph 3):

    a. Principles for developing national-level monitoring and indicators;
    b. A set of standard questions for developing national-level indicators; and
    c. A list of available and potential indicators based on a conceptual framework that has a qualitative and quantitative approach.

COP also noted that in developing the list of indicators, there was a need for harmonization and collaboration with regional and international initiatives, inter alia, the OECD, the CSD, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Pan-European processes, the FAO and the UNFF (paragraph 4 (d)).

An Expert meeting on indicators of biological diversity including indicators for rapid assessment of inland water ecosystems was convened in Montreal from 10-12 February 2003. SBSTTA 9 considered the outcome of this meeting and the report of the Executive Secretary that summarized progress on the development and use of indicators within the context of the Convention and provided an analysis of existing indicators in national use (Recommendation IX/10) .

COP 7 considered the framework for the development of national-level biodiversity and monitoring resulting from the meeting of expert group on indicators (decision VII/8) and urged Parties to develop a set of biodiversity indicators taking into account this framework and other relevant guidance.

COP 7 also adopted a limited number of trial indicators for assessing progress towards the target to significantly reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 at the global level and to communicate effectively trends in biodiversity related to the three objectives of the Convention (decision VII/30 paragraphs 3-10 and annex 1) . The COP also established a process for identifying, developing, reviewing and/or testing indicators (decision VII/30 paragraphs 6 and 7) and for reporting (decision VII/30 paragraph 8).

COP 8 furhter refined the framework for assessing progress towards the 2010 Biodiversity Target and provided guidance on targets applied to the programmes of work (decision VIII/15).

COP 10 welcomed the progress which has been made in biodiversity monitoring and recognized the need to strengthen the ability to monitor biodiversity at all levels (decision X/7).

COP guidance

Guidance to Parties

COP 3 urged Parties to identify indicators of biological diversity as a high priority (decision III/10, paragraph 1). It also called on Parties to cooperate on a voluntary pilot project to demonstrate the use of successful assessment and indicator methodologies (decision III/10, paragraph 6). COP 4 further urged Parties to share relevant experience through the CHM and other means and to include in their future national reports specific reference to indicator development activities and their capacity to implement indicators (decision IV/1 A, paragraph 3, SBSTTA recommendation III/5, paragraph 7 (g)).

COP 3 also encouraged Parties to develop national strategies, programmes and plans that, inter alia, study, use and/or develop, and promote the application of indicators to monitor the impacts of agricultural development on biological diversity (decision III/11, paragraph 15 (m)). COP 5 invited Parties and Governments to identify indicators and incentive measures for sectors relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity (decision V/24, paragraph 4). It also called on Parties and Governments to increase regional cooperation in the field of indicators and invited Parties, Governments and organizations to assist in capacity-building by other Parties for development and use of indicators (decision V/7, paragraphs 2, 4).

COP 6 urged Parties that have not yet done so to respond to the questionnaire on the subject of indicators that was sent by the Executive Secretary in May 2001 so as to enable the Executive Secretary to update the analysis (decision VI/7 B paragraph 2).

COP 7 requested the Executive Secretary to update, complete and make available through the CHM the indicative list of indicator initiatives and sources of information as provided to SBSTTA 9 (decision VII/8, paragraph 17).

COP 8 encouraged Parties, international organizations and other relevant bodies to co-operate in making available data and technical expertise and to support the use and improvement of existing international data collection systems in relation to reporting the global outcome-oriented indicators and urged them to develop national and/or regional goals and targets and related national indicators, considering submissions from indigenous and local communities and other stakeholders, as appropriate, and to incorporate them into relevant plans, programmes and initiatives. COP 8 further invited Parties to share their experiences in the application of the global outcome-oriented targets in the national implementation of the expanded programme of work on forest biological diversity and in the development and application of national targets and indicators (decision VIII/15, paragraphs 6, 11 and 21).

During COP 10 Parties agreed to pursue the use and further development of the global headlines indicators contained in decision Decision VIII/15 and to complement existing indicators with new ones in order to better measure progress towards those targets which do not yet have suitable indicators. In so doing the Parties noted the need to involve the scientific community and to take into account the indicators developed by other multilateral environment agreements, international organization and sector-based processes (decision X/7).

Financial mechanism and resources

COP 5 urged the GEF to fund projects that enable countries to strengthen capabilities to develop monitoring programmes and suitable indicators for biological diversity (decision V/13, paragraph 2 (j)).

COP 7 recognized that the development and use of indicators required a financial and technical commitment from Parties and encouraged bi-lateral and multilateral funding agencies to provide assistance (Decision VII/8, paragraph 11).