11 February 2016
Living in Harmony with Nature to Transform Our World: The CBD’s Contribution to SDG Implementation (Part I)
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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Countries would do well to capitalize on existing frameworks for implementation and reporting wherever possible to ensure that resources available for SDG implementation are not wasted on duplicative or unnecessary efforts because of divergent reporting formats.

Part 1: The CBD Strategic Plan 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Bottom-up implementation – the principle whereby countries select their own targets, strategies and reporting modalities for implementation – is a key feature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Bottom-up implementation is becoming more popular within the UN system and multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) as it provides countries with the flexibility to adjust implementation to national circumstances and priorities, taking into account available capacities and resources. At the same time, it creates new challenges for countries to establish not only their own targets, but also the necessary policies and institutional frameworks as well as strategies for resource mobilization and implementation. It is therefore useful to take a closer look at international processes that have already gathered some experience with bottom-up implementation to identify suitable models for SDG implementation and learn from prior experience.

In 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted a bottom-up approach to implementation embodied in its Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. In 2014, the CBD Conference of the Parties conducted a mid-term review of the Strategic Plan’s implementation. This article, the first installment of a two-part policy update, explores the CBD’s approach and lessons learned that could be valuable for SDG implementation in general. The second part will take a closer look at the relevance that the implementation of the Strategic Plan and associated reporting by countries has for different SDGs.

A New Compact

In 2010, the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity, the CBD faced a pivotal moment in its history. The third Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO 3) (CBD 2010a) concluded that not only did the international community fail to achieve the 2010 target to significantly reduce biodiversity loss, but the rate of biodiversity loss was still accelerating as its many drivers were still intensifying. Delegates at the tenth session of the CBD Conference of the Parties (COP 10) therefore decided to put into place a new type of compact between humanity and nature that took an integrated approach, focusing on mainstreaming biodiversity into economic and social policies. The ‘Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020′ (CBD 2010b) contains three elements: a long-term vision (“by 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people”); five goals that spell out the objectives of mainstreaming; and the twenty ‘Aichi Biodiversity Targets.’ The Targets define time-bound, measurable global commitments that countries would strive to achieve through national action. The Strategic Plan intends to serve as a “flexible framework for the establishment of national and regional targets and for enhancing coherence in the implementation of the provisions of the Convention […].”

The implementation of the Strategic Plan is based on several pillars, including:

– A requirement for each country to submit a revised and updated National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), including the identification and prioritization of national targets in relation to national circumstances and abilities, as well as the action required to meet those targets.

– A strategy for resource mobilization that seeks to identify and develop new and innovative sources of national and international funding for projects geared to the targets identified in NBSAPs.

– Financial support through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) focusing on enabling activities that increase the capacities of poor countries to mobilize resources, develop NBSAPs, policies and institutions, and to prepare their national reports.

– A requirement for each country to provide, through their national reports, regular updates on progress with regard to their national targets and priorities, as well as their success in mobilizing resources for implementation.

– A mechanism to facilitate technical and scientific cooperation among countries.

Mid-Term Review

In 2014, COP 12, informed by the fourth GBO (CBD 2014a), conducted a mid-term review (CBD 2014b) of progress towards the Aichi Targets. GBO 4 states that while significant progress was made in most areas, the pace of progress is not sufficient to meet the targets set for 2020. The report further projects that pressures on biodiversity will continue to increase until at least 2020, and contribute to a continued decline of biodiversity overall. The report concludes the even when taking into account that there may be some time lag until current actions will take effect, the responses to date “may be insufficient relative to pressures, such that they may not overcome the growing impacts of the drivers of biodiversity loss.” At the same time, GBO 4 also reported that an encouraging number of countries had either completed or were in the process of finalizing the revision of their NBSAPs.

The most recent numbers confirm the national planning trend (CBD 2016). As of February 2016, 82 out of 196 Parties have completed or adopted revised NBSAPs in line with the Strategic Plan and the Aichi Targets. An additional ten Parties are in the process of revising their NBSAPs. In total, all but twelve Parties have submitted initial or revised NBSAPs with nine parties still in the process of developing their first NBSAPs. While these figures show that the CBD has an impressive implementation record, less than half of all CBD Parties have completed the process to define national targets and revise their NBSAPs one year past the halfway mark.

A Model for SDG Implementation?

During the negotiation of the 2030 Agenda, the CBD actively promoted its approach as a model for a bottom-up design for the SDGs. While these efforts have led to close alignment between the Aichi Targets and the biodiversity-focused SDGs (see Part II of this update), the process for determining national targets, implementation and reporting under the SDGs remains to be defined. The CBD experience provides useful insights regarding the building blocks that countries may need to put into place. For example, NBSAPs in combination with the requirement to monitor not only progress on biodiversity conservation, but also means of implementation, create a comprehensive and forward-looking reporting mechanism. Rather than reporting against a fixed set of questions and indicators, countries now have to be transparent about their own targets and the mechanisms and actions put into place to achieve them. This allows countries to communicate challenges in implementation and seek advice on intended measures.

Furthermore, in a submission to the 2030 Agenda negotiations (CBD 2015), the CBD Secretariat reported that many countries had put into place mechanisms for inter-agency coordination, such as a national committee or council for biodiversity. Such mechanisms could be established to ensure the integrated implementation of the SDGs across all sectors.

The submission also states that CBD Parties can draw on a full set of thematic and crosscutting work programmes, most of which have undergone several revisions and incorporate scientific assessments and lessons learned from more than two decades of CBD implementation. This makes them a valuable resource for implementing biodiversity-related targets under the SDGs. Implementation of other SDGs may be able to draw on similar stocks of scientific and practical knowledge; however, the CBD is one of the few processes that have already translated these experiences into a flexible, bottom-up framework for action. The alignment between SDGs and other existing processes may also vary and, in some cases, require a deeper analysis of how the work of these processes can effectively contribute to progress under a given SDG. For example, the Council of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has considered how its overall Strategic Framework aligns with the SDGs, whereas the FAO Committee on World Food Security has launched a series of meetings to discuss how its workprogramme can support SDG implementation.

Finally, the results of the mid-term review demonstrate, above all, that preparing for bottom-up implementation takes time. Given the ambitious timeframe of the SDGs, it also means that accelerating action by countries to establish national targets and frameworks is essential to make progress early on, so that achieving the SDGs by 2030 remains feasible. Furthermore, in doing so, countries would do well to capitalize on existing frameworks for implementation and reporting wherever possible to ensure that resources available for SDG implementation are not wasted on duplicative or unnecessary efforts because of divergent reporting formats.


This is Part 1 of a two-part policy update. Part II explores the relevance of CBD implementation and national reporting across the SDGs. The author would like to thank Lauren Anderson, Delia Paul, Elena Kosolapova, Wangu Mwangi, Nathalie Risse, Lynn Wagner, and Virginia Wiseman for their valuable input and comments to this update.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is pleased to bring you a series of policy updates on national reporting and implementation processes within the multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) processes that we have been tracking for over two decades. Decisions taken in 2015 by intergovernmental policy makers have sought to change the approach to implementing sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change are universal agendas, with implied implementation obligations for all countries. Our Earth Negotiations Bulletin writers and thematic experts for our Policy & Practice knowledgebases have monitored discussions on the successes and shortcomings of national planning and reporting processes within the MEAs and other processes we follow. Our hope is that this series will help all concerned with implementing the new sustainable development directions of 2015 to build on lessons of the past.


CBD. 2010a. Global Biodiversity Outlook 3. Montréal.

CBD. 2010b. The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. (Decision UNEP/CBD/COP/DEC/X/2)

CBD. 2014a. Global Biodiversity Outlook 4. Montréal.

CBD. 2014b. Mid-term review of progress in implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 including the fourth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook, and actions to enhance implementation. (Decision UNEP/CBD/COP/DEC/XII/1)

CBD. 2015. Lessons from the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.

CBD. 2016. Status of Development of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans or Equivalent Instruments (NBSAPs) At 3 February 2016. (retrieved 8 February 2016)

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