• Coordination among working groups needs to be strengthened.

  • Scheduling of products is on a predetermined timetable without consideration for the rate at which new knowledge becomes available, which in some cases is slower than the rate at which assessments are produced.

  • Assessment effort places tremendous burden on the scientific community at the cost of conducting new research.

  • Treatment of uncertainty is uneven.

  • Ensuring continuity might become an issue unless younger scientists are recruited and trained in conducting assessments.


Negotiations for a convention on biological diversity began in 1988 during a UNEP-led meeting of experts on issues of biological diversity. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) opened for signatures in 1992 and entered into force in 1993. Its mandate is to conserve, sustainably use, and share the benefits of biological diversity. The CBD did not have a formal scientific assessment as an underpinning, but instead the framers worked with ad hoc working groups of legal and technical experts (Bernstein et al. 1993). Although the convention did not call for assessment activities, the GBA was initiated after the convention and was crafted to provide such a scientific foundation; it was completed in 1995 (GBA 1995). Because the GBA was not formally mandated by the Conference of the Parties of the CBD, it had only informal ties to the convention.

Establishing Clear Rationales and Appropriate Institutional Structures. The GBA grew out of a recognized need to provide a scientific foundation for the CBD. Although it was administered by UNEP, it did not have a formal connection to the CBD process; hence it lacked a clear mandate, which proved to be an important flaw in the design (Watson 2006). The project document was characterized by a lack of detail. As the first effort of its kind to assess the global state of the biodiversity and the health of global ecosystems, no model was available to guide this undertaking. Limited funding also played a role in the planning process.

Designing and Scheduling Assessment Activities. The budget for the GBA was limited given the scope of the mandate. The lack of funding restricted the numbers of meetings available for planning, report preparation, and dissemination. In addition, it limited the size of the support staff in Nairobi, which hampered the facilitation of many stages of the process.

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