Biodiversity publications archive

National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity

Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1996
ISBN 0 6422 4427 8

6 - Australia's international role

The conservation of biological diversity is a global issue and is best confronted through multilateral cooperation. Australia can do much to conserve its own biological diversity and contribute to the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of biological diversity on a global scale. Australia has a good record for participating in the development and implementation of a large number of international agreements dealing with cooperation in the field of environmental management and protection. These include bilateral agreements with a range of countries. Australia will continue to encourage its citizens and commercial entities to give due consideration to the impact of their activities on biological diversity beyond Australian shores.

Aspects of the conservation of biological diversity are both affected by and have implications for international trading arrangements. As a significant trading nation, Australia is seeking to encourage trade liberalisation and in doing so ensure that biological diversity conservation and other ecologically sustainable development objectives are accommodated. Australia is also pursuing international agreement on methods for incorporating full environmental costs associated with the production and use of natural resources. Incorporation of these costs – for example, through application of the polluter-pays principle – may be reinforced through international agreements. This can contribute to the global achievement of ecologically sustainable development.

6.1 International agreements

Objective 6.1

Support and encourage the development of and Australia's participation in international agreements for the conservation of biological diversity.


6.1.1 Existing agreements

Review the status of Australia's participation in all bilateral and international agreements relevant to the conservation of biological diversity to which Australia is a signatory and ensure that all necessary steps are taken to fully implement these agreements.

6.1.2 New agreements and arrangements

Actively participate in and promote the development of new agreements and arrangements that are relevant to the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of biological diversity and that are in Australia's interests as a member of the global community.

Continue to pursue the establishment of formal international mechanisms to improve the conservation of biological diversity through controls over the taking of species on the high seas, compliance with the United Nations General Assembly resolution banning the use of large-scale drift netting on the high seas, the regional protection of migratory species, the reduction of marine pollution from land-based sources, and the improvement of international shipping standards to minimise impacts on biological diversity.

The Convention on Biological Diversity

Australia ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity on 18 June 1993, following agreement by the Council of Australian Governments.

The Convention has global coverage, takes in the full range of biological diversity, and has as its primary aims the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. The Convention emphasises in-situ conservation measures, with ex-situ conservation complementing these, and contains measures on the identification and monitoring of important components of biological diversity, establishment and management of protected areas, sustainable management of biological resources both within and outside protected areas, rehabilitation and restoration of degraded ecosystems, recovery of threatened species, control of pest species, control of threatening processes and activities, involvement of indigenous and local communities, sustainable customary use of biological resources, and research and training.

The main implementation measure for the Convention is national strategies, plans or programs, to be developed in accordance with each country's particular conditions and capabilities.

6.2 Overseas activities

Objective 6.2

Seek to ensure that the activities of Australians outside Australia are consistent with the conservation of biological diversity.


6.2.1 Trade

Take action, through multilateral forums such as GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), to make international trade and environment policies mutually supportive, in recognition of the contribution that this can make to the protection of biological diversity.

6.2.2 Conduct

Australians and Australian commercial entities operating beyond the limits of Australia's national jurisdiction should take full account of the need to conserve biological diversity. Their actions should be consistent with relevant national laws, international agreements and codes of conduct. Practices that would be unacceptable in Australia should be avoided.

6.2.3 Training

Ensure that trade and aid administrators have an understanding of the need to take into account the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of biological diversity and to seek expert advice when necessary.

6.3 International cooperation

Objective 6.3

Ensure continued and effective international cooperation in the conservation of biological diversity, directly between governments or through relevant international governmental and non-government organisations.


6.3.1 Bilateral and multilateral aid

Ensure that Australia's aid program continues to be developed in such a way as to avoid any significant adverse impacts on the biological diversity of recipient countries and that, where possible, it improves biological diversity conservation. This will include:

  1. continuing to ensure that projects relating to biological diversity conservation are included in the Environment Assistance Program and other aid programs;
  2. continuing to assist developing countries to identify environmental priorities and strengthen environmental expertise, legislation and institutions relevant to biological diversity conservation;
  3. ensuring that opportunities to increase the level of technology transfer relevant to biological diversity conservation are included in relevant aid programs and projects;
  4. considering impacts on biological diversity as part of routine evaluation of aid projects, including annual environmental audits, with a view to improving future aid program contributions to biological diversity conservation. Where significant negative impacts are identified, consider the need for remedial action.
6.3.2 International scientific collaboration

Enhance international collaboration in research related to biological diversity.

6.3.3 Other forms of cooperation

Maintain and strengthen Australia's participation in multilateral efforts concerned with the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, particularly in respect of areas beyond national jurisdiction and other matters of mutual interest, through international organisations and programs such as the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, the Global Environment Facility, the OECD, the World Conservation Union, the United Nations Environment Programme, and UNESCO.

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