The Clearing-House Mechanism (CHM) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) promotes technical and scientific co-operation at all levels among Contracting Parties to the Convention. It also facilitates access to and the exchange of information on biodiversity around the world. Created in accordance with Article 18 (3), the clearing-house is a key to achieving the Convention's three principal objectives: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources.
The CHM is the information and cooperation system of the CBD and its partners and has at least three goals, all of which are necessary for achieving the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity: a) Cooperation: the promotion and facilitation of scientific and technical cooperation; b) Information exchange: the development of a global mechanism for exchanging and integrating information on biodiversity; and c) Network development: the development of the CHM Focal Points and their partners.
The Pan-European Member States are assisting through their CHM-National Focal Points the European Community and the European Environment Agency since 1999 in the European Community Clearing-House Mechanism project (EC-CHM project). The EC-CHM project could be used as platform to facilitate discussion and exchange of experiences on Pan-European level on options and practical solutions which should help to clarify potential ways and means on the main services and uses provided through the CHM as well as how to proceed with scientific and technical cooperation in practice. Still there exists no clue how to practically work on this important CHM goal.
The 1st Conference of the Parties (COP 1994) decided to establish the clearing-house mechanism, and also decided that the first activities should be funded from the regular budget of the CBD Secretariat as well as from voluntary contributions; 2nd COP (1995) required CHM to use Internet as well as other means for its functionality; 3th COP (1996) decided on pilot phase of the CHM that ends in December 1998. The 4th COP (1998) requests all governments and bilateral and multilateral funding institutions to provide funding for the development and implementation of the CHM, including support for national as well regional and subregional CHM activities.
The European Environment Agency EEA assists the European Commission in setting-up the European Community Clearing House Mechanism under the Convention on Biological Diversity. The project lasts for two years and started with a Feasibilty Study in 1999 to identify main requirements and services expected to be provided through the EC-CHM. This work was organised with a Steering Committee and a Task Force. The Steering Committee was open to all interested countries of the Pan-European Community, while the Task Force consisted of representatives appointed by EEA from countries which expressed special interest in collaboration. The EC-CHM web-site will be officially launched in March 2000. The EC-CHM website will provide a roadmap on the existing EC information sources related to biodiversity as well as will give access and will relate to the Pan European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS), EC Biodiversity Strategy and will make available Biodiversity Country Profiles.
From the Convention's point of view it will be of utmost relevancy that all new initiatives launched i.e. the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and the proposed Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) will be in line with the goals of the CBD. GBIF should play a crucial role in filling the niche about existing taxonomic data and information as well as develop a competence by strategically use taxonomic and other data to model and predict changes of biodiversity in alignment with article 7 of the Convention. New initiatives in the area of biodiversity should on the one hand contribute to the decision support function of the Clearing-House Mechanism as well as should explore the potential facilities the CHM can offer to them.
In the future design and use of the Clearing-House Mechanism of the CBD it will be also important to consider the Ã…rhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (1998) as a backbone for user's participation in the development of the Convention.