Article 31. Secretariat

700. This Article makes provision for the Secretariat of the Protocol. The Secretariat's functions are referred to in Article 31(2). One of the main functions of the Secretariat is to administer the Protocol and to act as day-today contact point for the Protocol for Parties, international organizations and others. The Secretariat also prepares documentation for meetings of the governing and subsidiary bodies of the Protocol, and is in charge of organizing and servicing the meetings. It is also likely to play an important role in the functioning of the Biosafety Clearing-House (Article 20). Once the Protocol is in force, the COP/MOP may assign additional specific functions and tasks to the Secretariat.

701. Article 31(1) provides that the CBD Secretariat shall serve as the Secretariat to the Protocol. The CBD Secretariat is established under Article 24 CBD. In accordance with a decision by the CBD COP, the Secretariat is provided by the UN Environment Programme.132 Its offices are in Montreal, Canada.133 Rules 27 and 28 of the Rules of Procedure of the CBD COP, which lay down practical arrangements for the CBD Secretariat, will also apply to the Protocol Secretariat.

702. Under Article 31(2), the functions of the Secretariat shall be the same as under the CBD. The words “mutatis mutandis” mean that the Secretariat functions may be modified when applied to the Protocol, to the extent necessary to adapt them to the specificities of the Protocol (see also Article 29(5)).

703. The Secretariat's functions set out in Article 24 of the CBD are as follows:

704. Article 31(3) specifies that the costs of Secretariat services for the Protocol shall be met by the Parties to the Protocol only, rather than through the overall budget of the CBD (to which all Parties to the CBD contribute). It mandates the COP/MOP to decide on necessary budgetary arrangements at its first meeting.

705. Whereas there was widespread agreement on the principle of separate budgets during the Protocol negotiations, the question of the practicability of this arrangement was raised. In view of the potential overlap of services, tasks and projects to be carried out by the Secretariat in relation to the CBD and the Protocol, it is not likely to be easy to make a clear distinction.

706. Article 31(3) also leaves open the question of who is responsible for making the distinction between costs of secretariat services for the Protocol from those for the CBD. In practice, the Secretariat itself will probably propose a division of costs as far as it considers this possible, and submit this to both the CBD COP and the Protocol's COP/MOP. It is likely that a solution based on practicability considerations will need to be found once the Protocol is in force. The wording of the first sentence of Article 31(3) suggests, in any case, that to the extent that the costs are not distinct or cannot be distinguished, they will be met by the Parties to the CBD rather than only by the Parties of the Protocol.

707. The separation of costs may have practical impacts on the ratification of the Protocol by developing countries. If the Secretariat costs for the Protocol are to be borne by the Protocol Parties only, and if developing countries join the Protocol faster than developed countries (which seems likely to be the case), the costs will be divided among the developing countries that are already Protocol Parties. This may constitute a significant financial burden for the countries in question.


132 CBD COP Decision I/4, UNEP/CBD/COP/1/17 Annex II.

133 CBD COP Decision II/19, UNEP/CBD/COP/2/19, Annex II.

< previous section  < index >  next section >