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The Biosafety Clearing-House

Mandate

The term "clearing-house" refers to a mechanism or institution that brings together seekers and providers of goods, services or information, thus matching demand with supply.

Accordingly, with respect to biosafety information, Article 20, paragraph 1, of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety established a BCH as part of the Clearing-House Mechanism (CHM) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in order to:

  1. Facilitate the exchange of scientific, technical, environmental and legal information on, and experience with, living modified organisms; and
  2. Assist Parties to implement the Protocol, taking into account the special needs of developing country Parties, in particular the least developed and small island developing States among them, and countries with economies in transition as well as countries that are centres of origin and centres of genetic diversity.

The BCH fulfills its mandate by providing a dynamic platform where information is registered through the Management Centre and where it can be easily searched and retrieved.

Currently, the primary sources of guidance on the functioning and implementation of the BCH are found in the modalities of operation of the BCH and the Multi-year Programme of Work for the Operation of the BCH as outlined below.

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Modalities of Operation of the BCH

The modalities of operation of the BCH were adopted in February 2004, in paragraph 2 of decision BS-I/3 about Information sharing and the BCH at the First Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They are contained in the annex to the decision and are comprised of 8 sections as follows:

  1. The role of the BCH regarding the categories of information the BCH provides access to;
  2. The characteristics of the BCH;
  3. The functions included in the Secretariat’s administration of the BCH;
  4. The role of the National Focal Points for the BCH;
  5. Technical oversight and advice regarding the Informal Advisory Committee (BCH-IAC).
  6. Obligations of partner organizations regarding specific interoperability guidelines;
  7. Reports on activities regarding Quarterly Reports and feedback from BCH Users; and
  8. Periodic review of the BCH.

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Multi-year Programme of Work for the Operation of the BCH

The current Multi-year Programme of Work for the Operation of the BCH was adopted in June 2005 in paragraph 1 of decision BS-II/2 on "Operations and activities of the Biosafety Clearing-House" at the Second Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in Montreal Canada. It is set out in the annex to the decision and is comprised of 5 programme elements as follows:

  1. Structure and function of the central portal, the objective of which is to improve ease of reporting and accessing information in the BCH in response to identified needs of users.
  2. Information content and management, the objective of which is to increase the amount of information that is currently being reported to the BCH, and ensure it is provided in a timely manner
  3. Sharing information on and experience with LMOs, the objective of which is to make a broader range of biosafety information accessible to users of the BCH.
  4. Capacity-building and non-Internet accessibility, the objective of which is to ensure that countries have the necessary capabilities to access the Internet-based central Portal and are able to access information through the BCH in a timely manner.
  5. Review of activities

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Strategic Plan

The Strategic plan for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety for the period 2011-2020 was adopted in November 2010, in Paragraph 1 of decision BS-V/16, at the Fifth Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in Nagoya, Japan. It is contained in the annex to the decision and is divided into five focal areas of which the second, Capacity-building, and fourth, Information sharing, are relevant to the BCH.

With regards to the Focal Area 2, Capacity-building, the strategic objective is to ensure that the BCH is easily accessed by all established stakeholders, in particular in developing countries and countries with economies in transition. Outcomes of this objective include that tools are easily accessible through the BCH to facilitate implementation of the Protocol.

With regards to the Focal Area 4, Information sharing, the strategic objective is to enhance the availability and exchange of relevant information. The operational objectives are to (i) enhance the BCH’s effectiveness by increasing the amount and quality of information submitted to and retrieved from the BCH, (ii) use the BCH as a tool for online discussions and conferences, thereby establishing the BCH as a fully functional and effective platform for assisting countries in the implementation of the Protocol and (iii) share information by means other than through the BCH in order to enhance understanding through other information exchange mechanisms.

Further details, including outcomes and indicators, regarding these focal areas are accessible in UNEP/CBD/BS/COP-MOP/5/16.

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Update on 2013-05-16
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