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International conventions

The UK is a Contracting Party to a range of environmental Conventions. Conventions are the commonest form of international agreements to encourage a co-ordinated response to managing the environment. They are often referred to as Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs).

JNCC provides scientific and technical advice to the UK Government and the country nature conservation bodies on the interpretation, application and implementation of the MEAs described in this section.

Ramsar Convention

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat ('Ramsar Convention' or 'Wetlands Convention') was adopted in Ramsar, Iran in February 1971 and came into force in December 1975. It provides the only international mechanism for protecting sites of global importance and is thus of key conservation significance.

As of May 2018, there are 175 designated Ramsar sites in the UK, its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, covering over 1 million hectares.


The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (UNESCO World Heritage Convention)

The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the UNESCO World Heritage Convention) was adopted in Paris, France in November 1972 and came into force in December 1975. The Convention is a unique international instrument in that it seeks to protect both cultural and natural heritage.


Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES – also less commonly known as the Washington Convention) was adopted in Washington DC, USA, in March 1973 and entered into force in July 1975. CITES aims to regulate international trade in species which are endangered or which may become endangered if their exploitation is not controlled.


Bern Convention

The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the Bern Convention) was adopted in Bern, Switzerland in 1979, and came into force in 1982. The principal aims of the Convention are to ensure conservation and protection of wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats, to increase co-operation between contracting parties, and to regulate the exploitation of those species (including migratory species). To this end the Convention imposes legal obligations on contracting parties, protecting over 500 wild plant species and more than 1,000 wild animal species.


Bonn Convention

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention or CMS) was adopted in Bonn, Germany in 1979 and came into force in 1985. Contracting Parties work together to conserve migratory species and their habitats by providing strict protection for endangered migratory species, concluding multilateral Agreements for the conservation and management of migratory species which require or would benefit from international co-operation (listed in Appendix II), and by undertaking co-operative research activities.


Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity (Biodiversity Convention or CBD) was adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 1992, and entered into force in December 1993. As the first global treaty to provide a legal framework for biodiversity conservation, the Convention established three main goals:

  • the conservation of biological diversity,
  • the sustainable use of its components,
  • the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.


Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (the OSPAR Convention)

International cooperation to protect the marine environment of the north-east Atlantic is achieved through the OSPAR Convention. With the adoption of Annex V in 1998, the Convention embraced a more holistic responsibility for environmental protection in the region, including its biodiversity.


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