Important International Conventions on Environment and Ecology [UPSC]

Here is the list of International Conventions on various aspects –

Nature conservation

1. United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)
2. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
3. Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
4. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES)
5. The Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC)
6. Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS)
7. Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT)
8. International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTC)
9. United Nations Forum on Forest (UNFF)
10. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)
11. Global Tiger Forum (GTF)

Hazardous material

12. Stockholm Convention
13. Basel Convention
14. Rotterdam Convention


15. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

Marine environment

16. International Whaling Commission (IWC)


17. Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol
18. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
19. Kyoto Protocol

Note: We have discussed some conventions in previous articles if you want to read those articles then go with for the same.

1. United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)
2. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
3. Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

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

  • It is also known as the Washington Convention.
  • It is an international agreement between governments entered in to force in 1975 and became the only treaty to ensure that international trade in plants and animals does not threaten their survival in the wild.
  • It is administered through the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • Secretariat, located in Geneva, Switzerland, oversees the implementation of the treaty and assists with communications between countries.

Protecting Species from Unsustainable Trade

Species for which trade is controlled are listed in one of 3 Appendices to CITES, each conferring a different level of regulation and requiring CITES permits or certificates.

Appendix I
  • It includes species threatened with extinction and provides the greatest level of protection (trade restriction)
    Examples include gorillas, sea turtles, most lady slipper orchids, and giant pandas.
Appendix II

It includes that-

  • Species not threatened with extinction
  • Species that resemble other listed species and need to be regulated
Appendix III
  • Includes Species for which a range country has asked other Parties to help in controlling international trade.

TRAFFIC – The Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network

  • TRAFFIC is a Joint conservation programme of IUCN and WWF.
  • It was established in 1976 by the Species Survival Commission of IUCN, principally as a response to the entry into force during the previous year of the CITES.
  • It has grown to become the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring programme and a global expert on wildlife trade issues.
  • This Non-governmental organization (NGO) takes its activities in close collaboration with governments and the CITES.

To ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature.


Trade in wild animals and plants without damaging the integrity of ecological systems and at sustainable levels.

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species

  • It is also known as Bonn convention.
  • Aim – to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their
  • It is an intergovernmental treaty, concluded under the aegis of the United Nations
    Environment Programme (UNEP), concerned with the conservation of wildlife and
    habitats on a global scale.
  • Only global and UN-based intergovernmental organization established exclusively for the conservation and management of terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range.

Appendix I

  • Species threatened with extinction
  • Protecting these animals, conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them.

Appendix II

  • Migratory species that need or would significantly benefit from international
    cooperation are listed in Appendix II of the Conyention.

Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT)

  • Aims – to focus public and political attention and resources on ending the illegal trade ill wildlife and wildlife products.
  • CAWT is a unique voluntary public-private coalition of like-minded governments and organizations sharing a common purpose.
  • CAWT is leveraging the combined strengths of government and nongovernmental
    partners to

    Improve Wildlife Law Enforcement by expanding enforcement training and information sharing and strengthening regional cooperative networks.

    Reduce consumer demand for illegally traded wildlife by raising awareness of the impacts of illegal wildlife trade on biodiversity and the environment, livelihoods, and human health; its links to organized crime; and the availability of sustainable alternatives.

    Catalyse high-level political will to fight wildlife trafficking by broadening support at the highest political levels for actions to combat the illegal trade in wildlife.

CAWT members pursue a ‘shared approach’ whereby they –

•Work individually and jointly toward achieving the Coalition’s goals, with each Partner acting where it can contribute most effectively
•Support the effective implementation and enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and avoid duplication of efforts
•Educate consumers about alternative, sustainable choices
•Improve wildlife legislation and raise awareness of wildlife laws and the penalties for
violating them
•Exchange information and expertise on best practices and lessons learned
•Inform Partners of projects and activities undertaken in support of the Coalition’s shared mission and goals
•Facilitate contacts and dialogue among partners and other public and private entities active in combating wildlife trafficking
•Communicate and promote the Coalition’s activities to others, in consultation with Partners
•Recognize outstanding achievement in fighting wildlife trafficking.

The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO)

  • It is an intergovernmental organization promoting the conservation and sustainable management, use and trade of tropical forest resources.
  • Its members represent about 80% of the world’s tropical forests and 90% of the global tropical timber trade.
  • India is a member of it.

What it does?

Like all commodity organizations it is concerned with trade and industry, but like an
environmental agreement it also pays considerable attention to the sustainable
management of natural resources.
ITTO develops internationally agreed policy documents to promote sustainable forest
management and forest conservation.
It assists tropical member countries to adapt such policies to local circumstances and to
implement them in the field through projects.
It collects, analyses, and disseminates data on the production and trade of tropical
timber and funds a range of projects.

United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF)

  • The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC), established the
    United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF).
  • The Forum has universal membership, and is composed of all Member States of the United Nations and specialized agencies.


  1. To facilitate implementation of forest-related agreements and foster a common understanding on sustainable forest management
  2. To provide for continued policy development and dialogue among Governments, international organizations, including major groups, as identified in Agenda 21 as well as to address forest issues and emerging areas of concern in a holistic, comprehensive and integrated manner
  3. To enhance cooperation as well as policy and programme coordination on forest-related issues
  4. To foster international cooperation
  5. To monitor, assess and report on progress of the above functions and objectives
  6. To strengthen political commitment to the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.
  7. Forest contribution enahancement to achieve the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development goals (MDG), Sustainable development goals (SDG) etc.
  8. Encourage and assist countries, including those with low forest cover to develop apd implement forest conservation and rehabilitation strategies and increase forest area and reduce forest degradation and loss of forest
  9. Strengthen interaction between the UNFF and relevant regional and subregional forest-related mechanisms, institutions and instruments organizations and processes.

The Four Global objectives seek to:

  • Reverse the loss of forest cover worldwide through sustainable forest
    management (SFM)
  • Enhance forest-based economic, social and environmental benefits, including by
    improving the livelihoods of forest-dependent people
  • Increase SFM area, including protected forests, and increase the proportion of forest products derived from sustainably managed forests
  • Reverse the decline in official development assistance for SFM and mobilize
    significantly increased new and additional financial resources from all sources for the implementation of SFM.

Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests (NLBI)

  • 7th session adopted it on all types of forests.
  • 1st time – member states agreed to an international instrument for SFM.
  • The instrument is voluntary and non-legally binding
  • It is expected that it will create major impact on international cooperation and national action to reduce deforestation, prevent forest degradation, promotes sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty for all forest dependent peoples.


Who is IUCN?

  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a membership Union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organizations. It provides public, private and non-governmental organizations with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together.
  • The organization is best known for compiling and publishing the IUCN Red List, which assesses the conservation status of species worldwide.
  • Headquarter – Gland, Switzerland.


  • Just world that values and conserves nature.


  • To influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the
    integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is
    equitable and ecologically sustainable.
  • IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects globally and brings
    governments, NGOs, UN agencies, companies and local communities together to
    develop and implement policy.
  • IUCN Members include both States and non-governmental organizations.

The Global Tiger Forum (GTF)

  • It is an intergovernmental and international body established with members from
    willing countries to save the remaining 5 sub-species of tigers in the wild distributed over 14 tiger range countries of the world.
  • Formed in 1994 with its secretariat at New Delhi.
  • Only inter-governmental and international body campaigning to save the TIGER
  • General Assembly of GTF shall meet once in 3 years.


To highlight the rationale for tiger preservation and provide leadership and common approach throughout the world in order to safeguard the survival of the tiger, its prey and its habitat


  • To promote a worldwide campaign to save the tiger, its prey and its habitat.
  • To promote a legal framework in the countries involved for bio-diversity conservation
  • To increase habitats of the tiger and facilitate their interpassages in the range countries;
  • To promote eco-development programmes with the participation of the communities living in and around protected areas like JFM.(recall JFM)
  • To urge countries to enter into relevant conventions for conservation of tiger and
    elimination of illegal trade.
  • Scientific research to generate information useful for tiger, it’s prey and its habitat to disseminate such information in an easily accessible manner.
  • Development and exchange of appropriate technologies and training programmes for scientific wildlife management.
  • To encourage range countries to prepare and implement their individual action plans for protection. and growth of the tiger population and its prey base.
  • To involve inter-governmental organisations in the protection of the tiger.
  • To set up a participative fund of an appropriate size to engender awareness in all places where people consume tiger derivatives for eliminating such consumption of tiger products, and identifying substitutes, in the interests of conservation.
Global Tiger Initiative (GTI)

It is an alliance of governments, international agencies, civil society, and the private
sector united to save wild tigers from extinction.

Goals of GTI
  • Support capacity-building in governments for responding effectively to the transnational challenge of illegal trade in wildlife.
  • Support capacity-building in governments for responding effectively to the transnational challenge of illegal trade in wildlife.
  • Curtail international demand for tiger parts which are responsible for drastic declines in tiger populations.
  • To develop mechanisms for safeguarding habitats from development.
  • To create innovative and sustainable financing mechanisms for tiger landscapes
    including protected areas.
  • To build strong local constituencies for tiger conservation through development of economic incentives and alternative livelihoods for local people.
  • To spread the recognition among governments, international aid agencies and the
    public that tiger habitats are high-value diverse ecosystems.

The Stockholm Convention on POP (Persistent Organic Pollutants)

  • The Stockholm Convention on POP was adopted at a Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Stockholm, Sweden (2001) and entered into force in 2004.


  • They are organic chemical substances, that is, they are carbon-based.
  • They possess a particular combination of physical and chemical properties such that,
    once released into the environment, they –
    o Remain intact for exceptionally long periods of time (many years).
    o Widely distributed in environment because of natural processes involving soil,
    water and, most notably, air.
    o Though not soluble in water, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms
    including humans, and are found at higher concentrations at higher levels in the
    food chain.
  • In addition, POPs concentrate in living organisms through another process called

Initial POPs

   Initially 12 POPs were recognized which causes adverse effects on human and ES and can be placed in 3 categories –

  • Pesticides Aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin,endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex and toxaphene.
  • Industrial chemicals hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinatedbiphenyls (PCBs)
  • By products –Hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/PCDF), andPCBs.

Later 9 new POPs were also added and 10th one was Endosulfan.

Basel Convention

  • The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous
    and Their Disposal, usually known as the Basel Convention, is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs).
  • But It does not address the movement of radioactive waste.


  • In 1970s the cost of disposing the hazardous waste increased and globalization of
    shipping made transboundary movement of waste more accessible, and many LDCs were desperate for foreign currency. Consequently, the trade in hazardous waste, particularly to LDCs, grew rapidly.
  • Incidents like Khian Sea waste disposal incident, Koko case forced to adopt this
    convention so that transboundary movements of Hazardous waste can be controlled.


To protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes and other wastes (household waste and incinerator ash).

Principal aims

  • Reduction of hazardous waste generation and the promotion of hazardous wastes
  • Restriction of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes.
  • A regulatory system applying to cases where transboundary movements are

Waste under the Basel Convention

Wastes are substances or objects which are –

  • Disposed of or,
  • Are intended to be disposed of or,
  • Are required to be disposed of by the provisions of national law.


Annex I of convention
  • It lists those wastes that are classified as hazardous and subject to the control
    procedures under the Convention.
Annex II of convention
  • wastes that require special consideration (known as “other wastes“, and which
    primarily refer to household wastes)
Examples of wastes regulated by the Basel Convention
  • Biomedical and healthcare wastes
  • Used oils
  • Used lead acid batteries
  • Persistent Organic Pollutant wastes (POPs)
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
  • 1000s of chemical wastes generated by industries and other consumers

Rotterdam Convention

  • The Rotterdam Convention (formally, the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade) is a multilateral treaty to promote shared responsibilities in relation to importation of hazardous chemicals.
  • It promotes open exchange of information and calls on exporters of hazardous
    chemicals to use proper labeling, include directions on safe handling, and inform
    purchasers of any known restrictions or bans.
  • Signatory nations can decide whether to allow or ban the importation of chemicals listed in the treaty, and exporting countries are obliged to make sure that producers within their jurisdiction comply.
  • It covers pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely
    restricted for health or environment.


  • To promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties in the
    international trade of certain hazardous chemicals so human health and the
    environment can be protected
  • Sound use of those hazardous chemicals,
Annex III Chemicals
  • Pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons by two or more Parties + CoP decided to subject the PIC procedure.
  • Total – 43 chemicals (32 – pesticides, 11 – industrial chemicals)


  • It is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought
    through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.
  • Only internationally legally binding framework set up to address the problem of
  • It is based on the principles of participation, partnership and decentralization—the backbone of Good Governance and Sustainable Development.
  • It is committed to a bottom-up approach, encouraging the participation of local people in combating desertification and land degradation.
  • ‘Desertification’ – it refers to land degradation in the drylands (arid, semi-arid and dry sub humid regions) resulting from various factors and does not connote spread or expansion of deserts.
  • UNCCD is a unique instrument that recognizes land degradation as an important factor affecting some of the most vulnerable people and ecosystems in the world.
  • Aim of convention – adaptation + can help in SDG, sustainable development and
    poverty reduction.
  • The convention promotes sustainable land management (SLM) as solution to global challenges. SLM focuses on changes in land cover/land use in order to maintain and enhance ecosystems functions and services.
  • Land degradation is long-term loss of ecosystem function and productivity caused by disturbances from which the land cannot recover unaided.

International Whaling Commission (IWC)

  • It is global intergovernmental body for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry
  • Set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (1946).

Main duty

  • To keep under review and revise as necessary the measures laid down in the Schedule to the Convention which govern the conduct of whaling throughout the world.
  • Measures include –
    o Provide for the complete protection of certain species.
    o Designate specified areas as whale sanctuaries.
    o Set limits on the numbers and size of whales which may be taken.
    o Prescribe open and closed seasons and areas for whaling.
    o Prohibit the capture of suckling calves and female whales accompanied by
  • The compilation of catch reports and other statistical and biological records is also required.
  • In 1986 the Commission introduced zero catch limits for commercial whaling. (it is still in place today), although the Commission continues to set catch limits for aboriginal subsistence whaling.
  • To keep whale catch limits under review, the Commission works to promote the
    recovery of depleted whale populations by addressing issues such as ship strikes,
    entanglement events, environmental concerns and establishing protocols for whale watching.

Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

  • FAO recognizes the agricultural heritage regions of the world under GIAHS.
  • Purpose – to recognize “Remarkable land use systems and landscapes which are rich in globally significant biological diversity evolving from the co-adaptation of a community with its environment and its needs and aspirations for sustainable development”.
Sites in India which received recognition under GIAHS –

1. Traditional Agricultural System, Koraput, Odisha

  • Rich biodiversity, growing several varieties of paddy, millets, pulses, oilseeds,
  • Region primarily a tribal district inhabited by khonds, bonda tribes practicing poddhu (shifting) cultivation.
  • Shifting cultivation – loss of forest cover = hurting the biodiversity.
  • Soil erosion, Soil degradation, habitat loss.
  • Illiteracy, large family, small farm holding size.
  • The socio-economic indicators are very poor here nearly 84% living in abject

2. Below Sea Level Farming System, Kuttanad, Kerala

  • It was developed by farmers over 150 years ago to ensure their food security by
    learning to cultivate rice and other crops below sea level.
  • It is now attracting worldwide attention since one of the effects of global warming is sea level rise.
  • It has therefore been an act of vision on the part of Kerala government to have
    decided to set up an International Research and Training Centre for Below Sea Level Farming in Kuttanad.
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