The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP) is the governing body of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and advances implementation of the Convention through the decisions it takes at its periodic meetings. These meetings are held every two years in a different country, with the upcoming CBD COP 12 to be hosted by the Government of the Republic Korea for two weeks from 6 to 17 October, 2014. At the COP, the 194 Parties to the Convention (193 national governments and the European Union) discuss draft decisions, adopting them once consensus is reached.

CBD COP 9 in Bonn in 2008 significantly saw Parties adopt the first decision on subnational governments in a United Nations multilateral environmental agreement, focusing on recognizing their key role in implementing the Convention, Decision IX/28, ‘Promoting engagement of cities and local authorities’. This significant step was followed at CBD COP 10 in Nagoya in 2010 with Decision X/22, in which Parties endorsed the ground-breaking ‘Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity’ (2011-2020), through the adoption of Decision X/22. The Plan of Action outlines quite clearly, for the first time, tangible mechanisms for Parties to support and engage with subnational governments, cities and other local authorities, around implementing the CBD, and includes an indicative list of activities to promote subnational implementation of the Convention. Decision XI/8, ‘Engagement of other stakeholders, major groups and subnational authorities’, was endorsed by Parties at the CBD COP11 in Hyderabad in 2012, and which also focuses on mechanisms of implementing the Plan of Action.

The Secretariat of the CBD is responsible for providing the background and contextual information to inform COP decisions, and for convening the COP. COP discussions are typically held in two separate working groups to allow for the large number of topics covered in parallel. Non-party participants are permitted to attend and observe, and at times to make statements from the floor. In the margins of the COP, a number of side events, meetings and exhibitions take place, attracting a broad audience from around the world and locally, and from a wide range of stakeholders including NGOs, civil society, business and subnational government. The final days of the COP include a High-Level or Ministerial Segment during which Ministers are given the opportunity to address the delegations while the working groups continue. The CBD website and the website for CBD COP 12 are open to all to view at www.cbd.int and www.cbdcop12.kr respectively.