International Regime Theory and the Convention on Biological Diversity: A Knowledge-Based Approach

Biodiversity is a global asset that is very valuable for human life in current and future generations.

Biodiversity is a global asset that is very valuable for human life in current and future generations. However, as the human population increases on Earth, biodiversity is also increasingly threatened. The extinction of species on earth is increasingly threatened due to increasing human activity. Conditions that are getting worse every day have prompted the United Nations (UN) to form the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as a response to the increasingly threatened situation of biodiversity. CBD is a multilateral agreement under the UN that aims to conserve biodiversity, encourage efforts to use components in a sustainability, and ensure fair and equitable distribution of benefits from genetic resources (Convention on Biological Diversity, n.d.). CBD can be understood through international regime theory with a knowledge-based approach because CBD is based on knowledge related to the condition of biodiversity which scientifically is increasingly threatening life. Therefore, through this article, the author tries to explain how a knowledge-based approach can be used to understand CBD.

CBD was unveiled at the Earth Summit Rio in 1992 and has been ratified by nearly 200 countries. Before it was inaugurated in 1992, in the 80s world scientists and activists had warned of a biodiversity crisis (Castro & Ollivier, 2020). Several researchers and environmental experts such as Thomas van Goethem and Jan Luiten van Zanden from Utrecht University provide data that globally, species populations have decreased by 44% since 1970 (Goethem & Zanden, 2014). Various indicators covering long periods show that biodiversity has decreased during the Holocene, and this trend has accelerated since 1900 (Goethem & Zanden, 2014). After seeing the urgency of the data submitted by researchers, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) formed a technical expert working group consisting of scientists and technical experts in ad hoc law to prepare international legal instruments. CBD has a body that is trusted to supervise the implementation of the convention, namely the Conference of Parties (COP). Through this COP, ratifying countries are encouraged to implement existing guidelines. Countries also must identify the biological components of biodiversity in their country (Antonio & Izaguirre, 2008).

The formation of the CBD can be seen through the International Regime Theory. According to Krasner, an international regime is a set of implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures that form the basis for actors in a particular field of international relations (Hasenclever et al., 1997). The CBD can be criticized as an international regime because if you look at the definition of an international regime, the CBD has a set of principles related to biodiversity and has rules for countries that have ratified the convention. As stated above, one example is that the state must identify the biological components of biodiversity in its country. The norms and rules contained in the CBD regime serve as a guide for member states to ensure that the regime is aligned with the shared goals and beliefs set out in the principles it follows. By following the norms contained in the CBD regime, member countries of the CBD regime can achieve the desired collective results, namely conserving biodiversity, encouraging efforts to use components sustainably, and ensuring fair and equitable distribution of benefits. genetic resources.

Next, the author will explain what it looks like using a knowledge-based approach. We need to understand first what a knowledge-based approach is. Knowledge-based approach is an approach in the international regime that emphasizes cognitivism. Cognitive scholars argue that the processes that produce national identity and interests are shaped by the normative and causal beliefs held by decision-makers and that changes in belief systems can trigger policy changes (Hasenclever et al., 1997). CBD departs from knowledge regarding threats or crises to biodiversity. There are thoughts or cognition that arise so that CBD is formed.

In a knowledge-based approach, there are two points of view in analyzing international regimes, namely weak cognitive and strong cognitive. The author will use weak cognitive which argues that the demand for a regime in international relations depends on the actor’s perception of international problems which is based on the actor’s causal and normative beliefs. Weak cognition focuses on prevailing forms of reasoning in which actors identify their preferences based on knowledge of available options. Weak cognition assumes that: 1) between the international structure and human will lies interpretation, 2) state actors no longer pursue power but also “reduction of uncertainty” which requires information from experts, and 3) the importance of subjectively shared meaning for regime formation and regime performance (Hasenclever et al., 1997). Weak cognitivism also emphasizes the role of epistemic communities that support actors to produce knowledge and what knowledge they want to provide.

In the CBD regime, even though it only mentions “researchers” and does not specifically mention organizations or communities, this is still the role of the epistemic community that produces knowledge, which provides warnings regarding the biodiversity crisis. Then this knowledge is processed by UNEP and opens up opportunities for countries to join the CBD regime on the based on knowledge. It is from knowledge of the biodiversity crisis that countries determine their preferences to achieve their respective interests. There is knowledge that is processed by UNEP. From this CBD regime, it can also be seen how the state is no longer merely pursuing power but is pursuing the need for “reducing uncertainty” regarding the future fate of life on earth. The joining of countries in the CBD regime is also inseparable from the causal and normative beliefs of the actors. One example that can be seen is Jamaica as the first country to ratify the CBD regime, Jamaica is a country rich in biodiversity, and through that, Jamaica has causal and normative beliefs in joining the CBD.

Based on the explanation above, we can conclude that CBD is a regime formed based on knowledge. The role of researchers as an epistemic community in providing knowledge related to the biodiversity crisis helps UNEP to process this knowledge and shape it as a regime. The countries joining the CBD regime share the belief that steps are needed to overcome the crisis.

Heyna Jekaisa
Heyna Jekaisa
Master's student of International Relations at Universitas Gadjah Mada. I have a major interest in environmental issues, international development studies, gender studies, ethnic relations and multiculturalism, and diplomacy.