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At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, world leaders agreed on a comprehensive strategy for "sustainable development" meeting our needs while ensuring that we leave a healthy and viable world for future generations.

One of the key agreements adopted at Rio was the Convention on Biological Diversity. This pact among the vast majority of the world's governments sets out commitments for maintaining the world's ecological underpinnings as we go about the business of economic development. The Convention establishes three main goals:

Over 150 governments signed on to the Convention document at the Rio conference, and since then more than 175 countries have ratified the agreement.

The Convention deals with an issue so vital to humanity's future that it stands as a landmark in international law. The agreement:

Importantly, the Convention is legally binding; countries that join it are obliged to implement its provisions.

While past conservation efforts were aimed at protecting particular species and habitats, the Convention recognizes that ecosystems, species and genes must be used for the benefit of humans. However, this should be done in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of biological diversity.

The Convention also offers decision-makers guidance based on the precautionary principle that where there is a threat of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to avoid or minimize such a threat. The Convention acknowledges that substantial investments are required to conserve biological diversity. It argues, however, that conservation will bring us significant environmental, economic and social benefits in return.

Some of the many issues dealt with under the Convention include: