Background to the GSPC

A new international initiative for plant conservation was first called for as a resolution of the International Botanical Congress in 1999. Responding to the Congress resolution, an ad hoc group of experts came together in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, in April 2000 to consider the need for a global initiative for plant conservation. The group resolved in its ‘Gran Canaria Declaration’ that a Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) should be developed urgently within the framework of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The Gran Canaria Group, 2000

The group agreed that the overall aim of the Strategy should be to support and facilitate plant conservation at all levels. The Strategy would provide a mechanism to enhance collaboration and networking, bringing together existing activities rather than proposing new initiatives. It would work to link different partners, such as governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and relevant local communities, drawing on and extending the already existing resources and expertise available. By addressing plant conservation in the broadest sense, the Strategy would aim to integrate relevant efforts in different disciplines (social, economic and biological) and would establish a means to gather and manage effectively all relevant information. Finally, through the Strategy, the need for international programmes in research and public education on plant conservation would be highlighted.

The Gran Canaria Declaration calling for a Global Programme for Plant Conservation was submitted for consideration at the 5th Conference of the Parties (COP5) to the CBD (UNEP/CBD/COP/5/INF/32). Here, the significant body of support for the development of such a programme was noted, but the clear need to focus on linking existing initiatives was highlighted. Nevertheless, the overall response from COP5 was positive and the Parties requested that the Strategy be developed for consideration at the next meeting of the Convention's scientific advisory body (SBSTTA) (Decision V/10).

In response to the decision from COP5, the CBD Secretariat initiated a process of consultation with a range of international and national stakeholders. The aim of these consultations was to determine how a global plant conservation strategy could complement and enhance ongoing activities of the Convention and to seek to identify the precise elements of such a Strategy and how it could be coordinated.

During this consultation process, it was agreed that the Strategy should be ‘bold, innovative, practical and flexible’, that it should draw on existing initiatives and not replace them and that it should include targets that would relate to the ultimate outcomes of the Strategy and which would be measurable, achievable and quantifiable within a specific time frame (SMART).

When the GSPC was presented to the Parties to the CBD at COP6, over 40 national delegates indicated support for the adoption of the Strategy and many emphasized that it provided a flexible framework for regional and national priority setting and the implementation of plant conservation actions. Support was also provided by a range of inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, one of which, Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) offered to second a staff position to the CBD Secretariat for 3 years to assist in the implementation of the Strategy. The GSPC, with its 16 outcome-orientated targets aimed at achieving a series of measurable goals by 2010, was finally adopted unanimously by the 187 governments that were Parties to the CBD in 2002, marking the first-ever adoption of targets for biodiversity conservation by the international community. This was a remarkable achievement, taking just 2 years since the Strategy was first proposed.

In October 2010, an updated strategy with revised targets for 2020 was adopted by the Parties to the CBD.

A comparison between the 2010 and 2020 targets is available here.

Further background information about the GSPC is available on the CBD website.