Memorandum of Understanding


Towards the preparation of

A World Flora online by 2020

1. Background

1.1 Through decision X/17 of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, a consolidated update of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (“GSPC”) 2011-2020 was adopted.  In the same decision the Conference of the Parties requested the Executive Secretary to the Convention, in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation (“GPPC”) and other partners and relevant organizations to undertake activities to support implementation of the Strategy.

1.2 The GPPC brings together international, regional and national organisations in order to contribute to the implementation of the GSPC.

1.3 Target 1 of the GSPC calls for the achievement of ‘An online Flora of all known plants’ by 2020.

1.4 A widely accessible Flora of all known plant species is a fundamental requirement for plant conservation.  The terms and technical rationale for Target 1 of the GSPC propose that a World Flora be developed as a framework capable of accommodating regional floristic information (at national or lower level) that can provide answers in both regional and global contexts.  The terms and technical rationale for Target 1 suggest that the Flora should include accepted names and a comprehensive synonymy, building on the results of the previous objectives for Target 1 (dated 2002 - 2010), aimed to develop “a widely accessible working list of known plant species as a step towards a complete world flora.” New knowledge should also be incorporated as it becomes available.  Target 1 of the first phase of the GSPC was achieved at the end of 2010, through The Plant List (

1.5 For the purposes of this MoU, ‘widely accessible’ is interpreted to mean that the World Flora online will be available in an electronic format, on-line, with open access and freely accessible, Furthermore it is accepted that Creative Commons or equivalent licensing are foundation principles of the World Flora online and of its organisation.

1.6 The terms and technical rationale of Target 1 of the GSPC suggest that a World Flora should include geographic distributions to at least country level, drawing on national floras, checklists, and monographs; habitat data; identification tools (e.g., interactive keys, images, and descriptions); conservation status (with links to assessments being carried out under GSPC Target 2); and other enhancements as practicable, e.g., vernacular names. Much of these data already exist in digital or printed format, and they can be used to populate the Flora.  This will be a community resource built on the work of a great many individuals throughout the world, and their contributions to the Flora and its influence on GSPC will be documented and attributed (e.g. through appropriate citation of original work).

1.7 It is acknowledged that when complete, the World Flora online will be expected to include information on approximately 400,000 plant species, and comprise vascular plants and bryophytes.

2. Purpose

2.1 To support the implementation of the GSPC;

2.2 To establish an informal international consortium (“the consortium”) to facilitate the achievement of a World Flora online by 2020;

2.3 To establish and acknowledge the link between the international World Flora online consortium and the GPPC, whereby the consortium is formally recognised as a working group of the GPPC.

2.4 To provide an expression of interest for organisations to become involved in an international World Flora online project and elaborate a framework for cooperation and coordination between the parties to this MoU to contribute to the World Flora online.

3. Agreement

3.1 The parties to this MoU agree to be members and cooperate as part of an international Consortium of relevant organizations and institutions to contribute to the achievement of the World Flora online by 2020.

3.2 Membership of the Consortium shall be open (see 5.1) to all organisations and institutions who sign the MoU and that have substantial programmes relevant to plant systematics at the national and/or international levels and wish to play a part in the achievement of the World Flora online. 

3.3 The parties to this MoU further agree that in undertaking this work that they shall be contributing to the common good, by making information on the world’s plants freely available to all.

3.4 Furthermore, they agree that this work shall be carried out within the context of the provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity, namely conservation of, sustainable use of, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of use of biodiversity, as well as to relevant international, regional and national laws and regulations concerning biodiversity including laws relating to access to plant genetic resources, associated benefit sharing and traditional knowledge. 

4. Activities

4.1 Areas of co-operation under this MoU will be subject to available resources.

Activities may include, but will not be limited to:

4.1.1 Collaboration and support of actions that contribute to the development of the World Flora online, including, as appropriate, the provision of data, technical and other services, resources and participation in collaborative projects;

4.1.2 The designation of one or more representative(s) from each organization to be members of the Council of the World Flora online Consortium;

4.1.3 The development of shared activities, including publicity and fund-raising activities.

4.1.4 Subject to available resources, participation in a shared Secretariat

5. Structures

5.1 As part of the implementation of this MoU, the following structure for the World Flora online Consortium is established:

i) A Council.  This will include one designated representative of each of the parties to this MoU.  The Council shall be the decision making body of the Consortium.  Decisions made by the Council shall be by consensus.  Decisions made by the Council shall relate to the activities of the Consortium only, rather than to individual activities of its members.  It is anticipated that the Council will meet annually.  The chairmanship of the Council shall be decided by its members.

ii) Working Groups.  These will take forward technical and other work of the Consortium.  In their respective area of expertise, working groups will also develop specific work plans as needed for implementing the World Flora Online, thereby supporting decisions of the Council. On the establishment of the Consortium, the following Working Groups are created:

a)  Technical Working Group.
b)  Taxonomic Working Group.
c)  Data Sources Working Group.
d)  Governance and Resource Mobilisation Working Group

Working Groups may be created, reorganised or disbanded by a decision of the Council.  The Chairs of each working group will be appointed by the Council.  The terms of office of the Chair and members of each Working Group shall be from one Council meeting to the next.  Membership of the Working Groups shall be renewable. Terms of reference for each Working Group will be approved by the Council.

iii) Executive Committee.  The Executive Committee will include a representative from each of the immediate previous, current and immediate future host organisations for the meeting of the Consortium’s Council.  The Executive Committee shall also include as members the Chairs of each of the Working Groups.  Ex officio representatives of the Secretariat will also participate in the work of the Executive Committee, and may also attend any meetings.  The Terms of Reference, which will define the specific roles and remit of the Executive Committee shall be agreed by the Council.  It is anticipated that the Executive Committee will help implement the decisions of the Council, lead in the external communications of the Consortium and guide the day to day work of the Secretariat.

iv) Secretariat. A Secretariat is established to support the day-to-day work of the Consortium, including:

a. helping facilitate the achievement of the World Flora online;
b. facilitating communications between members of the Consortium;
c. assistance in managing the activities and operations of the bodies outlined above, (viz. the Council, Working Groups and Executive Committee) and
d. organising meetings of the Council.
e. keeping minutes of Executive Committee and Council meetings, organizing documents of the Consortium and making them available to all Members"

Parties to the MoU may, on a voluntary basis, provide support and assistance in the provision of the Secretariat, which shall be shared between a number of institutions and organisations.  The Secretariat shall also keep a record of signatories of this MoU.

5.2 The structure of the Consortium outlined above may be amended by the Council as and when required, including, should it become necessary, its superseding by a formal constitution and operating rules.

6. Duration, Renewal, Amendment and Termination

6.1 This MoU will come into force on the date of the first signatures.  Its duration will be determined subsequently by the Consortium.

6.2 This MoU can be amended at any time through mutual agreement expressed in writing. Such amendments, once approved by the parties, will become part of this MoU.

6.3 Any party to this agreement may terminate their participation in this MoU by providing the Secretariat to the Consortium with 60 days notice in writing. 

7.  General

7.1 As a result of this MoU, none of the parties shall be prevented or hindered from participating in similar activities with other public or private agencies, organizations, or individuals;

7.2 Parties to this MoU will agree on the text of any press releases or other public statements relating to this MoU or the relationships established under the terms of this MoU;

7.3 The parties acknowledge that any party may be subject to obligations relating to freedom of information, for example, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in the United Kingdom.  The parties will make reasonable efforts to inform the Consortium of any proposed disclosure under freedom of information obligations in relation to this MoU or the relationship established under this MoU but shall not be bound to obtain the prior consent of the Consortium members to any such disclosure.

7.4 This MoU does not commit any of the parties to this agreement to provide any fiscal, personnel, or other support, whether real or in-kind outside the agreed voluntary commitment outlined above;  

7.5 Any endeavour or transfer involving reimbursement or transfer of funds between the parties to this MoU shall be handled in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and procedures of each of the signatories.  Such matters shall be outlined in separate agreements that shall be made in writing by representatives of each organization and shall be independently authorized by appropriate statutory authority for each member.  This MoU does not provide such authority.

7.6 This MoU is not intended to be a legally binding document.