A Convention is an international agreement between a number of countries, dealing with a specific subject of common concern. Conventions are legally binding and, having signed, each country follows a process of ratification whereby the means for implementing the provisions of the agreement nationally must be determined. A country which ratifies becomes a 'Contracting Party' to the Convention; new agreements enter into force at a set period after a specified number of ratifications.


Conventions relating to nature conservation and the protection of the environment are known as Multi-lateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). The UK is a contracting party to a number of such agreements. During the 1970s agreements were concluded on: the protection of wetlands of international importance (Ramsar Convention); the protection of sites of international cultural or natural significance (World Heritage Convention); the regulation of wildlife trade (CITES); the protection of species and habitats of European importance (Bern Convention); and the protection of migratory species (Bonn Convention). Following the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, further agreements were concluded: the most relevant for JNCC being the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which aims to prevent the further loss of biodiversity whilst using its components sustainably and sharing benefits equitably. The other ‘Rio Conventions’ include the Climate Change Convention (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC), which seeks to address global warming through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Also in 1992, the OSPAR Convention was concluded to address the protection of the marine environment in the North-east Atlantic. Other MEAs have also arisen subsequently, especially daughter agreements to the Bonn Convention


Information on the main international Conventions to which the UK is a contracting party is summarised (see navigation bar). Each summary provides an overview of each Convention, how the agreement is being implemented in the UK, and JNCC's role in this implementation. Links are provided to relevant areas of work within JNCC, and useful external sources of information (such as Convention Secretariat websites). Users should note that the summaries provided are correct at the time of writing; however, for up to date information, primary sources should be consulted.


In 2009, following a series of meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the major MEAs, JNCC organised a conference in London which aimed to review and reflect on recent MEA outcomes in support of UK implementation of these obligations.  But, rather than reviewing the Convention meetings one by one, a thematic approach was taken, thus facilitating consistency in developing evidence needs and policy responses. The outcome of the meeting and related papers can be found here.


June 2013