Law Division



The Biosafety Clearing House

 The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) entered into force on 11 September 2003, 90 days after the date of deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification by the Republic of Palau on 13 June 2003. The entry into force of the Protocol means that it is legally binding both at the international level and in the legal systems of consenting States. States are, therefore, obliged to comply with and implement all provisions of the Protocol.
Article 20 of the Protocol established a biosafety clearing-house (BCH) in order to:

(a)        Facilitate the exchange of scientific, technical, environmental and legal information on, and experience with, living modified organisms; and

(b)        Assist Parties to implement the Protocol, taking into account the special needs of developing country Parties, in particular the least developed and small island developing States among them, and countries with economies in transition as well as countries that are centres of origin and centres of genetic diversity.

Further Resources

 BCH Background

BCH Regional Advisory system

Capacity Building Activities

BCH Phase I


Text Cartagena Protocol




   The Protocol requires that countries enter and manage their own data in the BCH. It is imperative, therefore, that all countries have the capacity—equipment, tools and training—to fulfill their obligations vis-à-vis the BCH and to take advantage of its benefits.

The BCH has been conceptualized by parties as the main information system and vehicle of the CPB to publish pertinent information on biosafety regulations. The Intergovernmental Committee on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (ICCP), at its third meeting in April 2002, recognized “the importance of developing a fully functioning Biosafety Clearing-House by the time of entry into force of the Protocol, and of meeting the capacity needs of all countries with respect to implementation and use of the Biosafety Clearing-House.”  

Despite the availability of the BCH to countries, Parties have encountered many challenges in fulfilling their BCH-related obligations.  Consequently, many years after the entry into force of the CPB, the information available on the BCH central portal remains limited, signaling the need for strategic and catalytic action to boost country participation in the BCH.

The first BCH project was a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) venture, and was designed and executed as an add-on project to the national biosafety framework (NBF) development project that took place in some 130 countries. Its primary focus as a GEF enabling activity was to provide technical training and infrastructure to help countries reach compliance with Article 20 of the CPB. The BCH project dealt with building national infrastructure to access the BCH, assisted countries in choosing their national participation option and assisted parties in meeting their obligations to the BCH.  

During the fourth meeting of the COP MOP, parties expressly requested an extension of the UNEP-GEF BCH project, and identified specific needs, such as providing and updating additional data on the BCH, continued subregional knowledge sharing activities, and expansion of training packages to include other articles of the CPB, and also to target specific stakeholders such as custom officers, in addition to furthering the work that had already been carried out. These needs particularly address previously unanticipated gaps in the areas of knowledge and information sharing at both national and subregional levels with the objective of publishing pertinent information on the BCH. In decision MOP BS-IV/5 COP/MOP-4, parties also urged GEF “to extend the UNEP-GEF BCH project in its current form as a global project with a view to ensuring sustainability of national BCH nodes … and providing more capacity-building support”. 
The BCH2 project was developed as a direct response to the needs identified by the parties and in close collaboration with the CBD Secretariat. It was presented to the GEF Council at the 28 August 2009 meeting. The Council approved the project in principle and final clearance was received from the GEF Secretariat in February 2010, supporting the participation of 50 eligible countries. The project was launched on 15 November 2010and is executed by UNEP’s Division of Environmental Law and Conventions (DELC).

The objective of this project is to continue assisting eligible countries in building their national capacity to effectively access and use the BCH, and to promote regional and subregional collaboration, networking and exchange of experience for national and regional BCH management.


Biosafey Clearing House Project Phase II
At the Meeting of the Parties (COP/MOP 4) in May 2008, in Bonn, Germany, the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) urged the Global Environment Facility (GEF) "to extend the UNEP-GEF BCH project in its current form as a global project with a view to ensuring sustainability of national BCH nodes ... and providing more capacity-building support... " (Decisions "MOP BS IV/2 and BS-IV/5 COP/MOP-4). The currently proposed Project for the Continued Enhancement of the BCH is a GEF response to that request by the Parties. 

 The overall project objective is "To continue assisting eligible countries in strengthening national capacities to effectively access and use the BCH, promoting regional and sub-regional collaboration, networking and exchange of experience for national and regional BCH management" This Project will build upon the BCH Capacity Building Project, in order to continue capacity building in countries which have already invested in CPB compliance and in BCH training and infrastructure.

 Over 100 countries did so through successful participation in the NBF development project and the f irst BCH project; others did so by initiating the implementation of their NBF, through a first generation of GEF-funded projects. While building upon and extending the success of the first BCH Project, the new Project will emphasize even more strongly specific strategies for sustainability of BCH functions after Project lifetime.