There are several documents which provide the framework for CAFF operations:
- Arctic Biodiversity Assessment: Report for Policy Makers (2013)
- Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (2004)
- Arctic Flora and Fauna Recommendations for Conservation (2002)
- Strategic Plan for the Conservation of Arctic Biological Diversity (1998)
- Cooperative Strategy for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Arctic Region (1997)
- Program for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Framework Document (1991)
CAFFs work has subsequently been informed by the strategies and the recommendations generated through these documents, and they will be used to consider the manner in which CAFF has fulfilled its mandate.
The recommendations are aimed primarily at the Arctic Council, its member states and Permanent Participants. Success in conserving Arctic biodiversity, however, also depends upon actions by non-Arctic states, regional and local authorities, industry and all who live, work and travel in the Arctic. These recommendations may, therefore, also provide a guide for action for states, authorities, and organizations beyond the Arctic Council. Some of the ABA recommendations directly encourage cooperation with those outside the Arctic Council process.
Large tracts of the Arctic remain relatively undisturbed providing an opportunity for proactive action that can minimize or even prevent future problems that would be costly, or impossible, to reverse. The key findings of the ABA are interrelated and responding to them would benefit from a holistic approach. When taken together, three cross-cutting themes are evident:
- the significance of climate change as the most serious underlying driver of overall change in biodiversity;
- the necessity of taking an ecosystem-based approach to management; and
- the importance of mainstreaming biodiversity by making it integral to other policy fields, for instance by ensuring biodiversity objectives are considered in development standards, plans and operations.
A comprehensive and integrated approach is needed to address the interconnected and complex challenges facing biodiversity and to ensure informed policy decisions in a changing Arctic. In addition to many Arctic Council initiatives underway, there are other conventions and processes addressing these cross-cutting themes and many of the individual stressors acting on biodiversity. This includes many regulatory and non-regulatory measures that are in place or under development to provide consistent standards and/or approaches to development in the Arctic. Many of these can, or do, provide safeguards for biodiversity
Care was taken in the development of the ABA recommendations to review recommendations from other major Arctic Council initiatives. Many of the recommendations overlap and are mutually supportive, emphasizing the importance of considering all recommendations together. Some of the ABA recommendations reinforce the significance to biodiversity of recommendations or actions already underway, others build upon existing recommendations or processes, and others are more specifically focused on biodiversity issues. All are important to ensure the conservation of Arctic species, ecosystems and the services they provide.
In 2004, the Arctic Council and the the International Arctic Science Committee released the Impacts of a Warming Arctic synthesis report and later in 2005, the full Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) report. The ACIA has proved an important and influential assessment and provided direction for a wide variety of Arctic Council activities.
The ACIA report highlighted the lack of knowledge about the Arctic's ecosystems. It called for a range of recommendations to increase understanding of the Arctic environment and have provided important guidance for CAFF activities. In its acceptance of ACIA’s recommendations, the Arctic Council directed CAFF to further examine the findings related to biodiversity conservation and to develop follow-up programmes and activities that would address key projections for the future of the Arctic.
CAFF's primary response has been the development and the implementation of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) and the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA). It is anticipated that these activities will further guide future CAFF work.
The Arctic Flora and Fauna Recommendations for Conservation (2002) contains a series of thematic goals and recommendations arising from CAFF's Arctic Flora and Fauna: Status and Conservation (2001) report, a science-based overview of Arctic biodiversity and key conservation issues.
It stated that “the overall goal of Arctic nature conservation is to ensure that Arctic ecosystems and their biodiversity remain viable and vigorous for generations to come and, therefore able to sustain human socio-economic and cultural needs.”
This document builds on existing recommendations to provide recommendations for action under six main categories:
- conserving Arctic species
- conserving Arctic ecosystems and habitats
- assessing and monitoring Arctic biodiversity
- global issues
- engaging society
At the Minsterial meeting in Alta, Norway (1997), the Ministers welcomed the Cooperative Strategy for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Arctic Region and noted the intention of CAFF to give it effect through the development of a Strategic Plan for the Conservation of Arctic Biological Diversity, a long-term plan based on the five priority objectives extracted from the Cooperative Strategy:
- Enhance efforts to monitor Arctic biodiversity, paying particular attention to species, populations, habitats and ecosystems which are of the greatest ecological, cultural, social, economic or scientific value
- Support and implement measures for the conservation of Arctic genetic resources, species and their habitats
- Establish protected areas in the Arctic region where they contribute to the conservation of ecosystems, habitats and species
- Manage activities outside of protected areas in order to maintain the ecological integrity of protected areas and to ensure the conservation of biodiversity
- Enhance integration of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use objectives into sectoral and cross-sectoral plans and policies. Identify approaches and develop strategies by which information on the conservation of Arctic biological diversity can be made available in an appropriate manner to those making socio-economic decisions
Although the Strategic Plan for the Conservation of Arctic Biological Diversity was intended to provide overall direction to CAFF only until 2001, it continues to inform CAFF's work through established principles and identified actions to fulfill the five priority objectives.
In 1992, at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed by more than 150 countries, and came into force on December 29, 1993. All Arctic countries have signed the Convention, and all have ratified it except the U.S.A. The convention has three objectives:
- the conservation of biological diversity
- the sustainable use of biological resources
- and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources
In recognition of the fact that the objectives of CAFF and the CBD are complementary to each other and that most of CAFF's projects directly address conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, the Arctic Council tasked CAFF to develop an Arctic strategy relating to the goals of the CBD. The outcome of this work is the Cooperative Strategy for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Arctic Region. In addition to providing strategic direction relating to the goals of the CBD, it is part of the overall conservation framework for CAFF.
The goals of the strategy are to:
- support the conservation of Arctic biological diversity, including the diversity of ecosystems, species, populations and their habitats, and genetic resources. When Arctic biological resources are used, the use should be at levels that are sustainable and meet the needs of local and Indigenous peoples and do not adversely affect other ecosystem components
- promote the participation of local and Indigenous peoples in the development and implementation of policies and programs relating to the conservation of Arctic biological diversity and the sustainable use of biological resources.
- develop and improve public education and awareness programs that promote the conservation of Arctic biological diversity and the sustainable use of biological resources
The actions identified to reach these goals include:
- identification of Arctic biological diversity
- monitoring of Arctic biological diversity
- species and habitat conseravation and restoration
- identification of threats
- environmental impact assessments
- protected areas
- conservation outside protected areas
- collaborative research
- sustainable use of biological resources
- sectoral and cross-sectoral integration of data and information sharing
- harmonization of legislation
- Indigenous and other local peoples participation
- education and public awareness
The Cooperative Strategy for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Arctic Region, called for enhanced monitoring and marked a significant starting point for CAFF's monitoring work.
CAFF's Framework document, the Program for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Framework Document, approved by Ministers in 1991, was a response to the lack of circumpolar information about Arctic biodiversity, and coincides with the environmental awakening occurring in global politics during the late 80s and early 90s with the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, the World Charter for Nature and the growing rise in awareness of sustainable development in the context of global politics.
The primary funcitons assigned to CAFF were:
- to collaborate for more effective research, sustainable utilization and conservation;
- to cooperate to conserve Arctic flora and fauna, their diversity and their habitats;
- to protect the Arctic ecosystem from human-caused threats;
- to seek to develop more effective laws, regulations and practices for flora, fauna and habitat management, utilization and conservation;
- to work in cooperation with the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic;
- to consult and cooperate with appropriate international organizations and seek to develop other forms of cooperation;
- to regularly compile and disseminate information on Arctic conservation;
- to contribute to environmental impact assessments of proposed activities.