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International Convention for the Protection of Birds Useful to Agriculture
The 1902 Convention for the Protection of Birds Useful to Agriculture is considered to be the first multilateral international convention that focused on the protection of specific wildlife species. At the time, the parties to the Convention were more interested in "useful" birds as opposed to protecting the species for their own sake. However, it was a start and it is considered a foundational treaty in the development of environmental and international environmental law. It therefore holds an important place in the history of environmental treaties and laws at an international level.
Although it is considered an international treaty, the area covered geographically related only to Europe. It was drafted in France in 1895, by a group of politicians, ornithologists, naturalists and technicians attending a conference.
The contents of the Convention
The Convention focused on such things as:
- Useful birds, especially insectivores (Article 1)
- Nonuseful birds such as most birds of prey, such as eagles and falcons. Today these apex predators are protected in many regions of the world, as their "usefulness" became clearer, along with the growth in protection of species for their own values.
At the time this treaty was negotiated, little was understood about ecosystems and the key roles played by birds in them. The focus was on the utility of birds, and protecting those birds only.
An historical lesson worth heeding
It is of importance to the environmental scholar to note that this treaty was subject to behind-the-scenes pressures known only too well to modern-day negotiators. Between the time of the conference draft (1895) and the actual Convention as adopted in 1902, major changes took palce to the text. It is argued that the result of this was harmful to many species and undermined any conservationist ambitions it may have had. It provides an early international treaty example of the scientific community knowing the importance of wider protection requirements and political pressures reducing the span of protection.
- The International Convention for the Protection of Birds Useful to Agriculture (Paris, 19th March, 1902)
- A link to the original text is at: http://www.ecolex.org/server2.php/libcat/docs/TRE/Full/En/TRE-000067.txt (it's a lot shorter than modern day treaties!)
- Juan José Ferrero-García, (2013), The International Convention for the Protection of Birds (1902): A Missed Opportunity for Wildlife Conservation? Ardeola 60(2):385-396. 2013, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13157/arla.60.2.2013.385 (purchase required, or library access)