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Linking External Websites Policy

Executive Summary

Through the Biosafety Clearing-House, the Secretariat maintains links to biosafety-relevant information maintained at external sites (e.g. as part of the Biosafety Information Resource Centre). The Secretariat considers and selects sites for inclusion in the BCH on a case-by-case basis, using criteria established in this policy document and any future guidance provided by the BCH Informal Advisory Committee, the Bureau of the COP/MOP, or the Parties in relevant decisions. External requests to include links to specific sites are evaluated using the same criteria. The Secretariat takes decisions regarding all categories of websites linked to the BCH except government sites, which are the responsibility of national governments.

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Policy Objective

The objective of this policy is to provide guidance on creating and maintaining related links on the Biosafety Clearing-House.

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The objectives of the Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH) include facilitating the exchange of information on, and experience with, living modified organisms, and assisting Parties to implement the Protocol.

To help in achieving these aims, the BCH provides access to a Biosafety Information Resource Centre and a Biosafety Organizations Database, maintained by the Secretariat. The policy for selecting relevant resources and organizations for inclusion in these databases builds on specific guidance on the inclusions of related links that was initially provided by the second meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Cartagena Protocol (ICCP-3; The Hague, 22-26 April 2002) when it endorsed the following recommendations in the third note from the ICCP Bureau on technical issues:

  • Recognizing the role of the Biosafety Clearing-House in the implementation of the regulatory processes of the Protocol, ensure that access to information through the Biosafety Clearing-House (for example, scientific information) is provided on the basis of quality, neutrality, multidisciplinarity and relevance to the needs of Parties.

Recognizing that the guidance provided by ICCP has not provided sufficient clarification about exactly what types of websites should be linked to the BCH, this policy was prepared by the Secretariat to provide additional guidance.

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Although the main functions of the BCH relate to facilitation of implementation of specific provisions of the Protocol, it also has a more general function related to exchange of information. Recognizing that information across a wide range of disciplines may be relevant and useful, potential sources of information available through Internet websites and mailing lists are generally categorized as follows:

  1. Intergovernmental Organizations – organizations that include governments in their membership.
  2. Government – any official government website.
  3. Non-Governmental Organizations – Relevant non-profit organizations representing civil society and not governments.
  4. Industry and Private Sector – this group includes individual companies as well as organizations representing industry.
  5. Research Institutions – relevant research centers.
  6. Databases, Libraries and Search Engines – any specific library or search engine that is relevant to biosafety and implementation of the Protocol, regardless of its sponsorship or affiliation.
  7. Journals – any specific journal or publication that is directly relevant to biosafety and implementation of the Protocol, regardless of its sponsorship or affiliation.
  8. Risk Assessment Guidance Documents.

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Evaluation Criteria

To be selected for inclusion in the BCH website, links must meet the essential criteria specified below, and preferably one or more of the following additional criteria:

Essential criteria

When evaluating the suitability for inclusion of each specific site, the essential criteria are:

  • Relevance: Only information of direct relevance to biosafety and to implementation of the Biosafety Protocol will be considered for inclusion. Specific fields of relevance to the Protocol include, but are not necessarily limited to: risk assessment, risk management, capacity-building, handling, transport, packaging and identification, information sharing, public awareness and participation, social and economic development considerations.
  • Neutrality: All sites will be given equal consideration for inclusion in the BCH
  • Multidisciplinarity: Efforts will be made to ensure that the selection of sites available through the BCH will address all fields relevant to implementation of the Biosafety Protocol
  • Quality: Quality of information will be considered in terms of the following factors: Credibility - The person or organization maintaining a site should be readily identifiable and contactable for users seeking additional information or wishing to provide feedback. Accuracy - The data that underlie the conclusions presented should be clearly identified, and scientific evidence that supports a position should be clearly stated. If possible, sources of the information should also be disclosed. Timeliness - The date of the original document on which the information is based and the date of posting on the Web should be provided, to enable the user to judge the currency of the information.
  • Any other instructions or criteria as may be established by the COP/MOP or its subsidiary bodies.

Additional criteria

Where possible, included sites should also meet the following criteria for inclusion in the related links section of the BCH:

  • Design: The site should be logically organized and easy to navigate, and have a clear, uncluttered interface;
  • Unique Content: The site should provide information that is not readily available elsewhere, or provide an unusual depth of information;
  • Disclosure: Appropriate disclosures, including the purpose of the site, as well as any sources of sponsorship or funding should be provided, as well as other connections with commercial or other organizations.

Exclusion of sites

Where possible, the BCH does not include links to the following:

  • Sites which discourage implementation of the provisions of the protocol;
  • Sites that contain offensive, inflammatory or illegal material;
  • Sites that require service/user charges;
  • Sites existing mainly to advertise products;
  • Individual personal websites.

Removal of sites

A site may be removed if it no longer meets the criteria outlined in this policy document.

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Selection Process


The Secretariat will maintain links to related information on the BCH. Sites will be considered on a case-by-case basis, using criteria established in this policy document and any further guidance by the COP/MOP and its subsidiary bodies. External requests to add specific links will be evaluated using the same criteria. The list of links will aim to be as comprehensive as possible, but by no means exhaustive or all-inclusive. The criteria for inclusion in the related sites is made available through the BCH. The inclusion of Government websites will be the responsibility of national governments.

Quality Control and Responsibility

The Secretariat will not take any responsibility for the accuracy of specific information contained on any websites linked to the BCH, nor for any consequences resulting from the use of such information by Parties, governments or others.

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Update on 2008-10-08
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