International cooperation



The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences is one of the big players among the great natural history museums of Europe, and joins forces with many foreign partners at every level.The Institute participates in and coordinates numerous European research projects where, as part of large consortia, it helps establish platforms for exchanging and accessing data and services in fields such as geology, marine research or taxonomy. It also has the mandate to set up numerous projects on science and society through its museum and its public-oriented services in cooperation with international partners, museums and science centres. You will find details of our international cooperation below.

Treaties and Conventions
UN Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to protect the global diversity of ecosystems, species and genes was signed in Rio in 1992. The convention has three objectives: conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of biodiversity and the sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources. Currently, 193 countries and the EU have signed this agreement. Each country has to designate a national focal point to promote the implementation of the Convention on Biodiversity.

For Belgium, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences was designated as the national focal point for the CBD. In this capacity, it has taken on different tasks, including the coordination of the National Biodiversity Strategy, reporting on the operation of the convention in Belgium, and guiding the political decision-making at various policy levels. The institute also organizes training programmes and awareness-raising campaigns about biodiversity, such as "I give life to my planet” (dutch / french).

Three thematic focal points are located at the RBINS. These are the CBD information mechanism (Clearing House Mechanism, CHM), the Global Taxonomy Initiative, GTI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, SBSTTA)

Would you like more information? Please do not hesitate to contact the National Focal Point for Biodiversity.


CBD National Focal Point: Patrick Grootaert
Clearing House Mechanism focal point: Han de Koeijer
Global Taxonomic Initiative focal point: Marie-Lucie Susini
SBSTTA: Hendrik Segers
Development cooperation programme focal point: Luc Janssens de Bisthoven



CITES Convention

CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement intended to combat the illegal trade in endangered plant and animal species. Various scientists from the RBINS serve on the board of CITES and provide advice and technical support to policy makers. In addition, our scientists are consulted during actions by the police or customs to determine violations and identify intercepted species.

Contact person: Didier Vangheluwe



OSPAR Convention

With this convention 15 countries near the western coasts of Europe and the EU protect the various unique and fragile marine areas of the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Working from the RBINS, the Directorate Natural Environment brings this convention into practice. For instance, with the oceanographic vessel Belgica continually monitors the quality of the Belgian part of the North Sea and plays an important role in the scientific frame of the convention.

The OSPAR Commission also issues publications providing background information and special reports. Every 10 years a Quality Status Report (QRS) is drawn up, which provides general assessments of the marine environment and the impact of human activities. Most recent QRS (2010) evaluates the efficiency of the actions that were undertaken to protect the marine environment. This allows us to adapt our priorities and assure an adapted protection of the area.

Contact person: Patrick Roose

Website: OSPAR


CMS (Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals) or Bonn Convention

The Bonn Convention, negotiated in 1979, is under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme,  has been signed by over 120 States to date. The purpose of the convention is the conservation of migratory animals and their habitats. The RBINS has an advisory role in relation to the convention, particularly on the conservation of land mammals, and various programmes for the conservation of migratory species and their habitats have been initiated and coordinated by our Directorate Natural Environment. The Directorate Natural Environment is also involved in this convention in relation to migratory animals in the North Sea (including small and large species of cetaceans) and carries out work based on specially drawn-up treaties, such as ASCOBANS.

Contact person: Roseline C. Beudels-Jamar



London Convention

The London Convention (in full ‘the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter’) has been signed by 87 states. Our Directorate Natural Environment performs tasks in this context including monitoring and investigating the dumping of dredged material at sea. In practice, this implies charting dredging sites, maintaining statistics on quantities of dredged material and the development of a sediment transport model, among other tasks.

Contact person: Brigitte Lauwaert

Website: London Convention 



MARPOL stands for 'marine pollution' and was established to prevent the pollution by ships (by fuels, harmful substances on board, sewage, etc.). Our Directorate Natural Environment carries out active aerial surveillance from military reconnaissance aircraft to track pollution at sea and along the Belgian coast, and to actively pursue polluters.

Contact person: Ronny Schallier

Website: MARPOL 



ASCOBANS (Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas) was set up in 1991 under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) and came into force in 1994. By-catch, pollution and other threats had to be tackled in a co-ordinated effort. Our Directorate Natural Environment organises an intervention network that is responsible for scientific research on mammals and birds that wash up on beaches or are killed as by-catch.

Contact person: Jan Haelters



Bonn Agreement

This convention was drawn up in 1983 as a reaction to the disaster with the Torry Canyon in 1967, in which 117,000 tonnes of oil were spilt into the sea. The convention has been signed by Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the European Union. The disaster made those countries aware of the far-reaching consequences of such an event and of the necessity of international cooperation. The convention includes coordinated air control, an information exchange, common exercises and mutual support in case of disasters. Our Directorate Natural Environment takes on the execution of some aspects in the convention, such as organising control flights and marine exercises. It works closely together with partners in the coastguard to fulfil this aim.

Contact person: Ronny Schallier



Scheldt/Maas Treaty

Both the River Scheldt and the Maas (Meuse) have their source in France, run through Belgium and the Netherlands and finally flow into the North Sea. To promote sustainable and integrated water management, which aims among other things to improve water quality, treaties have been signed concerning both rivers between the various levels of government in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Our Directorate Natural Environment is a partner in the execution of monitoring programmes in the Scheldt basin. This happens in cooperation with the Belgian regions and France, within the international Scheldt Commission. Recently those programmes were brought in line with the stipulations of the Water Framework Directive of the European Commission. 

Contact person: Patrick Roose



The Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in April 2012 in Panama by 94 UN Member States, to protect the planet’s biodiversity, its ecosystems and the services they provide to humanity. It provides a mechanism that should enable both the scientific and policy communities to synthesise, review, assess and critically evaluate relevant information and knowledge generated worldwide by governments, academia, scientific organisations, non-governmental organisations and indigenous communities. IPBES is unique in that it aims to strenghten the capacity for the effective use of science in decision-making at all levels. By doing so, it hopes to gain similar global scientific authority and policy influences for biodiversity to what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has for climate change.

Being part of our Directorate Natural environment, the Belgian Biodiversity Platform is taking a leading role in coordinating IPBES-related tasks for Belgium (one of the founding members). It hosts the IPBES national focal point, and runs several Belgian scientific networks in support of the IPBES work, such as

  • Belgian Ecosystem services (BEES)
  • Belgian Forum on Invasive Species (IAS)

Contactperson: Hilde Eggermont

Website Belgian IPBES-NFP:
Website IPBES:


International Networks

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is an international organization that focuses on making (civil) scientific data on species occurrence available online. Various scientific institutions from all over the world (including RBINS) make this kind of basic data on biodiversity available. GBIF makes this possible by offering a customized IT infrastructure and then making the compiled data accessible via a single, unrestricted, free-of-charge website for everyone. In this way GBIF is making a contribution to sustainable development worldwide. The Belgian Biodiversity Platform, with representation at RBINS and other institutions, is the Belgian focal point for GBIF.

Contact person: Hilde Eggermont




CETAF stands for Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities and is a group of 35 members representing 61 scientific institutions from 21 European countries. Their common goal is to promote the study, research and understanding of biological and palaeobiological systematics (the methodology for ranking and classifying specimens based on characteristics). Its member institutions include Natural History Museums, Natural Sciences Museums, Botanical Gardens and other research institutions, with their associated collections and research expertise. For Belgium, the RBINS, the Botanic Garden Meise and the Royal Museum for Central Africa are members of CETAF. Two RBINS' initiatives - European Journal of Taxonomy (EJT) and The Distributed European School of Taxonomy (DEST) - are now under the CETAF umbrella. The CETAF has its seat and General Secretariat at the RBINS.

Contact person: Erik Verheyen




SciColl of Science Collections International is an initiative of the Global Science Forum of the OECD and brings together natural history museums and institutions worldwide which preserve various scientific objects. It serves as a catalyst of multi-disciplinary research and as a coordinating body that seeks to coordinate and professionalise global scientific collections (from telescopes to biological specimens).

The Steering Committee is composed of SciColl top scientists from all major scientific institutions. Patrick Grootaert is the RBINS representative on the Steering Group.

Contact person: Patrick Grootaert




EuroGeoSurveys is a European non-profit organization uniting 33 geological services in a large pan-European knowledge centre for geosciences. The goal is to make the knowledge available to the European institutions so as to reach agreement on issues such as the certainty of supply of raw material, the creation of healthy living conditions and and the improvement of living conditions.

EuroGeoSurveys work in the following areas, inter alia:

  • certainty of supply of mineral raw material
  • detection of movements of the Earth
  • sustainable urban development
  • energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • harmonizing geoscientific data making this ready for processing on a European scale
  • The Belgian Geological Service is a member of EurGeoSurveys with Michiel Dusar as coordinator.

Contact person: Michiel Dusar




The European Global Ocean Observing System (EuroGOOS) is an international non-profit organization that was founded in 1994, bringing together national government agencies and research institutions working within policy and research relating to the lakes and oceans and research of the policy that should protect them.

EuroGOOS has 5 missions:

  • to determine the priorities of operational oceanography in Europe and strengthen the ties between the EuroGOOS members and the core initiatives on the European level, consisting of Copernicus, EMODnet and the research infrastructure for marine sciences;
  • to promote European operational oceanography through publications, conferences, a website, social media and engagement towards a growing group of organisations like the regional alliances of GOOS, GEO, European Marine Board or JPI-Ocean;
  • to support cooperation. Thanks to close contacts with key organisations on a global, European and regional level, EuroGOOS promotes the cooperation between the actors in operational oceanography, marine research and innovative technology;
  • to stimulate the common production of knowledge. Whenever possible, EuroGOOS promotes making available methods and analyses of observation and prediction. As such, it aims to offer payable oceanographic services that meet the consumers’ desires and demands;
  • coordinate marine observational stations. EuroGOOS plays a coordinating role in the European Ocean Observation System (EOOS) and facilitates the European Marian Board, the EU Copernicus Marine Service, EMODNET, the EU Marine Research Infrastructures, JPI Oceans, EEA, ESA, EUMETSAT and the group of climatological scientists.

To realize these 5 objectives EuroGOOS relys on its 5 regional systems: Arctic ROOS, BOOS, NOOS, IBI-ROOS and MONGOOS.

The Directorate Natural Environment is an active member of EuroGOOS and NOOS. The secretariat can be found in the offices of BELSPO (Louisalaan).

Contact person: Sébastien Legrand



BIOARCH is a collaboration between nine European scientific institutions, and brings together some 200 bio-archaeologists who devote their energies to the interactions during the Holocene period between Man and the animals and plants in his environment. The network, which was launched in 2008, is coordinated by the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - National Scientific Research Centre).

Contact person: Wim Van Neer




ECSA (European Citizen Science Association) is the European organisation for citizen science, scientific research done wholly or partly by amateur or non professional scientists. This young network was set up in 2014 and consists of museums and universities from 10 EU-member states. ECSA wishes to improve citizen science and promote it in Europe. The actions are oriented towards sustainable development and aim to draw in disadvantaged communities. The organization has its seat in the Museum für Naturkunde in Leibniz (Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Research (MfN)).

Contact : Carole Paleco

Site internet : ECSA


The RBINS is one of the founding members of Ecsite, the European network of science centres and museums. This organization brings together over 400 science centres, natural history museums, science festivals, universities, zoos, etc. in 50 countries that make use of the facilities of the organization to share knowledge, organize conferences and set up training programmes. The RBINS has co-produced several exhibitions together with other Ecsite members, and has participated in numerous European projects from FP6 and FP7 precursor programmes of today's H2020 "Science with and for Society". The annual Ecsite conference, attended by 1000 participants, represents an opportunity for the staff of the RBINS to exchange ideas on best practices in science communication.

Contact person: Carole Paleco



ICOM is the International Council of Museums and brings together more than 32,000 museums worldwide. In this unique network museum professionals and museological institutions can discuss current and future challenges. These discussions take place within 117 national committees and 31 theme-oriented international committees. As an international professional organization ICOM determines the norms and standards of excellence. The council realizes this through (1) a code of behavior which determines the minimal norms for professional practices and performances for museums and their personnel and (2) guidelines (among which ‘Core concepts in Museology’, ‘International Guidelines for Museum Object Information’ and ‘Guidelines for Disaster Preparedness in Museums’). ICOM also combats illegal trade in cultural goods and teaches museums to avoid destruction of their collection by natural causes or by humans.

The Museum of Natural Science is a member of ICOM Belgium/ Wallonia-Brussels and ICOM Flanders.

Contact : ICOM

Website ICOM :
Website ICOM Flanders:

Website ICOM Belgium/Wallonia-Brussels :

Go to top