Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (June08/03)
9th session of the Conference of Parties of the Convention of Biological
Diversity met in
Below are two reports on the meeting.
roadmap to complete access/benefit sharing regime
9th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 9) to the CBD is ongoing
The Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group on ABS that is responsible for the international regime negotiations has met 4 times since 2005 on this issue. Under the roadmap, there will be 3 more negotiation meetings, with the next and 7th meeting of the Working Group to be held in the first quarter of 2009.
meetings of technical experts will also be held to provide options and
scenarios for the negotiators of the Working Group on ABS. The experts
will work on the list of questions developed in the
The nature of the international regime has been one of the most contentious issues so far.
Prevention of biopiracy and setting in place a legally-binding international system to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge are the objectives consistently promoted by developing countries, especially the Group of Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries (LMMC) and the Africa Group.
countries such as
was subdued applause across the room on late Tuesday night when
compromise text that was finally accepted by
[The Conference of Parties] "Further instructs the Working Group, after the negotiation of comprehensive operational text at its seventh meeting, to start the 8th Working Group meeting by negotiating on nature, followed by clearly identifying the component of the International Regime that should be addressed through legally-binding measures, non-legally binding measures or a mix of the two and to draft these provisions accordingly."
With this achieved, the G77 and China agreed to remove the bracketed text in paragraph 11 of the draft decision on the roadmap concerning the establishment of the technical experts group, the subject of negotiations over the last few days.
bracketed text that refers to the open-ended and intergovernmental nature
of the expert group was earlier inserted by
As it stands, the decision means that a defined number of experts can now be convened by the Executive Secretary of the CBD to give options and scenarios on the list of questions developed in Bonn on 3 topics: compliance; concepts, terms, working definitions and sectoral approaches; and traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources.
For the issue of compliance, there will be 30 regionally balance experts (6 experts per region) who will be nominated by the Parties, and 10 observers, 3 of whom will come from indigenous and local communities.
For the issue of concepts, terms, working definitions and sectoral approaches, there will be the same number of 30 experts coming from the 5 regions of the world and 15 observers spread out among the different sectors using genetic resources, including 3 observers representing the indigenous and local communities and the remaining balance coming from international organizations and agreements as well as non-government organizations.
For the issue of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources, again there will be 30 regionally balanced experts with 15 observers, 7 of whom are coming from the 7 regions where indigenous and local communities will be coming from, with the possibility of indigenous and local communities being nominated also by the Parties as experts.
The logic is that as experts nominated by Parties, these indigenous and local communities can then speak and make recommendations on the issue of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources.
However, the representatives of indigenous and local communities in the small group meeting in Bonn that negotiated this issue were reluctant about this idea, saying that this is a highly political process which may result in them not being able to fully ventilate their concerns if they are made an integral part of the delegations from governments who will speak as experts on traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources.
There was considerable debate, too, on the duration of each of the 3 meetings of the Working Group on ABS. The EU insisted that each of the future meetings be limited to five working days, despite the consensus of everyone in the room that it should be seven consecutive days.
EU said that their position is due to budget concerns - they believe
that financial resources are not sufficient for the number of meetings
envisioned for the roadmap. The EU was concerned with the proliferation
of ad hoc technical experts group being considered to be established
in so many decisions of the CBD, from agrofuels, to monitoring and assessment
to forest biodiversity and even dry and sub-humid lands in addition
to the three expert groups for ABS. This was also the question raised
the ABS Working Group Co-Chair Fernando Casas of
The final agreement was that the next 3 meetings of the Working Group on ABS would be held, "subject to the availability of funds", over seven consecutive days. This means that the meetings will be funded not from the core budget of the CBD but will rely on voluntary commitments from donors.
donors came forward yesterday with Sweden announcing 180,000 euro for
the Working Group meeting and another 60,000 euro for the experts group
meeting on traditional knowledge.
Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for
Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), Shakeel Bhatti announced an offer to
be the venue of the next Working Group meeting (
language, however, was opposed by the
With one working day remaining, the Small Group chaired by Namibia that had worked on the terms of reference for the technical experts groups will discuss the main components of the international regime.+
CBD meeting dominated by talks on access and benefit sharing regime
SUNS #6484 Thursday 29 May 2008
The international regime is expected to set the rules on how benefits from the use of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge are to be fairly and equitably shared between the provider countries (mainly developing countries) and the indigenous and local communities which are the holders of the knowledge, and the companies and research institutions which are mainly from developed countries.
Underlying the discussions is an attempt - led by developing countries and resisted to varying degrees by developed countries - to address the problem of biopiracy.
on the ABS regime started last Wednesday and went through the weekend.
The Informal Consultative Group on ABS chaired by Fernando Casas of
So far, there is agreement in the Informal Consultative Group on the following: the annex of the report from the 6th meeting of the ABS Working Group will form the basis for future negotiation of the international regime; the ABS Working Group will meet three times prior to COP 10 and each meeting will be preceded by two days of informal consultations; and the terms of reference for three inter-sessional technical experts meetings.
Small ABS Group chaired by Sem Shikongo of
A proposal by the EU to include "international access standards" for the work of the technical experts met with strong objections from the Group of Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries (LMMC), that has been at the forefront of the demand for a legally binding international regime on ABS for many years.
LMMC countries, all Parties to the CBD, are
the last week, the EU has been insisting on including the issue of international
access standards, supported by
countries' frustration at this move was evident. Fernando Coimbra, the
lead negotiator of
the height of the debate over the weekend, Tewolde Egziabher of
EU eventually withdrew their proposal on international access standards.
Accepting the withdrawal,
The drawn-out discussions on the five-page list of questions had detracted the entire negotiations of the international regime from taking up substantive issues at the COP when the Parties actually have the authority to deal with them, especially on key issues such as the objectives, nature and scope of the international regime.
The G77 and China spokesperson added that "as the Expert Group is to feed into the negotiating process of the Working Group on ABS, we predicate our decision for the acceptance of the Expert Group on a firm commitment by us all that we are working towards a legally binding regime on the basis of China's proposal. Otherwise, we feel it would be a waste of money, time and resources."
international regime negotiations have been protracted and difficult
since its mandate was hard fought for in 2004. Since then, the Open-ended
Ad Hoc Working Group on ABS has met four times, and in the last COP
many months prior to COP 9, the Parties could not even agree on which
documents should form the basis for negotiations. This was largely due
to developed countries' reluctant to commit to a legally binding agreement
on ABS. Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand have been vocal in
delaying and even objecting to a range of issues, including questioning
the need for the international regime. The
The main force for a legally binding international regime is the LMMC. The Africa Group is the other active set of countries in support of a legally binding regime.
"For me, it is essential to have a clear roadmap for the ABS negotiations," said Gabriel. In his opening speech when COP 9 formally commenced last Monday, Gabriel committed to do his "utmost" to achieve progress in this issue, asking for a clear Bonn mandate because a regime "has to be in place in 2010". "Developing countries rightly describe it as biopiracy when industrialised countries help themselves to genetic resources in rainforests, produce medicines from these resources, but do not pay a single cent back in return," said Gabriel.
"We need equitable benefit sharing. The countries of origin - in which the majority of our planet biodiversity can be found - want to get something back ... in my view, the financial volume is not even the priority aspect here. It is a matter of principle. The industrialized world has to recognize that the yields from biological resources have to be shared with those who have safeguarded them to this day for mankind".
protected areas as another key issue for decision-making at the
In a meeting with NGOs last Thursday night, the head of the German delegation, Astrid Klug, reiterated the importance of ABS. She called it a "turning point for the CBD that will make or break the Convention".
According to another senior German official at the NGO meeting, there was a "hectic telephoning" by some delegates back to their capital cities at the Minister's statement on benefit sharing. He also said that Minister Gabriel's opening statement was supported by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
importance of the international regime negotiations is also underscored
by the fact that COP 8 designated Casas and Hodges as Co-Chairs of the
ABS Working Group to steer the negotiations to its completion. This
4-year term is unusual as the common practice is to appoint chairpersons
at every COP meeting. (The last time this was done was when Veit Koester
During the opening plenary, Casas said, "While difficult, the COP 8 mandate is by no means unattainable. No one is underestimating the obstacles, but significant progress has been made".
Both the chairpersons stressed that honest differences are healthy and that a road map and clear milestones are essential to take the process toward concrete options, then to text, to a consolidation of options and to the final international regime.
Hodges stressed that there is a genuine chance to reach agreement on the international regime, and sufficient financial resources as well as political commitment are needed.+