- at opening of CARICOM’s sub-regional workshop to agree benefits sharing from biodiversity
A ONE-WEEK sub-regional capacity-building workshop on the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) of natural resources countries’ biodiversity, opened on Monday at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, Annex at Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown. Addressing the gathering, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Mr. Robert Persaud called on the regional stakeholders, representatives from the local Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) to recognise the importance of ensuring that countries are able to have a system that safeguards their resources.
“As nations rich in biodiversity, it is important to have in place a system that will safeguard our resources. In many instances, we have been victims of misappropriation or bio-piracy of our genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, which have often been patented in other countries. This we hope to prevent in the future,” he said.
The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation (ABS) is a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
It provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD, the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources. Its objective is the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources, thereby contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
The Nagoya Protocol on ABS was adopted on October 29, 2010 in Nagoya, Japan and will enter into force 90 days after the fiftieth instrument of ratification, the date for such being set for July 7, 2014.
In this regard, the workshop aims to strengthen the capacity of the participating countries to ratify or accede to the Nagoya Protocol and prepare for its implementation with the view to contributing to the achievement of Aichi Target 16, which stipulates that the Nagoya Protocol is in force and operational, consistent with national legislation by 2015.
The one-week session is also looking to build on the outcomes of previous workshops organised in the Region, including the Second Caribbean Workshop on ABS, held in Kingston, Jamaica, last November and the Regional Training Workshop on Drafting Legislation for Implementation on the Nagoya Protocol on ABS, held in Roseau, Dominica, last June, both of which were organised by the CARICOM Secretariat and the ABS Capacity Development Initiative, in collaboration with the CBD Secretariat.
The Nagoya Protocol will create greater legal certainty and transparency for both providers and users of genetic resources by establishing more predictable conditions for access to genetic resources and helping to ensure benefit-sharing when genetic resources leave the contracting party providing them.
By helping to ensure benefit-sharing, the Nagoya Protocol creates incentives to conserve and sustainably use genetic resources and, therefore, enhances the contribution of biodiversity to development and human well-being.
Minister Persaud noted that, in Guyana, treaties like the Nagoya Protocol are supported by existing legislation, not in the least of which is the country’s Constitution.
He said: “The Constitution, in Article 2:36 says, in the interest of the present and future generations, the State will protect rational use of its fauna and flora and will take all appropriate measures to conserve and improve the environment.
“…by the end of this workshop we anticipate that participating countries would have strengthened their capacity to ratify or accede to the Protocol and prepare them for implementation. In so doing, Aichi Target 16 would be achieved, which is that the Nagoya Protocol is in force and operational, consistent with national legislation by 2015.”
Minister Persaud explained the value of the Protocol to countries like Guyana with a rich biodiversity and made reference to the fact that it has been a victim of bio-piracy.
He said: “In 2000, Dr. Conrad Gorinsky, an ethnobotanist patented a chemical protein from the nut of the greenheart tree (Ocotearodiaei). This nut produces an ingredient called tipir. The chemical is capable of preventing the return of diseases like malaria and useful in treating cancer and perhaps even the AIDS virus. But tipir’s medical properties are also well known to the Wapishana who grate the nut and use it to stop haemorrhages, prevent infections, as a contraceptive and to provoke abortions.”
According to Minister Persaud, Dr. Gorinsky named the ingredient ‘Rupununine’ and has run into a political row and a potential court case. “The community was furious saying that their knowledge has been stolen,” the minister stated.
As such, he said it is important to note that the Protocol provides clearly outlined procedures where prior informed consent is taken into account before access is granted to genetic resources and traditional knowledge; avenues for the negotiation of mutually agreed terms which ensures the fair and equitable sharing of benefits that arise from their utilisation and compliance with its provisions, once the genetic resource leaves the country providing it.
“As a party to the Nagoya Protocol, countries can benefit from training and advancement of scientific research; exchange of information and best practices; links with research institutions and cooperation in the case of emergencies where ABS has been granted and then leaves the country; opportunities to access resources and guidance from other parties that are signatories to the Protocol and opportunities to raise awareness about ABS and related issues at the national level,” Minister Persaud said.
“Further, the Nagoya Protocol would also contribute to the other two objectives of the CBD relating to conservation and sustainable use, since benefits accruing from utilisation of genetic resources would act as incentive to parties and their local communities to conserve and sustainably use their biodiversity,” he added.
He said, on April 22, 2014, Guyana became the first Caribbean nation and the 30th country worldwide to accede to the Protocol.
“With this step, our nation signalled its commitment to the effective implementation of the third fundamental objective of the Convention, fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources,” Minister Persaud said.
The fact that Guyana has led the Caribbean Region in this regard was also highlighted by CARICOM Director of Human Development, Ms. Myrna Bernard, who stated that the forum represents a continuation of the Region’s work to build the capacity of Member States to reap a fair and equitable share of benefits generated from the use of their genetic resources and traditional knowledge about them.
She said: “Guyana became the first CARICOM Party to the Nagoya Protocol and, for this, it is to be highly commended.
“I know that Guyana’s accession to the Protocol is the result of a great deal of careful planning and consultation. I am confident that, at this workshop, our Guyanese colleagues will share their strategies, experiences and lessons learned, so that their accomplishment can serve as an exemplar for other CARICOM Member States.
“I must emphasise that, as with all multilateral environmental agreements, becoming Party to the Nagoya Protocol is not an end in itself. Parties must take measures to ensure that laws, policies and programmes of action are put in place to uphold the principles of fair and equitable benefit-sharing and to enable countries to take full advantage of the economic value of their genetic resources.”
Bernard also alluded to the fact that the workshop coincides with the move by many CARICOM Member States to update their national biodiversity strategies and action plans.
She said: “The CARICOM Secretariat, through its Sustainable Development Programme, has long advocated for mainstreaming the environment into national and regional strategies for economic and social development.
“The update process provides an excellent avenue for incorporating the provisions and principles of the Nagoya Protocol into national biodiversity strategies. It is also an opportunity for countries to give serious consideration to mechanisms for increasing their share in the benefits derived from the use of their biodiversity capital.
“With creative and strategic planning, these benefits can be leveraged to contribute to economic growth, poverty alleviation and an increase in our capacities for research, innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Bernard underscored the moves being made at the level of the Secretariat, which include a series of activities to build Member States’ capacity to implement the Protocol.
“In cooperation with the Access and Benefit-Sharing Initiative and support from the European Union, the Secretariat has co-hosted two previous Caribbean regional ABS workshops.
“We have delivered training in the drafting of legislation for Protocol implementation. We have compiled and disseminated a list of qualified consultants who could assist Member States in the legislative and policy process.”
She stated, too, that in an effort to widen awareness and deepen the understanding of the opportunities and benefits that could arise from participation in the global ABS framework, the Secretariat has also formally brought the Nagoya Protocol and its implications for the Region to the attention of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), through the Ministers of Agriculture and Environment.
“We are committed to supporting the Region’s participation in the global ABS framework which, we believe, could be a means for us to transform our biological capital into goods and services for national and regional development,” said the Director of Human Development.
The workshop which commenced yesterday was made possible with support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Government of Japan and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biodiversity.
(By Vanessa Narine )