The Ad-Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) resumed at its ninth meeting once again in Montreal between 10 and 16 July. At the previous meeting in November (see CAS-IP blog of 25 November 2009), many issues were left unresolved, in particular the mechanisms that states should adopt to create a protocol which could be incorporated into national laws.
At this July meeting states’ delegates discussed and intended to finalise the protocol drafted by the Co-Chairs, Fernando Casas of Colombia and Timothy Hodges of Canada. However, in Montreal most of the delegates objected, saying that the protocol had not been negotiated by all relevant parties and that some key issues still needed to be properly discussed.
It is surely true that everyone worked day and night and, according to many attendees, with a very positive attitude; however, many hurdles seemed to be barring the road to success. The biggest hurdles were the use and commercialisation of products derived from genetic resources, access to pathogens in case of emergency situations (like in the case of the Pandemic Influenza – see CAS-IP blog of 9 June 2009), and the relationship between the CBD and the Protocol and their enactment into member states through national laws. In relation to this last point, the EU for example, argued that member states can only claim and exercise their right to benefit-sharing if they have created internal mechanisms that enact the principles of the Convention and of the Protocol which are only on an international level.
It seems that they are still many unresolved questions and issues. Is it realistic to believe that the text as it has been left last Friday can be approved by consensus at the next and tenth meeting, which will be held in Nagoya, Japan, between 18 and 29 October 2010. Many attendees for example felt that the protocol drafted by the Co-Chairs was much simpler than the recent Montreal document and that too much is at stake for those developing countries that are too dependent on exotic genetic resources for their economic development.
Everyone must be aware of the complexities that need to be resolved and it has been decided that before meeting in Japan next October there should be another round of discussions in September, probably in Indonesia.
I am very interested in following these discussions and seeing whether members will be able to reach a real understanding of everyone’s interests and concerns, as well as a genuine trust and confidence in each other.
The Summary & Analysis of the meeting can be found here: http://www.iisd.ca/biodiv/rabs9/. See also the IP Watch post “Consensus on binding biodiversity agreement elusive; to reconvene in September”.
Post written by Francesca Re Manning of CAS-IP