BirdLife International’s Position on the International Regime for Access and Benefit Sharing

The Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) in Nagoya, Japan this October will set the stage for the agreement on a crucial component of the CBD: Access & Benefit Sharing, or ABS. ABS is one of the three fundamental objectives of the CBD, and centers on access to genetic resources and sharing of benefits arising from their use.

For example, an indigenous community holds the knowledge, passed through generations, that a certain plant has therapeutic properties (a genetic resource). A pharmaceutical company hears of this plant and would like to use it in the development of a new medicine. Under ABS, the pharmaceutical company will have to acquire (free) Prior Informed Consent from the indigenous people – the ‘access’ component of ABS – and enter into a contractual agreement with them. Once the resource has been commercialized, the pharmaceutical company will have to share the profits with the indigenous people – the ‘benefit sharing’ component of ABS. If the pharmaceutical company goes ahead without considering any of the ABS components, it may be labeled as committing an act of ‘biopiracy’.

BirdLife International believes that progress towards overcoming the biodiversity crisis faced by the world today, and implementing the CBD, largely depends on the adoption of a legally binding Protocol on ABS at COP10.

However, draft text for the Protocol has yet to be finalized, although there are hopes that the Interregional Negotiating Group (ING) of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Access and Benefit-sharing (WG-ABS) will conclude this week’s last-minute meeting with a draft, agreed upon by all Parties, to be presented for finalization and approval at COP10.

According to Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, BirdLife’s Senior Adviser on Policy and Advocacy

Several key Governments see progress in developing a new agreement on ABS as absolutely necessary, and are willing to block progress in all other areas of the CBD until such an agreement is reached. We are asking politicians to get their acts together and stop unnecessarily blocking the negotiations.

In addition to the adoption of an ABS Protocol at COP10, BirdLife International believes that Parties must:

  • Adopt a comprehensive, ambitious and achievable Strategic Plan with associated 2020 Targets. This should include a framework to involve local communities and civil society in achieving its aims, and should recognise the importance of linking biodiversity conservation to improved livelihoods and poverty reduction.
  • Agree on mechanisms to ensure each country has the resources it needs for effective implementation of the CBD. This must involve an increase in biodiversity budgets in all countries, and new and increased money from developed countries to developing countries. We want governments to recognise that at least a tenfold increase in funding is needed by 2020.
  • Agree to expand protected area networks, particularly in marine areas, to cover all areas of particular importance for biodiversity. Standard criteria should be developed for the identification of sites of global biodiversity significance.
  • Agree on clear actions to promote synergies between the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at national and international levels. Biodiversity and ecosystems underpin effective climate change mitigation and adaptation and are in turn impacted by climate change. This must be recognised within all decisions and actions taken to address climate change.

It’s the International Year of Biodiversity so call on Canada’s Government to protect biodiversity by signing our open letter to Prime Minister Harper to take 5 steps on behalf of biodiversity.

Read about how Important Bird Areas (IBAs) help the CBD achieve its targets and why the CBD’s implementation may be at risk.