Towards a new implementation strategy for access and benefit sharing
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The discussions in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) around the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework – together with the evolution of the research and innovation landscape, and experience acquired with the Nagoya Protocol and national access and benefit sharing (ABS) systems– makes this an opportune moment to review how effective ABS implementation has been to date in achieving its goals and those of the CBD as a whole.
Experience in companies and organisations of all sizes over the last few years indicates that currently ABS implementation in different jurisdictions has a serious, negative impact on scientific research and collaboration, and on development and production. Current ABS mechanisms do not provide the legal certainty and clarity necessary for use and exchange of genetic resources, with the result that businesses prefer to seek alternative materials. The system also requires substantial human and financial resources – from governments, as well as public and private sector users – to negotiate, administer and navigate multiple ABS discussions and regimes, so that transaction costs often outweigh the benefits. There are therefore strong indications that the current implementation of ABS is not adapted to achieving its stated goals and those of the other CBD pillars and the SDGs, and is hindering rather than supporting the process of value creation from genetic resources.
ICC supports the underlying rationale of ABS of fairness and equity in the sharing of benefits from genetic resources. Monetary benefit sharing from ABS mechanisms, however, cannot in itself be relied upon to be the principal source of funding for biodiversity conservation and a broader approach to resource mobilisation is necessary.
The implementation mechanisms and discussions on ABS to date have focused mainly on monetary benefits from the commercial products resulting from R&D on genetic resources. However, other aspects of the research and innovation process can also contribute a great deal of value to the goals of CBD and Nagoya Protocol Parties, and to sustainable use.
An ABS strategy going forward should be designed to support research and development and to be compatible with principles of open science and data availability, increasingly seen as being instrumental for maximising societal benefits.
ICC recommends undertaking a thorough review of the impact of current ABS legislation and implementation mechanisms on the creation of value from genetic resources for all stakeholders and cautions against any proposals to change or expand the ABS system, in a way that could exacerbate the already considerable existing challenges, without a proper assessment as to their workability and impact.
The political imperative to reach an agreement should not be at the expense of research and innovation, which benefits all stakeholders and is essential to the achievement of all three CBD objectives as well as the SDGs.