Ecuador was one of the first countries to implement Access to genetic resources Benefit-Sharing regimes through the common ABS systems of the Andean Community introduced in 1996.
Biodiversity in Ecuador
Ecuador is located in the midst of four natural geographical zones: the coast, the mountain range, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands. The country is relatively small but it is one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries. Ecuador’s 26 habitat types hold about 10 percent of the world’s biodiversity and its surface area holds up to 9.2 plant and animal species per square kilometre, including flowering plants whose economic and biological potential is yet to be discovered.
This important ecosystem is under threat from deforestation and desertification due to the activities of extractive industries, livestock production and agriculture, in addition to climate change. These pressures on the ecosystem could hasten the degradation process if they continue unchecked.
Nagoya Protocol and ABS Implementation
Although Ecuador became a Party to the Nagoya Protocol in December 2017, it was one of the first countries to implement Access to genetic resources Benefit-Sharing (ABS) regimes through the common ABS systems of the Andean Community introduced in 1996. Therefore, the country has a comprehensive legal framework and instruments on ABS, including the National Constitution, Decision 391 of the Andean Community, Executive Decree 905 (regulation to the Decision 391), and the Criminal Code (sanctions for the unlawful appropriation of genetic resources).
There is a legislation that requires disclosure of origin when applying for intellectual property rights. There are drafts of a benefit-sharing and prior informed consent regulation, a national anti-biopiracy strategy, and a proposal for the establishment of a sui generis system for the protection of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources. Political support for ABS implementation in the country is strong, but there are misunderstandings about the concept among stakeholders, particularly among the indigenous peoples and local communities.
Current UNDP-GEF Global ABS Project Activities
The UNDP-GEF Global ABS project is assisting Ecuador to raise awareness and increase understanding of the socioeconomic potential of access to benefit-sharing of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and intellectual property rights. Support is being provided to revise existing laws and legislation, update the National Biodiversity Strategy, develop a bio-economy strategy, and strengthen partnerships among the different stakeholders.
The project is facilitating the development of an ABS implementation guideline that integrates relevant legal provisions, development of two biocultural community protocols, improvements in the traditional knowledge digital repository, establishment of internal regulations for an Anti-biopiracy Committee, and strengthening of capacities of the national competent authorities and related agencies to implement the ABS legal framework.