Panama has been a Party to the Nagoya Protocol since 2014 and already has an established ABS legal framework, including the General Environmental Law.
Biodiversity in Panama
Panama is the southernmost part of the Central American bridge and a biodiversity hotspot with the greatest concentration of terrestrial plant species in the world – more than 5000 species per 10000 km2 – and 13 life zones. The country has unparalleled access to the flora and fauna of two distinct waterbodies: the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. About 12 percent of its flora is endemic and about 45 percent of its land is still forested. Panama’s unique geographic position makes it a critical area for global conservation; its forests serve as a migratory corridor between Central and South America.
Panama’s unique biodiversity is however vulnerable and under threat from habitat destruction, rapid deforestation, overfishing, siltation, pollution, and climate change, which causes species to migrate. For this reason, the ecosystem is considered a “threatened biodiversity hotspot”.
Nagoya Protocol and ABS Implementation
Panama has been a Party to the Nagoya Protocol since October 2014 and already has an established ABS legal framework, including the General Environmental Law (enabling and general provisions on Access to genetic resources Benefit-Sharing ABS), Decree No. 25 of 2009 (ABS regulations), the Criminal Code amendments of 2007, Law No. 25 of 2015 (which established the Ministry of Environment), and other resolutions that serve as the basis for the processing of commercial and non-commercial research.
A traditional knowledge sui generis system (Law No. 20 on traditional knowledge and its regulation of 2001) has been in place since 2000, which aims to protect traditional cultural expressions. There is also a law for the protection of traditional medicine, which includes aspects of ABS such as prior informed consent and benefit-sharing, in addition to some free trade agreements.
Current UNDP-GEF ABS Project Activities
The UNDP-GEF Global ABS project is supporting training of national stakeholders on ABS rules and procedures, including granting of permits, assessment of access applications, core principles of prior informed consent, rights and roles of indigenous and local communities, among others. The project is helping to increase the number of favourable and effective commercial agreements between users and providers of genetic resources by strengthening capacity to negotiate ABS agreements.
Support is being provided to increase awareness and understanding among stakeholders, particularly indigenous and local communities, about ABS, the Nagoya Protocol and related concepts. The project is also helping to increase partnerships and in the establishment of a national biodiversity clearing house with up-to-date ABS-related information.