Biodiversity in Samoa
Samoa’s high altitude and varied terrain make it a country with different microclimatic conditions resulting in 21 ecosystems and a range of plant communities. The vegetation is divided into five plant communities – the littoral, wetland, rainforest, volcanic scrub, and disturbed. Its archipelago is home to 991 species of marine fishes and is regarded as one of the richest marine fish fauna in the world. Due to its small size and isolation, these ecosystems are fragile and vulnerable.
Tourism is a growing sector in Samoa and the country’s cultural, social and economic development are founded on its biodiversity. Water, clean air, soil and vegetation renewal and biodiversity maintenance all depend on biodiversity. These have resulted in forest clearance, population growth, pollution and over-exploitation of natural resources, which in addition to natural disasters and climate change are putting the ecosystems under serious threat.
Nagoya Protocol and ABS Implementation
Samoa has been a Party to the Nagoya Protocol since October 2014 and has four pieces of biodiversity legislation and nine biodiversity related policies and strategies, including, among others, the Biodiversity Conservation Policy, Land Use Policy, National Water Resources Management Strategy, National Water Resources Policy, and Forest Reserve Conservation Policy. The country also has a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which provides the basis for all the legal instruments. Legislation and policies related to forestry, water resources, fisheries, urban planning, tourism, and education are advanced at the sectoral level, and there are notable efforts towards sectoral planning and biodiversity integration at the projects and activities levels.
However, Samoa has no comprehensive policy and regulatory framework on Access to genetic resources for Benefit Sharing (ABS), hence no provisions for benefit-sharing in the country. The country uses a permit system that allows access to and use of its genetic resources for biodiscovery, but monitoring of the system and compliance are lacking and there are delays in administration.
Current UNDP-GEF Global ABS Project Activities
Activities under the UNDP-GEF Global ABS Project are yet to commence officially. However, when they do the project will provide support for the review of the legal framework to make them compliant to the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol and ABS. Support will be provided to strengthen coordination and partnerships, integration of ABS regulation across sectors, monitoring of legal export and access permits, establishment of measures for control and compliance, and clarification of the roles of the national stakeholders and institutions.
The project will support awareness-raising to increase knowledge and understanding of ABS and support for project activities, and training of representatives of public institutions, lawyers and other stakeholders in the administration of the legal instruments. It will facilitate the creation of new economic and research opportunities for sustainable conservation of genetic resources in the country.