Monitoring Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge in Latin America and The Caribbean
5 Jun 2018
Latin America and The Caribbean countries have some of the world’s most treasured ecosystems. However, harnessing the high-value genetic resources and traditional knowledge from these ecosystems for public benefits has been a great challenge because of uncertainties and difficulties in monitoring access and use.
“The countries of Latin America and The Caribbean share common features and challenges, among which is a buoyant biodiversity in a variety of very rich ecosystems,” said Jessica Young, National Program Officer for Environment and Sustainable Development, UNDP Panama.
To discuss the monitoring of access and use of their genetic resources beyond the shores of their countries, in the context of the Nagoya Protocol, over 40 stakeholders from Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Panama, and Peru gathered in a workshop in Panama on 4–5 June 2018.
“The Nagoya Protocol guarantees certainty by countries on access to their genetic resources and certainty about what is happening to those resources once they cross the borders of the supplier country,” said Beatriz Gómez from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The workshop was one of the capacity building activities of the project, Strengthening Human Resources, Legal Frameworks, and Institutional Capacities to Implement the Nagoya Protocol (the UNDP-GEF Global ABS Project).
Hosted by the Panama Ministry of Environment, the workshop featured presentations and experience sharing by countries in the region that already have some mechanisms to monitor use of their genetic resources internationally, particularly, Brazil, Costa Rica and Peru, as well as learnings from other settings outside the region. Costa Rica, for example, already has a system to manage permits for access to its genetic resources online and Brazil has established a facilitated access system.
Participants discussed the types of information to be generated and shared through the Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) Clearing House of the Convention on Biological Diversity; establishment of monitoring systems through Intellectual Property databases; other information sources, databases or emerging technologies, including blockchain; and how to handle cases of illegal access.
The Nagoya Protocol is a Treaty of the Convention on Biological Diversity. It strengthens the ability of Parties (countries) and their indigenous and local communities to benefit from the use of their genetic resources and traditional knowledge, and promotes a more sustainable management of the resources. The Protocol stipulates that income and benefits from the extraction and research of biological resources should be invested in local communities to generate opportunities and increase investments in research, development and social security.
The workshop has enabled participants to reflect on the need to adopt a strategic approach to effectively monitor access and use of genetic resources in their countries through the establishment of active database mechanism. They expressed delight with the plan to establish computer-based, online and user-friendly permit systems that would reduce their burden of dealing with the overwhelming paperwork involved in processing permit applications. “I am tired of filling out the same form year after year,” said one of the participants.
Éric Núñez, Deputy of the Genetic Resources Unit at the Panama Ministry of Environment, said the workshop has opened new opportunities for exchange and joint learning by the participating countries, with potential to strengthen cross-border monitoring of genetic resources and increase benefits accruing to local communities.
The UNDP-GEF Global ABS Project is implemented by UNDP with funding from the Global Environment Fund to assist 24 countries in developing and strengthening their national ABS frameworks, human resources and administrative capabilities to implement the Nagoya Protocol over a three-year period.