The Nagoya Protocol on ABS bolsters Belarus to better manage its Genetic Resources and associated Traditional Knowledge

The Nagoya Protocol on ABS bolsters Belarus to better manage its Genetic Resources and associated Traditional Knowledge

21 Oct 2019

Larissa Ushkova National Project Focal Point, Claudio Chiarolla, Regional Project Specialist for CIS, Elena Makeyeva, Project Manager and Head of the National Coordination Centre on ABS and Alejandro Lago, Manager, UNDP-GEF Global Project

The UNDP-GEF Global Project on access to genetic resources and benefit sharing (ABS) will end in December 2020, but it is gradually coming to an end in its national implementation in the 23 countries covered by the Project. A key Project objective is to support the development of national legal frameworks on access to genetic resources in compliance with the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and to promote the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization. The first country to celebrate its final event is Belarus, where the Project will conclude in December 2019. The Project is the first major initiative to assist the country in enhancing its national legislation and institutional capacities to help yielding benefits from the use of genetic resources, while also generating economic and scientific capacities to monitor genetic resources efficiently. On October 11th, 2019, national and international ABS practitioners met in Minsk for the final event, titled “Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge: Tangible and Intangible Heritage of Belarus”. The meeting presented key achievements of the Project in Belarus, including, among other things, the updated draft legislation on ABS, the new national ABS Clearing House website and a Database to Monitor the Use of Genetic Resources. Opening remarks were delivered by Professor Alexander KILCHEVSKY, Deputy Chairperson of the Presidium of NAS of Belarus; Ms. Tatiana Zheleznova, on behalf of the Deputy Minister, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection; and by Ms. Alexandra Solovieva, UNDP Resident Representative in Belarus. The event was supported by the regional specialist for CIS region and other countries, Mr. Claudio Chiarolla, and by the manager of the UNDP-GEF Global ABS Project, Mr. Alejandro Lago, and was honored with the presence of a distinguished delegation from Kazakhstan. The meeting acknowledged the leadership role of Belarus not only at the regional but also at the global level, and praised Ms. Elena Makeyeva, Project Manager and Head of the National Coordination Centre on ABS (hosted by the Institute of Genetics and Cytology, NAS of Belarus), and her team for its outstanding work in implementing the Project. Ms. Makeyeva was also appointed as the champion for the region, in particular, for Russian speaking countries within the Global ABS Community (the community of practice on ABS promoted by the Global ABS Project). Ms. Elena Makeyeva states:

“Our goal was to scrutinize national legislation, identify possible ways of improving it in terms of genetic resources’ management. We have involved very qualified experts e.g. lawyers, biologists, ethnographers, folklorists and linguists. They have prepared proposals and submitted them to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection in view of their integration into normative legal acts during next year.”

Ms. Elena Makeyeva, Project Manager and Head of the National Coordination Centre on ABS (hosted by the Institute of Genetics and Cytology, NAS of Belarus)
Another challenge was to build trust between providers and users of genetic resources using advanced DNA identification techniques. Furthermore, the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources that are transferred internationally is key for the development of human resources, scientific capacities and related technology transfer to provider countries as well as for boosting investments to support research potential and develop biotechnologies. This positively contributes to the socio-economic development and helps address complex environmental issues ‒ a requisite condition for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The study of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources in Belarus was a remarkable milestone during the project implementation. “The Nagoya Protocol aims to manage not only genetic resources, but also traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources,” explained Elena Makeyeva. “Traditional knowledge hasn’t been thoroughly studied yet in Belarus. There are traditional knowledge holders across different generations in our country and they can impart such knowledge to other for its long-term preservations. For example, in the village of Strelnya, Ivanovo District, there is Dom of Travnik (Herbalist’s House) initiated by its local resident, who was a former biology teacher.” According to the Project Manager, the issue of traditional knowledge, including ownership of such knowledge, is not yet regulated by legislation and this continues to be a challenge. Another striking direction for continuing work under the Nagoya Protocol concerns the relationship between traditional knowledge and longevity. In Belarus, there are approximately 400 local residents who have lived over a century.  Almost 90% of them are women and many of them live in rural areas and use their traditional knowledge to stay healthy. Today, Belarus is developing a concept of active longevity, which is proposed to be associated with its rich traditional knowledge.
Photo Tk
Traditional knowledge has been linked with longevity in Belarus.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Alejandro Lago, global ABS Project manager, highlighted that although the national implementation of the Project is coming to an end in December 2019, Belarus will continue to receive support from the Global ABS Project until December 2020, including via the Global ABS Community. He also announced the recent launch of two important services under the Global ABS Community: the ABS legal clinics and the ABS business facility. Finally, he expressed his commitment to introduce the basic features of the Global ABS Community in other languages, including Russian, to facilitate the registration and involvement of all stakeholders and practitioners, and overcome language barriers. In the biennium 2018-2019, the ABS Project in Belarus is implemented by the Institute of Genetics and Cytology, NAS of Belarus, with financial support from the Global Environment Facility and in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and the UN Development Program in Belarus. Source/Press release (in Russian): https://www.by.undp.org/content/belarus/ru/home/presscenter/pressreleases/nagoya_protocol_genetic_resources.html

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