Day 9 - March 29
Taba Daily report: Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Access and Benefit Sharing
The morning session began with announcements and a briefing on the day’s agenda. Andreas from GTZ took the floor delving into the day’s theme of access and benefit sharing (ABS). He explained that this is a means to share benefits in order to improve the livelihoods of poor, rural communities using environmental resources. There are two articles relating to access and benefit sharing:
Article 8J and article 15. Article 8J refers to traditional knowledge, how it should be protected, and used only with the informed consent of the knowledge-holders. Article 15 deals with the principles of getting access to genetic resources, and the need for prior informed consent, mutually agreed terms, sustainable uses, and fair and equitable sharing of benefits generated. Andreas lamented that there is a communication problem between the scientific world and the world of traditional knowledge, between user and provider. Some difficult concepts relating to this issue are as follows: What constitutes sustainable extraction? What is the standard for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits? Implementation of these principles is difficult for the parties, as it requires changes on both the user and provider side.
Andreas outlined three main challenges:
- Need for an instrument to implement on the side of user country. Example: disclosure clauses, disclosure of where knowledge was derived, perhaps even certificates of origin
- Need for parties to come up with national legislation that can be implemented allowing for protection as well as access. Included in this is the need for scientific research as well.
- Need for the full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities in all of the processes. This must include the right to say 'no' from the community side and must ensure benefits are flowing back to the communities. Along with this comes the dilemma of who holds intellectual property rights.
After Andreas’ overview of the issues surrounding ABS, Mathamblo Ngakaeaja of Southern Africa gave a presentation of a case study of the San Hoodia ABS Agreement. He started by explaining that often ABS agreements are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The Hoodia is a desert succulent plant, containing qualities of a thirst and hunger suppressant. Although the San people first discovered these properties, scientists identified the physics and chemistry behind it. Scientific work was commissioned in 1964 to investigate the food and medicinal uses of all plants in South Africa. The patent did not go through until 1996.
CSIR covered some aspects of royalties and "milestone" payments. Another agreement reached was the Hoodia Growers Association for growers in South Africa. Once the agreement information spread, it created arguments and infighting between indigenous groups, Bushmen, and other groups on the direction to take on negotiating the knowledge. Some companies withdrew when they heard there were debates on traditional knowledge, and the national government instituted domestic legislation on amounts that could be harvested.
Lessons from the process: Partnerships are very important, as agreements are often biased due to the secretive nature of bio-piracy. Although time-consuming, benefit sharing discussions locally tend to be resolved through compromise. Value addition to traditional knowledge can pose biodiversity challenges due to high demand. There is a need for harmonization of an international ABS regime.
A discussion ensued after the presentation regarding the trust involved in ABS agreements. There is a general mistrust of the other, and a fear of being taken advantage of. Barbara of Amazonia said that she has met indigenous chiefs who have the knowledge of plants that cure diseases, but they never wish to disclose the name of the plant. It is an issue of trust. Kabir referred back to the nature of the Hoodia patent, and explained how extremely wide it is, and what some of the implications might be for the communities. He stated that communities should not enter into agreements with parties in a situation where it might cause competition.
Michael from GTZ explained the complex working of patents. He explained that if one person or community holds a patent, then they are the legal owners of the knowledge. This implies that only that person or community decides what happens with the knowledge. The patent holder also has the power to determine the price required for use of the knowledge. However, licensing system can be transferred and shared through virtual organizations/companies. He gave the example of Physer case, where the San have no or limited control of what happens to the knowledge. Patent frameworks do not necessarily entail that the patent holder will receive a share of every product derived as a result of the knowledge.
A participant from Northern Brazil brought up the patent issue from the non-indigenous perspective. He explained that indigenous groups see patent issue in a significantly different manner. He stated that communities deep in the Amazon and in other parts of the country are not aware of the discussions regarding ABS. Medicine men and healers possess this knowledge and even within a village, this knowledge is exclusive to a family or group of people. There are spiritual aspects as well as medicinal purposes. He asked how one deals with knowledge that originates from a connection with spirituality. Speaking of horizontal and vertical relationships, power relationships are not clear. He explained that communities in Amazonia do not negotiate with researchers and governmental bodies prior to receiving spiritual guidance. Receiving recognition for the multiform value of their knowledge is never obvious or straightforward.
Kabir pinpointed the complex nature of the relationship between the community and the ‘Outsiders;’ while the outside see the opportunities for commercialization, the community is in touch with their spirituality, as it is their customs, their life. This is, he maintained, is the root of the problem regarding ABS agreements. Kabir then identified two ways of structuring ABS agreements. First, one can enter into an agreement and then learn a different way of being. The other possibility is that the community itself comes identifies their own rules detailing the terms on which they are willing to share their knowledge (suis generis). This latter structure would better reflect their culture and their values. Kabir further went into the possibility of horizontal ABS agreements. In these horizontal types of agreement, communities can enter into agreements amongst themselves, whereby there is a creation of local markets with less dependence on large companies.
Datu Vic Saway from the Philippines next took the stage and addressed the issue of prior informed consent and customary law. Datu Vic explained the historical background for this case in his community, stating that researchers came into their mountain land in order to collect samples from the wide biodiversity. The traditional villagers apprehended the researchers stating that it violates their customary law since there was no prior consent. The case was later resolved, but it incited the community to fight against bio-piracy. They were later able to negotiate an agreement that benefits both the community and the researchers. The prior consent issue raised in these meetings, the speaker said, was an issue of respect and recognition. It is more than protection of traditional
knowledge but protection of cultural livelihoods. It should be culturally acceptable, and sustainable. Prior informed consent is therefore very important. In their community, they were able to conduct a cultural impact study, in order to ensure the protection of their knowledge and their identity. They were able to ensure the survival of their knowledge and their livelihood as their livelihoods is closely tied to the environment. Once adverse impact is addressed, then a mutually accepted and beneficial agreement can be drafted.
Lunch session: Local-Global Leaders dialogue
The meeting began with an introduction by Sean Southey of the Global leaders. These included John Harrity of IUCN Canada, Manifred Niekisch, head of the German Government Delegation, Mathias Machinig also of Germany, Jock Langford, Minister of the Environment of Canada, Viveka Bohn, Swedish Environmental Ambassador, Shoji Nishimoto of UNDP, and Brett Jenks, President of the USA based NGO RARE. The session then continued with statements from five community leaders that have participated in the Community Taba over the last two weeks. They addressed how local communities can work to conserve biodiversity while alleviating poverty. Some of their key messages are as follows:
- Communities must be recognized as true owners and managers of their resources (delivered by Livingstone Maluleke of South Africa)
- Communities must be completely integrated/engaged in the management of their resources
- Recognize the deep and diverse range of expertise that exists at a community level – knowledge and practices (biodiversity, poverty reduction, agriculture, island etc)
- Recognize and protect traditional knowledge – and the unique contribution it can make
- Managing resources in a holistic way (conservation, poverty reduction, etc – recognize integrated approaches to biodiversity conservation and to the Millennium Development Goals (posters) – (linkages between processes to deliver 2010 target and MDGs)
- Recognize as implementers of the Program of Work (MDGs and the 2010 target)
- Capacity Development: What capacity development do communities need?
(delivered by Isabel Sousa of Brazil)
- Need to find ways of building upon knowledge and capacity that already exists
- Balance between traditional and ‘modern’ knowledge – without duplication
- Supporting peer-peer knowledge exchange as a means of developing capacity (Opportunity to develop a global knowledge / learning network)
- Enable local knowledge and expertise to inform decision making within policy processes at the local, regional and international level. (delivered by Willy Atu of the Solomon Islands)
- Community voices must be amplified and strengthened
- The CBD must recognize and increasingly integrate these voices and expertise
- Community action plans should be integrated in national and international biodiversity and development programs.
- This is especially important in decision making on Access and Benefit sharing, the protection of Indigenous Knowledge, national CBD implementation processes, national MDG processes
- Partnership development (public-private partnership) for implementation (delivered by Vitaliano Sarabia of Ecuador)
- We, the Community Taba, demand the commitment of leaders (national govs, NGOs, private sector) – to effectively implement PoW for CBD and to deliver the MDGs
- We demand the commitments of national governments, NGOs (national, regional and international), and with the private sector to work in equitable partnership with communities – particularly to implement the national Program of Work in the CBD and the Millennium Development Goals
- Sustainable Financing (delivered by Willy Kostka of the Federated States of Micronesia) Sustainable financial mechanisms are required to support community action
- Sustainable financing needs to be easy and accessible to communities
- Draw upon international best practices in terms of dispersing funds (ex: Trust Funds)
- GEF SGP needs to be expanded into all countries in order to allow access to local communities for sustainable financing
- Private companies – to pay for user fees – to ensure money re-invested in management of the resources
- Incentives for companies to pay taxes / put money back into conservation / poverty alleviation and so forth.
After the presentation of the key messages by community leaders, the Global leaders responded in turn. John Harrity of IUCN Canada affirmed the Equator Initiative as one of the best opportunities for bettering the world. He mentioned that IUCN operates in 60 countries with a current focus on working with communities to reduce poverty, in addition to a more classical role of conservation of biological resources. He concluded by stating that community leaders need to inform national governments and others capable of helping them to realize and understand what is going on at the community level.
Manifred Niekisch from the German Government Delegation stated his personal belief that the CBD should not be viewed as a framework because frameworks are by nature limiting. He offered an alternative description of the CBD as a catalyst that cannot stand alone. He encouraged everyone to spread the message that biodiversity is the basis of life and that all people deserve social justice. He added that sending out thousands of different messages is confusing and recommended coming out with a few key messages to focus on.
Mathias Machinig also of Germany acknowledged and complemented the Community Taba approach and invited all members to visit Germany for the next COP meeting in 2008. He noted that there are many important issues arising from this conference but there is no professional marketing agency so everyone must serve as an ambassador of this information back to their own communities. He recommended that if you cannot explain what you did at this conference to young children then collectively we are taking the wrong approach.
Jock Langford, Minister of the Environment of Canada mentioned the international gathering of indigenous and local peoples that recently occurred in Vancouver. Local and indigenous leaders from New Zealand, South Africa and many other countries joined with the Native American Slaywatooth nation. One idea that emerged is that elders are the holders of traditional knowledge and that we all need to do a better job of involving them in gatherings and decision making.
Viveka Bohn, Swedish Environmental Ambassador, stated that most of the delegates and ministers have also requested indigenous and local involvement in biodiversity conservation. She
cautioned however that the question is how to achieve this. She noted some encouraging developments to be found in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the Rules and Procedures of the Negotiations of the biological chemicals- when the decision is taken to stop
Shoji Nishimoto, of UNDP spoke out of his 35 years of experience in development corporations. He first mentioned that there are many different types of communities. He gave the example of Beverly Hills as a community being very different from a community that is 500 km from any piped water. He recommended that we focus on communities with limited opportunities and talk about the characteristics of these communities. These communities are economically linked to the natural resources available and therefore they are not integrated into the global economy. However, they have a right to compensation for the services they provide and because they are not polluting and adding to the combined burden of society. Finally, he mentioned that microfinance has not worked because it often follows a formula that does not work everywhere. He mentioned the idea of mutual credit funds operated by local communities which often are the most well-informed on local problems and possible solutions.
Brett Jenks, President of the USA based NGO RARE, stated that the challenge for all of us is to determine how to build on the success stories of communities that are conserving biodiversity and relieving poverty and how to build on these stories. He described the Community Taba as an exciting experiment and mentioned that there is a great deal of energy surrounding these success stories. He encouraged community members to think about which officials have power to make decisions that affect local communities and to find ways to work with them. It also is important to identify what resources are in the community and to care for those resources. Finally, he stated his belief that if people from different levels, including government, NGOs and local leaders can work together, the world will take notice and invest in the ideas that emerge.
Afternoon session: Film and Discussions
After the local-global discussion, the afternoon session started with a recap of the morning session ideas. Datu Vic was asked for clarification regarding the cohesion of his community and the decision-making process. He explained the customary laws and traditional mores that guides the different processes in his society. He added that as modern education has become more common, the interactions with the general society changes. The use of lap-tops and cellular phones are foreign but beneficial technological additions to their community. Cultural awareness and holistic frameworks however are very important.
After the recap, Andreas introduced a film on “The Teff Cereal” a report on the Ethiopian cereal.
The film discussed the ABS of the cereal endemic to Ethiopia known as Teff.
Marco from Natura organization then spoke on the issue of sharing from the local communities. He identified four fronts of interaction with local communities as follows: reaching fair price for the raw materials they buy; a percentage of profits invested in the community to fill lacking social needs; use of image for advertisement which gives the local communities recognition; and use of direct benefits for the community. There are however difficulties, like establishing a feeling of trust (by sharing the truth of expectations) and a common vision (which has proven to be very hard since there are differences of expectations).
The day conlcluded with a question and answer session with Marco.