Published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development
Vol. 09 No. 93
Wednesday, May 13 1998
CBD COP-4 HIGHLIGHTS TUESDAY 12 MAY, 1998
On the seventh day of the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-4) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Working Group I continued discussion on access to and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from genetic resources. Delegates continued to meet throughout the day in seven contacts groups and one Friends of the Chair group to make preparations for adoption of decisions on Friday.
In the late afternoon, Plenary convened to approve the draft decision on issues related to biosafety (UNEP/CBD/COP/4/CRP.1). Jozef Zlocha, President of COP-4, announced that the Bahamas will replace Barbados in the Bureau of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety (BSWG). Marcel Vernooy (Netherlands), Chair of Working Group I (WG-I), and Bernaditas Miller (Philippines), Chair of Working Group II (WG-II), gave progress reports on their Working Groups' respective contact groups.
After introducing the draft decision, President Zlocha announced the insertion of a paragraph listing the Bureau members and noting they shall remain in office under the Chairmanship of Veit Koester (Denmark) until the adoption of the protocol on biosafety.
The UK, on behalf of the EU, supported completion of the protocol by February 1999 and a deadline of 1 July 1998 for government submissions, and stressed prompt preparation for the first meeting of the Parties to the protocol.
BRAZIL proposed deleting language allowing countries to offer to host the final meeting of the BSWG. AUSTRIA and COLOMBIA favored its retention.
Delegates discussed paragraph 7, which contains two bracketed options for funds to facilitate developing country participation, the first by contributions and the second through funds from the Trust Fund. The EU said a decision could not be made until discussions on budgetary matters are completed. SLOVENIA, supported by LATVIA and the UKRAINE, called for inclusion of financial support for countries with economies in transition. SAMOA supported the first option and opposed textual amendments. SUDAN proposed compromise text stating that the COP decides to fund or look for funding for developing countries. The draft decision was approved.
WORKING GROUP I
WG-I met in the morning and finished its discussion on access to and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from genetic resources. SENEGAL and UNCTAD underlined that providers and users of genetic resources cannot be easily distinguished. SENEGAL emphasized access to and transfer of technology and scientific information; national legislation; and the socioeconomic as well as the legal function of the CBD document.
PANAMA, supported by ECUADOR, recommended a workshop on the private sector. PANAMA stressed it should include governments and local and indigenous communities. GREENPEACE called for inclusion of public interest groups. PANAMA called for: strengthening national capacities; the Secretariat and the GEF to give priority to prior informed consent (PIC); and discussion and cooperation at the regional and subregional level, together with IPR and traditional knowledge.
The US emphasized voluntary contractual agreements as the most effective vehicle for benefit sharing, and expressed opposition to a multilateral attempt to regulate benefit sharing arrangements. The US also stressed active involvement of the private sector and disagreed that the issue be a standing agenda item for the COP.
UNCTAD stressed cooperation with companies and indigenous and local communities with respect to the biotrade initiative. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stressed establishing PIC procedures in collaboration with UNCLOS to avoid duplication.
GREENPEACE implored the COP to consider risks to biodiversity arising from the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and opposed a voluntary code of conduct which would undermine the authority and responsibility of this COP to establish minimum, mandatory rules governing access. She also deplored India's recent testing of nuclear weapons.
ECUADOR, supported by BOLIVIA and CHINA, advocated access to genetic resources as a standing agenda item for the COP. ECUADOR stressed: the key role of the private sector; information on all agreements regarding bioprospecting; and, with CUBA and CHINA, access through PIC.
CUBA, supported by BOLIVIA, expressed disappointment that items under agenda 16 were analyzed jointly, and not individually in more detail, particularly as relevant to developing countries. CUBA stressed that negotiations be based on legislation respecting the sovereign rights of countries over their resources.
CHINA welcomed private sector participation. BOLIVIA said management of biotechnology is closely linked to access to genetic resources, IPR, biosafety, and the transfer of and access to technology. He called for national legislation on access and funding to develop it and for information exchange. VENEZUELA stressed national inventories of genetic resources and hoped that biotechnology would provide benefits with regard to non-modified genetic resources as well.
Delegates met throughout the day in seven contact groups and one Friends of the Chair group to continue discussion on and creation of draft decisions.
Article 8(j): The contact group which met throughout the day on Tuesday. The contact group initially agreed that participation in the group at this stage should be completely open and the Chair indicated a preference for the group to remain open up to and including the drafting of text. The group agreed on the need for a working group, and stressed that it should be tightly focused and have a clear mandate, specific duration and full participation. There was a range of views on whether the working group should report to the COP, SBSTTA, or the COP through SBSTTA.
The group agreed to a definition of "open-ended" as open to all participation, and "ad hoc" as establishing a limited timeframe for the working group. However, the distinctions between these definitions continued to be the focus of much discussion. Indigenous and local community representatives and some delegates supported an open-ended ad hoc working group. While there was consensus on an ad hoc working group, many delegates also favored a timetable with deadlines. While the group agreed that the composition/participation of the working group should be open, many delegates were concerned with its potential size and the difficulties of achieving consensus, and therefore did not support an open-ended working group. Many delegates said that once issues of the mandate and work programme were explored, the issue of representation would become clearer. The contact group then offered proposals for the mandate of the working group, which a drafting group composed of Parties and indigenous and local community representatives incorporated into a discussion paper on a draft institutional framework and programme of work. Some Parties then expressed opposition to the participation of observers once "discussions" turn to the "negotiation" of text and noted that if one-third of the Parties present at the meeting object (Rule 6 of the Rules of Procedure), observers can be excluded. Many delegations noted that exclusion violates the spirit of Article 8(j) and the participation procedures established at the Workshop on Traditional Knowledge, and one Party said that if exclusion of indigenous and local communities were proposed, his delegation would demand a vote. One Party suggested that the group continue its discussions, but if it could not reach consensus then final negotiations should take place between the Parties. The contact group continued its discussions, suggesting amendments to the discussion paper which will serve as the basis for a draft decision.
Forests: The forest contact group met throughout the day to consider a draft decision and a Chair's draft work programme on forest biological diversity. Contentious issues included: whether there would be an intersessional group on implementation of the work programme and what form it might take; periodicity and nature of reporting obligations for Parties; the extent of a protected area "network" (global) or "networks" (national); and the relationship between work on forest biodiversity under the CBD and other processes such as the IFF, the FAO, the GEF and the FCCC.
While the proposal for an intersessional body received support from numerous developing and developed countries, its budgetary implications proved unresolvable within the contact group and it was thus left for consideration by WG-I. Other issues which were debated and left pending included language on whether GEF project funding should conform to COP decisions, and on the incremental nature of such funding, and language on liaisons between CBD bodies and the FAO with regard to the FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000.
The contact group continued to meet into the evening to discuss a revised text based on earlier amendments and prioritization of issues to be addressed in the work programme.
Administration and Budget: The contact group welcomed release of a "solid figure" on the trust fund surplus available. The group noted that some of its budget deliberations depend on the deliberations of other groups, including biosafety. It was pointed out that the interest on the surplus could be used for cost recovery. A need was highlighted for economies in transition to be addressed in the budget. The group's main discussion centered around the merits of retaining the current three trust fund structure or reducing the number to two funds, with travel assistance for developing countries to be funded from the core fund. The group adjourned to allow for consultations on this issue.
Modus Operandi: Delegates considered draft decisions on national reports as well as institutional matters and the programme of work. The draft decision on national reports as well as institutional matters called for, inter alia: holding COP-5 in late 1999; consideration at COP -5 of the establishment of an open-ended preparatory working group of the COP; early distribution of provisional annotated agendas for COPs; and a review of the modus operandi of SBSTTA at COP-5.
Several delegates preferred holding COP-5 in early 2000 and adopting a review of SBSTTA now at COP-4 instead of at COP-5. One delegate expressed concern that waiting until 2000 for COP-5 would not allow the CBD to provide input on WTO reform of TRIPS. One delegation requested that other options beyond a preparatory working group of the COP be considered. Several delegates, noting the interconnected nature of issues at hand, expressed difficulties in making decisions on institutional matters until intersessional activities, inter alia, are clarified.
Financial Mechanisms: The contact group met to consider an amendment to the Chair's draft decision considered on Monday.
Marine and Coastal Biodiversity: The contact group completed a consolidated text incorporating the amendments from WG-I's discussions last week on a proposed programme of work.
SBSTTA: The contact group has prepared four draft decisions on: SBSTTA indicators, monitoring and assessment; the ecosystem approach; a global taxonomy initiative; and alien species. The contact group will have a final meeting Wednesday morning to review these draft decisions.
Agricultural Biodiversity: The Friends of the Chair of Agricultural Biodiversity engaged in constructive discussions following wide regional consultation, with the purpose of incorporating any new elements and ideas. A draft decision has been prepared and will be presented to WG-I on Thursday.
IN THE CORRIDORS
Many delegates complained about the closing and farming out of agenda items in WG-II. Delegates wondered if the unbalanced agendas of contact groups were a subversive plot to obstruct further progress towards implementation of the Convention, or simply the result of an organizational blunder.
While NGO participation remained an issue in some contact groups, in others delegates were loathe to repeat the spectacle at SBSTTA-3 where some threw verbal blows. Noting that non-Parties are welcome in all groups, some NGOs wondered if access could be bought.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
Delegates will continue to meet throughout the day to continue discussions and finalize draft decisions in contact groups and possibly afternoon Working Groups. Delegates standing by the overhead projection of the Daily Journal, searching to find where their sub-, sub- or sub- group to the contact group might meet.