It was another tough day of negotiations as delegates met in the Committee of the Whole (CoW) under the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on benefit-sharing from the use of digital sequence information (DSI) on genetic resources. The CoW battled through a long list of possible elements of a multilateral mechanism for benefit-sharing, including a global fund.
Discussions were structured around four of the identified clusters of work, contained in a conference room paper that was developed after long hours of deliberations in the Contact Group, on:
- contributions to the DSI fund;
- fund disbursement;
- non-monetary benefit-sharing; and
Negotiations were difficult but encouraging as Co-Chairs Martha Mphatso Kalemba (Malawi) and William Lockhart (UK) skillfully guided delegates around identified areas of convergence and divergence. Although, at the end of the day, elements that require further discussion outnumbered those where potential convergence was reached, the overall environment was positive. Still, most participants agree that a lot of work will need to be done intersessionally, if the Working Group is to achieve its mandate: delivering a meaningful, robust benefit-sharing mechanism for DSI for approval to the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 16) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
In that respect, discussions in an evening Contact Group on next steps were highlighted by veterans as one of the most important outcomes of the meeting. Co-Chair Lockhart highlighted a commissioned study to analyze and model the extent to which a multilateral mechanism for benefit-sharing from the use of DSI, and any other options the Working Group may decide, meets the agreed criteria in paragraphs 9 and 10 of CBD Decision 15/19 (DSI on genetic resources). The Contact Group agreed on a three-step process:
- information sharing, including through webinars;
- setting up an informal advisory group to provide opportunity for technical discussion among parties, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and stakeholders; and
- informal consultations facilitated by the Co-Chairs through a series of regional consultations, with the commissioned studies open for peer review by parties.
The Contact Group finished its work much earlier than midnight, which had been the general rule for the whole week, with participants earning a well-deserved rest prior to the last day of negotiations on Saturday.