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Experts' Panel on Access and Benefit-Sharing
4- 8 October, 1999 - San Jose, Costa Rica


On the opening day of the meeting of the Experts' Panel on Access and Benefit-Sharing, delegates met in a morning Plenary to listen to opening remarks, address organizational matters and hear presentations on the substantive agenda items: access and benefit-sharing arrangements for scientific and commercial purposes; review of legislative, administrative and policy measures at national and regional levels; review of regulatory procedures and incentive measures; and capacity building. Following a short afternoon Plenary, delegates met in four working groups with each group focusing on one of the substantive agenda items.
Editor's Note: While participating experts are appointed by governments, they speak in their own capacities. For the purpose of brevity, experts' remarks are attributed by country.

Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) said the Panel for advancing the access and benefit-sharing (ABS) process provides an opportunity to explore basic concepts and options for access and benefit-sharing ABS on mutually agreed terms (MAT), including guiding principles, standards and codes of best practices. He underlined that this is not a negotiating exercise but a meeting of experts to define concepts and ways and means to put them into practice with respect to the CBD.
Rodolph Imhoof, Ambassador of Switzerland to Costa Rica, emphasized that this joint initiative between the Governments of Costa Rica and Switzerland would provide significant contributions to establishing guidelines for access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing.
Walter Niehaus, Costa Rican Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, emphasized the importance that Costa Rica places on biodiversity conservation, noting that one-third of its national territory is protected. He stressed the need to improve legally defined policies to protect biodiversity resources and highlighted the recently adopted Costa Rican Law on Biodiversity. He called for dialogue between all stakeholders and emphasized the role of the private and public sectors, intermediary institutions and local communities in bringing about consensus.

Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Interim Costa Rican Minister of Environment and Energy (second from the right), noted that the issue of benefit-sharing and access to genetic resources is one of the most important aspects of biodiversity conservation, and said there is a need to adopt guidelines in order to control access to these resources. He underscored the need for better defined codes and models, both ethical and legal, to address ABS issues.

The Plenary adopted the provisional agenda (UNEP/CBD/EP-ABS/1/1) as presented by Jo Mulongoy (right), CBD Secretariat.
Kerry ten Kate, Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, outlined the review of legislative, administrative and policy measures at national and regional levels. On trends, she also noted the importance of the consolidation of collecting activities, the growing role of intermediaries, recourse to ex situ collections, material transfer agreements and legal acquisitions of samples. On future scenarios, she highlighted the need for simple access laws, distinction between scientific and commercial use, and policies, guidelines and codes of conducts.
José Carlos Fernández Ugalde, ECOSUR, introduced the review of regulatory procedures and incentive measures. He stressed that the efficiency of mechanisms should be the focus of discussions. He highlighted significant material and social costs for enforcement of access regulations and said restrictive regulations would lead to high administrative costs and promote illegal transfers and thus inhibit implementation of the Convention's objectives.
Estherine Lisinge Fotabong, WWF Cameroon, highlighted capacity building needs and stressed the importance of partnerships between providers and users of genetic resources at all levels. She noted that for benefit-sharing provisions to work effectively, actions must be tailored not only to support the States and their indigenous and local communities supplying genetic resources, but also the users of the resources.
ETHIOPIA (center) stressed that the Panel of Experts should provide recommendations to guide national implementation of the CBD.

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