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


Experts met in a morning Plenary to hear reports on the outcomes of the working groups on ABS for scientific and commercial purposes and on review of legislative, administrative and policy measures, regulatory procedures and incentive measures. The latter working group convened for two brief sessions, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, to further consider its report. The open-ended sub-group on IPR also met to finish drafting its report. Experts convened briefly in Plenary in the afternoon and again in an evening session to consider the reports of the working groups.
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.

View from the back of the room during the morning plenary.
Chair Zakri (Malaysia) remarked that the group on ABS arrangements for scientific and commercial purposes had completed its work on MAT and contractual approaches, as well as on benefit-sharing options and mechanisms.
Kerry ten Kate (UK) commented on the draft report of the working group on the review of legislative, administrative and policy measures at national and regional levels, regulatory procedures and incentive measures. She highlighted the group's focus on access legislation and the need for flexibility therein, PIC and the role of national focal points, international measures to support PIC and incentive measures.
Peter Tobias Stoll (Max Planck Institute for International Law) presented the outcomes of the IPR sub-group, highlighting the main issues, which include: interrelationships of IPR with PIC; protection of traditional knowledge; ABS agreements; and scope, "prior art" and monitoring. He also noted the importance of linkages with Article 8(j) of the CBD (traditional knowledge) and other international organizations such as UNESCO, WIPO and the FAO.
In an afternoon Plenary session, Rapporteur Maureen Wolfson (South Africa) introduced the report of the Panel (UNEP/CBD/EP-ABS/L.1), which recalls the Panel's mandate, summarizes the opening session and organizational matters, and outlines the items addressed by the two working groups. The Plenary adopted the report without amendment.
Panel participants outside the meeting room, waiting for the afternoon plenary to commence. The delay was caused by Working Group 2 finishing its work later than expected.
In the evening Plenary, Panel Co-Chair Medaglia (Costa Rica, on the right) introduced the report of the working group on ABS arrangements for scientific and commercial purposes (UNEP/CBD/EP-ABS/L.2) for consideration. He reminded the Plenary that the meeting was an expert panel, not a negotiating body.
The Plenary initially began to adopt the report paragraph by paragraph until an observer asked for the floor and was refused. Switzerland raised as a point of order in the procedure the fact that the Plenary must first discuss the report in a general manner and allow for observer comments. Following a brief discussion (left) on the procedure for considering a working group report, it was agreed that the Plenary would first approve the report paragraph by paragraph prior to its adoption and that observer participation would be allowed.
In considering text noting the unique qualities of genetic resources for food and agriculture, Switzerland proposed deleting a list detailing its characteristics. FINLAND (right) preferred retaining the list, noting that the Panel should provide technical information to support its recommendations.
On text stressing the importance of balancing the need for confidentiality for commercial purposes with the need for stakeholders to be able to understand market conditions to ensure equitable sharing, CUBA stressed that additional information on market conditions is required and preferred highlighting "the need for access to information by stakeholders in order to guarantee, under market conditions, equitable sharing."
With regard to a paragraph noting that many countries are in the early stages of developing ABS regimes, CUBA, supported by BOLIVIA, objected to text stating that, as a consequence, interim solutions "are required" to allow a continuation of access in accordance with the CBD. She noted that such a requirement contradicted other text stating that the provision of guidelines would be premature.
RealAudio excepts of the exchange between CUBA (above) and JAMAICA (right)

Delegates accepted MOROCCO's proposal to delete text limiting needs for confidentiality to "commercial purposes."

Argentina noted that the working group's report exceeded the acceptable length and proposed deleting explanatory boxes contained in the draft report. SWITZERLAND (right) proposed formulating an executive summary in addition to placing the boxes in annexes and asked the Secretariat to propose alternative means of formatting the report..

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