Report of main proceedings for 20 June 1996

4th International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources (ITCPGR-4)

An Open-Ended Working Group (WG) on the Leipzig Declaration (LD) met all day and into the evening onthe fourth day of the Fourth International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources for Food andAgriculture(ITCPGR-4), while the WG on the Global Programme of Action (GPA) completed its work in alate session the previous night. The Plenary met briefly in the afternoon to hear country statements. ContactGroups (CG) on Farmers'Rights (FR) and implementation and financing of the Global Programme ofAction(GPA) met, as did informal groups on unresolved text of the LD and GPA.


The WG finished its work during a late night session on Wednesday. AUSTRALIA on behalf of a ContactGroup on FR, offered text with lengthy qualifiers to "realizing" FR. With no real agreement, delegates decided to forward original bracketed text on "the concept of Farmers' Rights" to the Plenary. The CHAIRthen proposed that the section of the GPA on Cost Estimates and Sources of Funding be deleted, andreferred to the Third Extraordinary Session of the CGRFA. EGYPT expressed concern, but the CHAIR'sproposal was adopted. The CHAIR's suggestion to delete summary paragraphs containing Major Elementsand Recommendations was accepted, given lack of time to renegotiate the text. SWEDEN then proposeddeleting the section on Structure and Organization. After the CHAIR's humorous anecdote about "freshfish", this was withdrawn.


The CHAIR opened discussion on the LD (ITCPGR/96/6). A proposal from the US, supported by MALTA,to delete bracketed sub-headings to the LD was accepted. In the first sentence, delegates agreed to dropreferences to forests, but extensively debated text which read "recognition of the vital importance ofPGRFA [to food security]." EGYPT, supported by FRANCE, SUDAN, CHINA for developing countries ofASIA, MALTA, SOUTH AFRICA, and ARGENTINA, requested deletion of the reference to food security,since it was covered by a subsequent paragraph.

The US, supported by PERU, SWEDEN and PAPUA NEW GUINEA, preferred linking PGRFA to foodsecurity explicitly in the first sentence. SWEDEN noted that the LD would be the conference's mainmessage to the World Food Summit. In a spirit of compromise, ARGENTINA suggested changing "vital" to"essential", and PERU suggested adding the qualifier "in particular" before food security. The text wasadopted with these two amendements. In a subsequent sentence in the first paragraph, delegates debated areference to sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources, including use of traditional knowledge.The CHAIR proposed replacing bracketed text with agreed language from the GPA. This proposal wassupported by COLOMBIA, CHINA, PERU, INDIA on behalf of developing countries of ASIA, SWEDENand the US. CANADA, supported by FRANCE, pointed out that the LD should be succinct and that"sharing of benefits from use of such resources" rather than a reference to indigenous knowledge, butaccepted the CHAIR's suggestion in the interest of achieving consensus.

Delegates then deliberated on bracketed text which read: "We are convinced that these efforts are anessential contribution to the implementation of the CBD and Agenda 21." CHINA on behalf of thedeveloping countries of ASIA and the PACIFIC, as well as COLOMBIA, TANZANIA, ZIMBABWE,PERU, SUDAN, TURKEY and PERU, proposed retaining the text intact. SWEDEN's proposal to add"World Food Summit," and IRAN's proposal to add "food security" were ultimately rejected. TheCONGO's proposal to replace "efforts" with the stronger word "commitment" was supported by BURKINOFASO and COLOMBIA but opposed by the US. The US proposed replacing "implementation" with"realizing the objectives" of the CBD. The CHAIR's proposal to retain "implementation" (for Parties) andadd "realization of the objectives" (for non-Parties) was supported by POLAND, TANZANIA on behalf ofthe AFRICAN GROUP, BRAZIL, BOLIVIA, COLOMBIA on behalf of GRULAC, CHINA on behalf ofthe ASIAN GROUP. Based on informal consultations, the amended text was eventually adopted to read:"We are convinced that these efforts can be essential to achieving the objectives and implementation of theCBD and Agenda 21." In the second paragraph, the CHAIR, later supported by CANADA, FRANCE, andthe US, suggested language consistent with the GPA concerning "recognizing the rights of sovereign statesover their biological resources". COLOMBIA, later supported by MEXICO urged removing reference to"confirming our common and individual responsibilities". CANADA proposed that the paragraph berelocated to the middle of the LD. This was not supported by MEXICO, ASIA and the PACIFIC, PERUand SENEGAL. MEXICO requested replacement of the word "heritage" with "resources". The CHAIR'soriginal text with MEXICO's amendment was accepted. A bracketed paragraph on "satisfying the needs ofgrowing populations for food through increasing production volume and efficiency" was deleted, after theCHAIR noted that it was redundant. The issue concerning CANADA's proposal to move the text remainsunresolved.

The following paragraph which began by stating that PGR "are essential for world food security" wasmodified by dropping this reference, as proposed by the CHAIR. Delegates discussed the role of variousgroups in conserving and sustainably using PGRFA, using BELGIAN text as a starting point, which"acknowledged the role of generations of farmers and plant breeders in conserving and improving PGR".ARGENTINA, supported by INDONESIA, CANADA and SWEDEN called for a specific reference towomen farmers. FRANCE, supported by SOUTH AFRICA and CYPRUS, felt that a specific reference towomen was unnecessary. MEXICO, supported by SWEDEN and VENEZUELA, called for reference toindigenous and local communities. The CHAIR's proposal to amend the Belgian text with the words "role ofgenerations of men and women farmers and plant breeders, and by indigenous and local communities" wasadopted.

The US, supported by FRANCE, said that he was uncomfortable with the expression that "efforts toconserve genetic resources [are inadequate]." Delegates debated whether to refer to "ecosystems "or "farmsand nature" in discussing loss of genetic diversity. The US proposed PGRFA rather than "genetic diversity"The CHAIR's formulation, which used "fields and other ecosystems" without the US proposal, wasaccepted. In the following paragraph bracketed text referring to existing institutions being inadequate"notably in developing countries" was not supported by CHINA, INDONESIA and FRANCE. Reference todeveloping countries was removed. In a following sentence which suggested that the linkage betweenconservation and utilization could be improved "[particularly in many developing countries]", FRANCE,supported by SENEGAL, the US, ISRAEL, PERU, INDONESIA and FINLAND, urged that the referenceto developing countries be removed. This was not supported by PERU. BELGIUM introduced text, afterconsultations, saying "it is necessary to strengthen national capabilities, particularly in developingcountries" as the concluding sentence. The whole paragraph was adopted with minor changes, introduced byTANZANIA and BRAZIL.

In a subsequent paragraph, discussion on technology transfer was deferred until the CG's deliberations onthis subject were concluded. Bracketed text dealing with cooperation between states, inter-govermentalorganizations, NGOs and the private sector, was adopted with no discussion. In the following paragraph,delegates chose "sustain" rather than "secure" ex situ collections of PGR, and changed a reference to in situ"sites" of PGR to in situ "habitats".

In the next paragraph, on the conference's primary objective, a formulation by CHINA which read "ourprimary objective must be to enhance world food security through conserving PGR, and using themsustainably" was modified by the US to read "conserving and sustainably using PGR" and adopted. In asubsequent sentence, CHINA suggested deletion of bracketed text on benefit sharing, as it had been coveredearlier. PERU, supported by BELGIUM, prefered retention of the text here. Informal consultations resultedin a new text which read: "Means are needed to identify, increase, and share fairly and equitably the benefitsderived from the sustainable use of PGR." This was modified by COLOMBIA to read "conservation andsustainable use" and adopted.

After extensive negotiation, delegates were unable to reach consensus on the paragraph referring to theGPA, the IU and the FAO Global System. Compromise language stating that the "GPA and the non-bindingIU are elements of the FAO Global System for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of PGRFA," andadvocating revision of the IU, was acceptable to all. However, the remainder of the paragraph urging "thatthe Global System be strengthened, and reviewed and adjusted in harmony with the CBD" was not acceptedby the US and VENEZUELA. The text will be taken up again in informal negotiations or the Plenary. Thesubsequent paragraph urging better utilisation of existing PGRFA collections was determined to beredundant and was deleted.

Delegates then turned to the closing paragraph of the LD, using as a basis for their deliberations the secondof four alternative texts as selected by the host country Germany. SWEDEN's proposal to add "ourfundamental responsibilities for meeting the most basic human rights, the right to life and the right tofreedom from hunger" was rejected by MALTA as too pedantic, and by the US due to the domestic politicalovertones of the phrase "right to life." FRANCE and PERU objected to introducing a hierarchy of humanrights, and proposed "right to freedom from hunger" instead. SWEDEN's proposal, later supported by theUS, to add "conservation and sustainable use" of PGRFA was adopted. ARGENTINA's proposal for asimplified text served as the basis for the adopted paragraph. Most notably, the integration of theconservation and sustainable use of PGFA in agricultural policy as "an essential element" was replaced with"a cornerstone" of food security.


The CHAIR of the WG on the GPA (ITCPGR/96/5 Rev.2) reported that bracketed text remained over:structure and organization; FR; technology transfer; and benefits-sharing. Remaining differences will beresolved in informal meetings. The CHAIR then invited remaining country statements. Astrud TshikungNawej, Minister of Agriculture of ZAIRE, highlighted her country's substantial genetic diversity and highlevels of endemism. SWITZERLAND supported the GPA, stating that remaining disagreement on access,finance and implementation, and FR would be resolved. MOVIMIENTO INDIGENA COLOMBIANOhighlighted, vis-a-vis Indigenous Peoples: the importance of the CBD, Agenda 21 and ILOConvention 169; and the need to balance in situ and ex situ conservation goals with "spiritualissues."


The Leipzig Declaration, designed to be the Conference's key political output, dominated discussions in thecorridors today. Delegates are concerned that the text's wordiness will reflect clumsy compromise ratherthan common cause. According to some, the LD may need to be converted into executive summaries bynational governments, so as to be intelligible to the broader audience it is trying to target. Not all werecritical, however. According to one delegate, "there are real gems amidst the muck of turgid prose."


PLENARY: The Plenary will convene Saturday morning to discuss negotiated text developed bythe working groups and informal meetings on the LD, FR, and finance and implementation of the GPA.

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