Report of main proceedings for 15 November 2019
8th Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
Delegates to the eighth session of the Governing Body (GB 8) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA or Treaty) met in a morning and evening plenary to hear a report from the closed group on enhancing the Multilateral System (MLS), address administrative matters, and review draft resolutions, including on: cooperation with international instruments and organizations; the Global Information System (GLIS); farmers’ rights; conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA); and compliance. The contact group on sustainable use met in the afternoon. The closed group on the MLS and the budget committee met throughout the day and into the night.
Kathryn Youel Page (US) and Renata Negrelly Nogueira (Brazil), Co-Chairs of the closed group on enhancing the MLS, presented a report to plenary in the morning, noting they would circulate a Co-Chairs’ draft of the revised Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) text by 2:00 pm, for consideration by the group in the afternoon.
The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC), for CIVIL SOCIETY, proposed halting negotiations on the SMTA and instead developing an intersessional process on digital sequence information (DSI), arguing the Treaty cannot wait for a decision on DSI under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The INTERNATIONAL SEED FEDERATION underscored that the SMTA must: enable all users to access PGRFA in the MLS; be attractive and workable; and provide legal certainty.
Appointment of the Secretary
GB 8 Chair Christine Dawson (US) introduced the item (IT/GB-8/19/18.1), noting it includes two sub-items: the appointment of the ITPGRFA GB Secretary; and the general procedures for appointment and renewal of term. FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo drew attention to ongoing deliberations at the FAO Council regarding appointments to head bodies under Article XIV of the FAO Constitution such as the Treaty, and recommended reappointment of the current Secretary for one year only, to allow the FAO Council to conclude this process. Dawson recalled that the GB, which is charged with approving the appointment of the Secretary, meets only every two years. The FAO Legal Officer recommended that the GB extend the Secretary’s mandate for one year, and delegate the future decision to its Bureau.
A lengthy discussion ensued and many delegates from all FAO regions called for a two-year extension of the term of the current Secretary, pointing to the need for continuity. Dawson highlighted unanimous endorsement of the current Secretary Kent Nnadozie and support for a two-year renewal of his term. Semedo proposed FAO extend the Secretary’s mandate for one year first, and then another one, which was endorsed by plenary.
Dawson then presented a Chair’s proposal for a procedure for the appointment and renewal of the Secretary’s term. The FAO Legal Officer drew attention to ongoing consultations in FAO governing bodies.
In the evening, plenary addressed draft guidance for the GB 9 Bureau for consultation on the procedure for appointment and renewal of the Secretary.
The EU welcomed the proposal noting it sends a strong signal to FAO that this needs to be a joint process with the Treaty. CHILE requested specifying that: the proposed representatives from the Treaty on the selection committee be Bureau members; and only one shortlist be prepared.
Cameroon, for AFRICA, suggested that: the vacancy announcement be drafted in conformity with FAO technical requirements; the selection committee include three FAO and four Treaty representatives, two from developing and two from developed countries; the initial list include seven to ten candidates; and the shortlist, following interviews, include five ranked candidates, agreed by consensus, from which the FAO Director-General selects one.
Plenary approved a draft resolution without discussion.
Policy Guidance to the Global Crop Diversity Trust: Plenary addressed a draft resolution. Delegates agreed to invite the Crop Trust to provide information on resource mobilization and allocation of long-term grants to support selected national genebanks in developing countries.
Regarding an invitation to the Crop Trust to expand cooperation with the Treaty’s Secretariat on crop conservation strategies, delegates agreed to make the invitation subject to the availability of resources.
CBD: Delegates addressed a draft resolution. They agreed to indicate that the post-2020 global biodiversity framework should recognize direct and indirect contributions of biodiversity to climate change adaptation. Delegates also agreed to request the Secretariat to: submit the GB recommendations to the CBD Working Group on the post-2020 framework and to CBD COP 15; and continue exploring technical options for exchanging information between the GLIS and the CBD Access and Benefit-Sharing Clearing-House.
Regarding advice to the Global Environment Facility (GEF), delegates agreed to invite GEF to: enhance support for the integration of PGRFA in the revision or updating of national biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs); and support, rather than consider, projects for the mutually supportive implementation of the Nagoya Protocol and the Treaty. Delegates further agreed to suggest that, as part of the GEF Trust Fund eighth replenishment, activities should focus on in situ conservation of crop wild relatives, wild food crops, and on-farm management of farmers’ landraces.
Other Bodies and Organizations: Delegates discussed a draft resolution, focusing on a provision on ongoing work with the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). JAPAN preferred requesting the Secretariat to continue exploring a possible new initiative proposed by UPOV to develop brief explanations of the objectives and mutual supportiveness of the Treaty, the CBD, and the UPOV Convention. FINLAND welcomed the reference to mutual supportiveness. SWITZERLAND, ECUADOR, and ARGENTINA preferred continuing the review of the Frequently Asked Questions on the interrelations between the UPOV Convention and the Treaty. Informal consultations continue.
On institutions that have concluded agreements with the GB under Article 15 of the Treaty, the EU proposed: encouraging Article 15 institutions to make information on PGRFA under development available through GLIS; and welcoming the proposal by Belgium to host a safety backup cryopreservation facility in the Catholic University of Leuven. Deliberations will continue.
CGRFA: A draft resolution was accepted with minor amendments.
Delegates discussed a draft resolution developed in informal discussions. ARGENTINA requested the establishment of infrastructural elements in the GLIS portal be “in accordance with national and/or local legislation.” GERMANY called for specifying that application of digital object identifiers (DOIs) is voluntary.
Plenary approved a draft resolution as developed and finalized in the contact group.
Plenary addressed a draft resolution. Delegates agreed to: urge parties who have not submitted their reports to do so; and request the Compliance Committee, in collaboration with the Committee on the Funding Strategy, to integrate funding strategy implementation, monitoring, and review into the existing reporting format.
CAMEROON, ECUADOR, BRAZIL, ARGENTINA, and URUGUAY, opposed by the US and the EUROPEAN REGIONAL GROUP, stressed the importance of requesting the Committee to review compliance of specific Treaty provisions regarding the MLS. After informal discussions, delegates agreed to request the Compliance Committee, in consultation with parties and with the support of the Secretariat, to review compliance with the Treaty, in particular those articles that specify binding obligations for parties, and present its conclusions and suggestions for action to GB 9.
The US reported on results of a small group discussing a draft resolution. Delegates agreed to encourage parties to enhance integration of PGRFA into NBSAPs, taking into account national legislation. It was also agreed to urge parties to mobilize resources to achieve the objectives of the Treaty, rather than urge developed countries to make pledges to the Benefit-sharing Fund.
Conservation and Sustainable Use of PGRFA
Riccardo Bocci (Italy), Co-Chair of the contact group on conservation and sustainable use, reported that agreement had been reached on the draft resolution. He focused on the revised terms of reference for the Ad Hoc Technical Committee, which include the Committee’s tasks, its composition, and meeting schedule. JAPAN noted that the meetings envisaged for the 2020-2021 biennium originally referred to electronic work. Bocci responded that the contact group reached consensus on two face-to-face meetings during the biennium, subject to the availability of financial resources. Plenary approved the draft resolution.
In the Corridors
On the penultimate day of the GB, as plenary addressed the low-hanging fruit of a few non-controversial resolutions, all eyes were on the closed group negotiating the package of measures to enhance the MLS. “We are entering the proverbial eleventh hour,” one delegate shared her concern, “and I hear that all the major issues are still unresolved.” A veteran was heard commenting that waiting until the last minute may be a strategy, making others even more nervous. “Even if we manage to have an agreement, exhausted delegates rarely pull together meaningful outcomes,” he sighed.
A revised SMTA, proposed and circulated by the Co-Chairs of the closed group, came under close scrutiny both inside and outside the group. A fragile reference to DSI with regard to benefit-sharing obligations, reading that the user of MLS material “may have used” passport data and other non-confidential descriptive information, including genetic sequence data, left many outsiders baffled. “The proposal fails to capture current uses of digitalized genetic resources in research and development,” one observer insisted. At the same time, an optimist opined that “as long as the issue is on the table, there is hope for an acceptable outcome.” As the evening plenary continued work on the more innocuous items, everyone prepared for a long, last stretch.
The Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary and analysis of GB 8 will be available on Tuesday, 19 November 2019, at http://enb.iisd.org/biodiv/itpgrfa/gb8/