The story of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) goes back to 1992 and the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Despite the formal positioning of "the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources" in the global arena it took several years until ABS really gained momentum. Many experts currently working with the ABS Initiative were part of this process.
In 2005, co-financed by the Directorate General for International Cooperation (DGIS) of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ, today: GIZ) GmbH organized the first regional ABS capacity development workshop for Eastern and Southern Africa in Addis Ababa. Based on its great success, one year later the DGIS and GIZ launched the co-financed Dutch-German ABS Capacity-Building Initiative for Africa. Soon additional donors joined and in 2011 the regional scope of the Initiative was extended to include the Caribbean and Pacific region.
On the road towards worldwide implementation, the Initiative has helped erect milestones which have significantly impacted the development of ABS:
African Positions Reflected in the Nagoya Protocol
During the negotiations of the Nagoya Protocol the Initiative supported the “African Group” by organizing preparatory meetings, high-level events and (sub-)regional multi-stakeholder workshops and trainings. As a result the “African Group” was able to negotiate with one voice and to effectively participate in the negotiations.
- Countries and regions: Africa (on this website)
- Briefing of African Delegates Prior to the 6th Meeting of the ABS Working Group, 18-19 January 2008, Geneva, Switzerland
- 6th Meeting of ABS Working Group - Documents
Sub-regional ABS Strategy
In the context of the GIZ implemented Support Program to the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC), the ABS Initiative provided assistance in the development of a sub-regional ABS strategy, adopted by the COMIFAC Ministers Council in November 2010. This strategy, in addition to the international ABS frameworks, provides guidance for national regulations in member countries. The ABS Initiative is now backstopping ABS implementation in COMIFAC member countries.
African Union ABS Guidelines
Africa has developed effective instruments for the protection, sustainable use and access and benefit sharing of biological resources. These resources respond to the challenges posed by globalization and climate change while taking into account the continent-specific needs. The African Model Law for the Protection of the Rights of the Local Communities, Farmers and Breeders and for the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources (the African Union Model Law) developed in the late 90s is a case in point. The adoption of the Nagoya Protocol in 2010 prompted a fresh look at the African Model Law by the ABS Initiative as requested by the AU Commission. The Initiative's resulting report highlighted significant gaps due to relevant international developments and recommended to develop Guidelines for a Coordinated Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on ABS in Africa.
Ultimately, they have been developed as the African Union (AU) policy and technical guidelines for the coordinated implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in Africa, endorsed by the 27th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the AU. The two documents provide strategic and practical step by step directions and tools to guide African countries in the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol.
Draft ABS policies and regulations
The ABS Initiative advised the development of draft Nagoya Protocol compliant policies and regulations in countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Madagascar, Micronesia, Morocco, Namibia, Palau, Samoa and Senegal.
The ABS Initiative supported the negotiation of ABS agreements for several indigenous natural products. The support consisted of upfront capacity building of local providers and regulators as well as facilitating the negotiations that led to the signing of ABS agreements, e.g. in Cameroon and Namibia.
ABS toolkit and training courses for lawyers and legal drafters
In partnership with the ABS Initiative the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) has launched a toolkit and training course to point out essential legal requirements of the Nagoya Protocol, key technical resources available and the latest research on relevant legal frameworks.
Biocultural Community Protocols (BCPs)
The ABS Initiative, in collaboration with the NGO Natural Justice, supports IPLCs in managing their natural resources and interacting with potential users and governmental institutions. Key instruments in this regard are BCPs which, among others, facilitate the establishment of ABS agreements between IPLCs and industry. Facilitated by the Initiative, a BCP process in South Africa led to the non-disclosure agreement between a local Healer Association and a domestic cosmetic company.