Implementing the Nagoya Protocol in Vanuatu
16-17 September 2014, Port Vila, Vanuatu
This workshop was held to discuss the current context for implementing the Nagoya Protocol in Vanuatu, and the obligations associated with it, following its signature and ratification by the Vanuatu government in 2014.
A key finding was that currently the procedures in place to monitor researchers and facilitate ABS in Vanuatu are not sufficient.
The meeting provided an opportunity for a general introduction and discussion of the issues raised by the Nagoya Protocol (NP), including Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT), prior informed consent (PIC), research permit schemes, and how the NP encourages recognition of community/customary protocols. The University of the South Pacific (USP) students presented the history of the NP negotiations and the geopolitical dynamics that led to the Protocol's adoption in its current form. Other presentations covered a number of case studies on ABS agreements in other countries of which one was in Papua New Guinea (between University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) and University of Utah) that was highly relevant to Vanuatu.
It was also noted in the workshop that "everything that belongs to the nakamal (in this context meaning "community" - editor's note), belongs to the nakamal" and that in the minds of many ni-Vanuatu (a demonym in this context refering to the nationals and citizens of Vanuatu - editor's note), you cannot separate biodiversity from traditional knowledge and culture. These statements speak to the inherent and holistic connections between land/sea, biodiversity and culture. It was also noted that over the past 100 plus years, there has been considerable migration of peoples and intermarriage, so defining membership of particular kinship groups is likely to be problematic. There was also a lot of discussion about the differences between 'ownership' and 'rights'.
Overall, it was clear that there are many critical ABS issues remaining to explore further and fine tune, and legislation to amend (particularly the Environmental Management and Conservation Act 2002 that deals directly with bioprospecting) and the workshop generated some useful tools, including key elements of PIC and MAT, to work with further.
23 representatives from the Vanuatu Department of Environment, the Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta, the Vanuatu Intellectual Property Office under the Department of Trade and other relevant government departments involved in the sustainable use of Vanuatu’s natural resources and associated traditional knowledge. These included three USP law students and a USP lecturer in environmental law.
The workshop was facilitated by Trinison Tari (Vanuatu Department of Environment) and Francis Hickey (Vanuatu Cultural Centre), and two overseas specialists in ABS, Daniel Robinson (University of New South Wales - UNSW) and Miranda Forsyth (Australian National University - ANU). UNSW, ANU and the ABS Capacity Development Initiative financed the workshop.