Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) is a concept that is well integrated into the realm of international development. If properly implemented, ABS will help the global community reach the broader goals set by other international treaties and processes. The ABS Initiative refers to them as the four gateways:
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
In September 2015, the United Nations adopted the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets to be reached by 2030. The Agenda addresses poverty alleviation, equity, social justice and sound environmental management to ensure economically, ecologically and socially sustainable development. It builds on the Millennium Development Goals and completes them, among other things, by the declared will to join forces in a collaborative partnership, to which all countries and stakeholders need to contribute.
Biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are essential pillars of sustainable development and are widely reflected in the SDGs and their targets. More specifically, ABS is integrated into the SDGs in a number of ways. Within the 1992 Rio Conventions, from their outset, ABS is the only mechanism that rests on fostering fair international partnerships and explicitly encompasses not only ecological, but also social and economic aspects. This underlines the relevance of ABS for achieving the SDGs, on matters as wide ranging as poverty alleviation, food security, health, economic growth, innovation, oceans and governance. It also explains the many direct and indirect references made to ABS in several SDG targets, in particular target 2 (Zero Hunger - end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture) and target 15 (Life on Land - protect, restore and sustainably manage use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
Policy makers and administrators around the world are well aware of the manifold development opportunities that ABS provides. To unleash its full potential and leverage tangible impacts, however, provider countries need to establish effective regulatory frameworks, develop national valorisation strategies, and negotiate ABS agreements with the users of genetic resources. In this process, many countries are seeking legal and technical advice to prepare regulations and contracts, as well as expert input and facilitation support to develop valorisation strategies. The multi-donor ABS Capacity Development Initiative has the expertise, capacity and network of partners necessary to support countries in their efforts to operationalize the Nagoya Protocol at national Level.
Many refer to the Nagoya Protocol as the first internationally agreed and legally binding mechanism for a Payment for Ecosystem Services. Indeed, trading access to certain genetic resources for the sharing of benefits or transfer of technologies is, in a sense, paying for what nature provides. Those who receive the benefits are ideally the same who manage the resources in a way that they will still be available in the future. Otherwise, their benefits would vanish. In this regard, the market economic approach of the ABS concept combines sustainable use and protection of biodiversity with actualization of its economic value. In addition, ABS establishes efficient legal frameworks at the national level that make conducting genetic resource-based business more predictable for the private sector.
Climate change is a major challenge in Africa. The high genetic variability of food crops can help alleviate this challenge.
In these days of climate change, when people talk about food security they stress the importance of agriculture. The use and modification of genetic resources is essential to enhancing agricultural production and raising the quality and increasing the variability of agricultural products.
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) reflects the importance of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, along with their special role for food security. In its multilateral system, the ITPGRFA facilitates access to 35 major food crops and 29 forage crops. In its preamble, the Nagoya Protocol acknowledges "the fundamental role" the ITPGRFA plays for "sustainable development of agriculture in the context of poverty alleviation and climate change." Efforts from both the Nagoya Protocol and the ITPGRFA are underway to harmonize national implementation.
It's a classic dilemma: Developing countries are often rich in biodiversity but lack financial resources, while most developed countries are rich in technology and financial means but lacking biodiversity. Consequently, developing countries cannot conduct research on the use of genetic resources at a large scale or commercialize the end products. These tasks are mostly reserved for developed countries. Developing countries and in particular local communities are often among those benefitting least from the resulting products.
This imbalance between North and South can be eliminated by applying the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) concept to the utilization and commercialization of genetic resources. According to the Nagoya Protocol, the provider of these resources gets a fair share of the benefits gained by the user, either monetarily or in terms of technology and knowledge transfer from North to South. This compensation is an important move towards eliminating North-South inequality.
With the aim to further strengthen the position of the developing countries, the ABS Initiative facilitates South-South exchange involving BRICS countries.