IntroductionDr. Paul Oldham participated in the final negotiations of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-Sharing at COP10 of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The new protocol sets out an agreement on the terms of access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge in countries around the world and the conditions of benefit-sharing. The protocol is intended to address the problem of "biopiracy" of potentially valuable genetic resources from biodiversity rich countries and indigenous peoples and local communities. The protocol will also establish a global benefit-sharing fund for genetic resources. Key issues debated during the final stage of the negotiations included: definitions of the utilisation of genetic resources and derivatives; compliance measures with the terms of access established by countries; access to pathogens, and; the scope of the genetic resources included in the treaty. Other important issues included the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional knowledge with a reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the preamble of the protocol representing an important step forward for indigenous peoples.
During COP 10 Dr. Oldham participated in the Interregional Consultation Group established to finalise the treaty. During the negotiations a joint report with Geoff Burton of United Nations University was released to negotiators on the contentions subject of the disclosure of the origin of genetic resources and traditional knowledge in patent applications (UNEP/CBD/10/INF/44). Dr. Oldham formed part of the open research group that sought to ensure that the importance of non-commercial research on biodiversity would be recognised and promoted in the Protocol. He also continued working with the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) in finalising an ethical code of conduct for activities involving indigenous and local communities under Article 8J of the Convention relating to traditional knowledge.
At 1.30am on Friday the 29th of October, in a poignant and emotional moment for everyone in the room, negotiators recognised that they had gone as far as they could but could not reach agreement on key issues such as the utilisation of genetic resources and derivatives. Japan as the Presidency of the Convention then took the brave step of producing a Presidency text to try to bridge the seemingly unbridgeable gaps between the different regional groups. In the tense hours of Friday it was unclear whether the proposed compromise would meet the needs of some developing country regions, notably from Latin America and Asia and the Pacific. However, by the early evening it was clear that the Presidency compromise was acceptable. The new protocol represents a major step forward in addressing the third objective of the Convention on fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic-resources.
Cesagen's participation in these debates began with opening discussions on the regime in early 2003. Its work has focused on providing independent research inputs to inform the debates on a range of issues including: the significance of genomics for access and benefit-sharing; empirical research on biodiversity and intellectual property; the development of patent indicators; exploration of open source and commons approaches; and, disclosure of origin in patent applications. Cesagen has also actively sought to support indigenous peoples’ participation in the negotiations through technical support for the work of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB). In future work Cesagen will examine ways to support implementation of the new protocol through its investments in digital methods and exploring the creation of accessible digital tools to track and monitor the use of genetic resources.