Thirty-four representatives from 11 countries in Southeast Asia gathered in Hanoi, Viet Nam to participate in the 4th Southeast Asia Regional Workshop on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS): Beyond Developing National ABS Frameworks. Hosted by the Government of Viet Nam on November 20-22, 2013, the workshop enabled the participants to understand the issues that need to be addressed both at the regional and national levels and report how their countries have progressed in implementing their national ABS work plans.
The workshop was part of a regional project on building capacity of Southeast Asian countries to work together in promoting ABS through national legislation. Funded by the UN Environment Programme-Global Environment Fund, the project is being implemented by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) in partnership with UN University Institute of Advanced Studies and the ASEAN Secretariat.
The workshop discussed the Nagoya Protocol, the Global Multilateral Benefit Sharing Mechanism, the ABS Clearing-House Mechanism, and monitoring and reporting. It also gave an overview of model contractual clauses, codes of conduct and cases of actual ABS model contracts prior to the Nagoya Protocol.
Mr. Nguyen The Dong, Deputy Director General of the Viet Nam Environment Administration under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said that although not always recognized, biodiversity contributes substantially to the national economy of Viet Nam, especially in sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and the pharmaceutical industry.
“In recent years, however, combined with the process of globalization, the emphasis on economic development has created tension on the environment and biodiversity.” Mr. The Dong added. He emphasized that one of the main reasons for the erosion of genetic resources is the lack of awareness of ABS, and the adequate legal framework to regulate activities to ensure that benefits are equitably shared to the providers of such resources.
Atty. Roberto V. Oliva, Executive Director of ACB, said the Hanoi workshop was the last of a series of capacity building activities under the regional project. Workshops were previously held in the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia where countries discussed the Nagoya Protocol on ABS; tools to use in identifying stakeholders and their capacity needs to develop and implement national ABS frameworks; and the process of building a road map to implement ABS activities. The series of workshops helped heighten the campaign to institutionalize ABS in Southeast Asian countries.
Atty. Oliva emphasized the importance of the third mandate of the ACB which is to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from use of the region’s rich biodiversity.
“The benefits that arise from accessing genetic resources have not been equitably shared between resource providers and users.” Atty. Oliva said. He highlighted how the biotechnology market boasted overall revenue of 262 billion US dollars in 2012, projecting an annual growth rate of 11 percent growth.
He further emphasized, “We, as a region, must seize opportunities to benefit from the use of biological and genetic resources. Countries providing genetic resources need to have a regulatory system to ensure the sharing of benefits while ensuring the continued conservation of biodiversity. A contracting system should be established between us, biodiversity-rich countries providing the genetic resources, and industries that utilize these resources. The income we generate from such interaction not only becomes a resource for biodiversity conservation, but also as a tool to reduce poverty. Such is the essence of ABS.”
As part of the workshop, a field visit to the Hanoi Medicinal Garden under the National Institute of Medicinal Materials (NIMM) enabled the participants to learn about Viet Nam’s system for conservation of medicinal genetic resource. The Hanoi Medicinal Garden is one of the subdivisions in the NIMM’s garden system for conservation, research, and conduct of experiments on propagation, introduction and cultivation of medicinal plants.