Break-Out Group 3

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Group 3: Bio-society Issues at the Global Level

Speaker 1: Jack Whelan, ICC Working Party on Bio-society Issues, France

Speaker 2: Harsh Jaitli, Society for Participatory Research in Asia, India

Chair: Annik Dollacker, Bayer, Germany

Rapporteur: Jasmin Enayati, UNED Forum

Jack Whelan gave a brief definition of the term “bio-society”: Two years ago, business involved in biology and bio-technology first started addressing the issue. Agricultural, industrial and pharmaceutical applications and their effects on society should be looked at equally. The issues are as follows:

limits/ boundaries to society’s acceptance;

innovation as a disruptive element;

access to benefits;

role of patents; 

links between information; 

need for consensus of acceptable business model;

role of leadership – role of stakeholders;

peer pressure, e.g. through the Global Compact.

Companies are becoming more transparent and invite stakeholder dialogues. ICC developed a roadmap for electronic commerce that gives policy options for policy-makers. MSPs should be more than mere dialogue sessions, but rather happen on a continuous basis, which would enable the creation of continuously evolving documents. To ensure reaching stakeholders, one needs to rely on the multiplier effects by sending out drafts to networks, and rely on them distributing these to their constituencies (thereby relying on electronic means). 

ICC can take on a broker role, e.g. starting MSPs with a blank piece of paper, and then have drafts and comments to create ownership.

Harsh Jaitli talked about occupational health and safety and identification of occupational diseases - issues in which the communities have a large stake. However, in the planning stages of developments they usually have no say. It is the government’s role to act as regulator / inspector of industry’s practices.

One important challenge for successful MSPs is to develop the capacity of communities by giving them the necessary information. Communities need to start understanding their role in MSPs. Harsh Jaitli finished his presentation by emphasising that everyone has a piece of the puzzle and has their own solutions. MSPs are only a vehicle to improve sustainability. MSPs usually start when harm has already been done and compromises have been made. People need to be involved in the basic designing phase. 

1. Which aspects of the issue area under discussion has been / should be addressed with an MSP – and what would such a process ideally look like?

Issue of value disputes (where fundamental conflicts are inherently a stake) versus distribution disputes (who gets access to medicine / land). In order to build trust, value discussions need to happen first. There is a need for a structured process of information exchange to talk beyond values even though it might be conflictual.

Make the value debate explicit and start where you can identify common ground.

2. What are the key principles, components, and conditions of successful MSPs?

Major Groups need the space to select their leadership. Different styles of leadership,  of reaching out to constituencies, and different ways to write statements have to be respected. Every group needs their own roadmap.

Secretariat: Neutral facilitation of the process is necessary. It needs to address the power (im)balances. The process should take place on neutral territory.

Major Groups often contribute to the capacity-building of the secretariat. Major Groups have to mandate somebody to become their focal point (coordinator).

Create credibility of the chair. Highest mandate should be secured where possible.

Principle of multiple mandate (internal mandate for who represents Major Group).

Broad spectrum approach: Need for regionally / culturally specific approaches.

Bio-society issues: the principle of equity is very important. Create win/win situations.

Chair determines overlaps and high friction places.

Focus on clear output is often missing but very important.

3. What should be principles and practical components of linkages between MSPs and official decision-making processes?

Proceedings should be recorded on publicly available websites, so future roadmaps / processes have reference points.

Improve participatory governance – e.g. governments inviting stakeholders on delegation.

Commitment from decision-makers to take outcome of MSPs into account.

Mainstream MSP into official decision-making process.

System of accountability within MSP linked to decision-making.

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Contact Minu Hemmati and Felix Dodds for further information.