The groups were asked to address a set
of questions during their discussions:
aspects of the issue area under discussion has been or should be addressed with
an MSP – and what would such a process ideally look like?
What are the
key principles, components, and conditions of successful MSPs?
be principles and practical components of linkages between MSPs and official
Group 1: Biodiversity, bio-prospecting and access to health
Speaker 1: Alejandro Argumedo, Indigenous Peoples Biodiversity Network, Peru
Speaker 2: Michael Dorsey, Justice & Sustainability Associates, US
Chair: Lynne Joiner, Journalist, US
Rapporteur: Rosalie Gardiner, UNED Forum
Alejandro Argumedo gave the first presentation on "Access and Benefit Sharing – Bio-Prospecting for New Medical Products", in which he focused on access to essential and cheap drugs for the local level - “some 80% of people globally are still depend on plant remedies for curing ailments”. He recognised that some issues may never be reconciled through MSPs, e.g. application of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) vs. recognition of traditional rights. The concept of stakeholders can give the impression that all stakeholders are able to participate in an MSP at the same level, however, Indigenous Peoples often have very different power relations and ideological beliefs compared to other stakeholders. He highlighted the mostly defensive reactions that have so far taken place during the development of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which have been mainly characterised by distrust between stakeholders due to these imbalanced power relations.
He went on to consider IPRs, which create a new form of ownership over biological resources; he argued that patenting leads to exclusive rights, limiting access for some people to produce and obtain essential drugs. The crucial issue is therefore a symbolic “right of ownership”. The CBD has changed the rules of the game in terms of access to IPR shares of benefits in the 10 years since Rio. Often, Indigenous Peoples interests are not recognised by governments who allow foreign companies to bio-prospect, therefore the CBD is crucial to formally encourage governments in recognising broader interests. Key issues that need continued discussion include Prior Informed Consent, control of access and user responsibility. He recommended that multilateral instruments should always include civil society discussions to ensure that the process produces concrete and equitable solutions. He also said that sometimes MSPs might be founded on an inequitable context and therefore could not reach a fair conclusion.
Michael Dorsey gave the second presentation on bio-prospecting defining bio-prospecting as an attempt to identify, categorise and commercialise biological resources. Bio-prospecting is not new, e.g. bio-prospecting has been going on in the Upper Amazon, Ecuador since arrival of the Spaniards, but it now comes under the term of bio-prospecting.
He outlined five driving factors for bio-prospecting:
The group discussed key elements for MSPs. First, transparency, in terms of access to negotiations and explanation of the process. There was general agreement that benefit-sharing is treated differently in different countries due to different agreements; this diversity can reduce transparency and therefore trust within different stakeholder groups. MSPs can help to develop bench-marking and assessment of such problems to help to increase transparency.
The knowledge gap is another key issue when seeking to engage stakeholders. The internet was identified as a very effective means in addressing the knowledge gap in the developed world, however, it isn’t sufficient to reach people in the developing world, especially since English remains the dominant language online. Clearly both developed and developing countries need to be publicly engaged. Also global and local players need to be better linked, which would help to reduce the power gap between the North and the South. Synergies could be developed by using MSPs at different levels to help inform multi-lateral legal processes.
The following section outlines the workshop’s comments on the four workshop questions.
1. Which aspects have been addressed by MSP – what would that process look like?
Around the official CBD process there has been a form of MSP – working groups were set up involving business, communities and governments to discuss the issues of access and benefit sharing, tourism and traditional knowledge. Some key elements to enhance this process, as identified by the workshop, included:
2. What are the key principles, components and conditions for an effective MSP?
3. Linkages between MSP and official processes?