Volume 9/2

Special issue on fairness in biodiversity, politics and the law: interrogating the Nagoya Protocol

This special issue of LEAD Journal originates in a workshop organised at the University of Warwick in June 2011. The workshop sought to focus attention on the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation to the Convention on Biological Diversity (NP, or the Protocol), adopted at the tenth Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, or the Convention) on 29 October 2010. In implementing the third objective of the Convention, the Protocol aspires to deliver a fair and equitable sharing of flows of biological resources and knowledge and the benefits that flow at multiple levels: between local communities and their threatened biodiversity and science and industry; between biodiversity rich states and states hosting biotechnological corporations and global scientific networks; between communal ownership regimes and private intellectual property. Negotiated under a high level of disagreement, the Protocol is a landmark after two decades of struggles to operationalise access and benefit sharing (ABS) regimes. Unsurprisingly for a global legal instrument, the Protocol has its ambiguities and presents a challenge in translating norms into practice. 

Evanson Chege Kamau and Gerd Winter

An Introduction to the International ABS Regime and a Comment on its Transposition by the EU

This article summarises the core provisions of the ABS regime as required by the CBD and the NP. It identifies open questions and takes position concerning the interpretation of certain clauses. Looking at an exemplary transposition by a Contracting Party on the user side, it critically discusses the recent EU Commission Proposal for an ABS regulation.

Morten Walløe Tvedt

Disentangling Rights to Genetic Resources Illustrated by Aquaculture and Forest Sectors

This article explores perceptions of the object of different types of right in genetic resources law. Aquaculture and forestry are used as examples, being areas of GR law that have been studied intensively at the FNI in recent years. The thesis explored here is that there are differences among how these right systems have been set up, and that these differences are highly relevant for the respective success of these systems. “Ownership” is understood as a right that is enforceable amongst private parties. Regulating and specifying ownership is one of several elements of exercising sovereign rights of countries under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The object for genetic resources contracts will be explored here. To what degree does the contract mechanism (Mutually Agreed Terms, MAT) of the Nagoya Protocol (NP) and the CBD capture or diverge from a substantial or functional understanding of the object of the right? Since a contract is binding only on the signatory parties, this mechanism allows for considerable flexibility. One basic element of such contractual discussion is that the subject matter is defined in the negotiation of the contract. There are institutional lessons to learn from details in the patent system, which it is argued here, are of value in the development of functional ABS systems.

Brendan M. Tobin

Bridging the Nagoya Compliance Gap: The Fundamental Role of Customary Law in Protection of Indigenous Peoples’ Resource and Knowledge Rights

The Nagoya Protocol requires states to ensure that access to and use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples and local communities is subject to their prior informed consent (PIC). It also requires states to take into consideration their customary laws. However, it lacks effective compliance mechanisms, a gap exposed in draft European legislation that sidesteps the Nagoya Protocol’s obligations regarding PIC and customary law, leaving traditional knowledge largely unprotected. This article examines the status of customary law under international, regional and national law, and the challenges and opportunities for securing recognition of its role in the protection of traditional knowledge. The article contends that all commercial and development activities with the potential to impact on Nagoya Protocol rights will in the future need to ensure compliance with relevant customary law. It finds state reluctance to adopt measures to ensure consideration of customary law shortsighted and likely to lead to increased litigation. It concludes that customary law has a key role to play in closing the Nagoya compliance gap but to do so it will need to be supported by enforcement mechanisms such as disclosure of origin regimes in intellectual property law.

Roger Chennells

Traditional Knowledge and Benefit Sharing After the Nagoya Protocol: Three Cases from South Africa

The Nagoya Protocol of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has finally produced a negotiated framework intended to significantly advance the achievement of its core objectives, chief amongst them benefit sharing with indigenous and local communities who are holders of traditional knowledge related to genetic resources. The interpretation, in particular of central concepts contained in the Protocol, namely traditional knowledge (TK), community, and ownership of TK, and the practical application thereof by governments, are key to the success of the emerging access and benefit sharing regime. This article examines the manner in which the South African Biodiversity Act deals with these concepts. Three recent case studies are described, namely the Hoodia, Sceletium and Pelargonium cases, in which a range of issues relating to holders of TK were resolved, including the question of who the indigenous knowledge holders are. Moreover the debate on the question as to whether the intellectual property rights of TK holders are property rights as such, leads to the author’s suggestion that TK rights are a sui generis form of property rights, and that the legal principles contained in the law of equity provide useful and accessible guidance towards resolution of potentially competing claims of TK rights by indigenous peoples.

Saskia Vermeylen

The Nagoya Protocol and Customary Law: The Paradox of Narratives in the Law

The issue of protecting traditional knowledge and genetic resources is a textbook example of a legal problem in a world of hybrid legal spaces where a single problem, act or actor is regulated by multiple legal regimes. Unmistakingly, the Nagoya Protocol deserves credit for formally recognising community protocols and customary laws but this article argues that this recognition is not the end of the struggle for indigenous peoples to gain rights over their land and culture. Drawing parallels between access and benefit sharing agreements and native title claims allows for identification of the problems that can arise when Western jurisprudence translates customary laws cross-culturally. The challenges that indigenous peoples are facing in native title claims can show how Western law interprets traditional law and customs and can be used as a benchmark to anticipate the problems indigenous peoples and local communities will encounter when Article 12.1 of the Nagoya Protocol will be applied on the ground. From a theoretical point of view, this article argues that the exclusion or misinterpretation of customary law in Western courts is intrinsic to their legal processes and it draws upon the work of Margaret Davies to show that the psycho-analytical distinction between foreclosure and repression can offer a useful lens to further analyse the relationship between Euro-American and indigenous law within the context of the Nagoya Protocol.

Ulrich Brand and Alice B.M. Vadrot

Epistemic Selectivities and the Valorisation of Nature: The Cases of the Nagoya Protocol and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

This article addresses the intertwined and contentious relationship between knowledge production and policy-making inside the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). We develop the argument that international biodiversity politics is constituted by epistemic selectivities, in which a set of favoured concepts establishes its own institutionalisation by defining “what needs to be governed”. Against this background the article aims to analyse the relationship between the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing and the process towards the creation of the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), on the one hand, and the increased popularity of the concept of ecosystem services, on the other. We argue that both cases illustrate the “pay to conserve logic”, prearranging the terrain of international biodiversity politics and related knowledge production and its influence on political processes. We introduce the concept of epistemic selectivities, in order to understand how this logic materialises in political institutions and to analyse the relationship between hegemonic forms of societal and scientific knowledge and that of policy knowledge. Our argument needs to be understood against the background of the wider context beyond global environmental policy by considering the political economy of biodiversity politics. This article is theoretically informed by the strategic-relational approach and focuses on the relationship between truth and power as well as on the role of the internationalised state of which the CBD is part.

John Bernhard Kleba

Fair Biodiversity Politics With and Beyond Rawls

The access and benefit-sharing regime (ABS) of the Convention on Biological Diversity has been criticised for focusing on entitlements and asset exchanges. In this regard, the Nagoya Protocol provides little advance. This work introduces new paths of research and reasoning debating the tensions between the Rawlsian concept of justice and the realm of ABS. A new original position to debate fair biodiversity politics would include the concepts of justice of non-Western cultures. Taking the case of indigenous and traditional peoples, the issue of cultural minority rights is raised, challenging the institutionalisation of legal pluralism and political recognition. Against Bell, and with and beyond Rawls, arguments are provided favouring an environmental constitutionalism. The least advantaged concept shifts from an economical focus towards realising citizenship and applied to the ABS regime. Concerning the destination of benefits in ABS agreements, I advocate a complement between entitlements and the systemic aims of the Convention, prioritising the latter. Finally, controversies about the equity of benefit sharing are examined. Whereas the difference principle is helpful in tackling the economical and political asymmetries in ABS negotiations, it leaves core questions open. The Nagoya Protocol has advanced in providing legal tools to realise citizenship. However, political justice demands more. Concerns to benefit the least advantaged should be included in policy, bioprospecting project design and ABS contracts.

Bram De Jonge

Towards a Fair and Equitable ABS Regime: Is Nagoya Leading us in the Right Direction?

A historical overview of the concept of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) suggests that ABS is all about compensation, i.e. a benefit sharing mechanism that provides one with compensation for allowing access to one’s resources. The principles of entitlement (based on sovereign rights) and desert (based on contributions) may then guide a fair and equitable sharing of the resources in question. Yet, the principles of need and equity appear equally important, as it is exactly because of the inequalities and neediness in the world that the demand for benefit sharing as a compensation mechanism has evolved. Unfortunately, we have to conclude that, for several reasons, the current bilateral exchange model of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) can never be fair and equitable. While the Multilateral System of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR) bypasses some of the main problems that frustrate fair and equitable benefit sharing under the CBD, it is currently being criticised for its weak benefit-sharing component. This article therefore proposes an alternative ABS regime based on the utilisation of resources instead of their exchange. One of the main advantages of such a model – apart from the fact that it does not depend on controlling the movement of plant genetic resources – is that it emphasises the responsibilities for benefit sharing on the user side. This article analyses whether the Nagoya Protocol is leading us in the right direction and, with the aforementioned principles of justice in mind, makes recommendations on how to realise a fair and equitable ABS regime.


The Nagoya Protocol – Justice in the Making?

by Doris Schroeder

Ratification of the Nagoya Protocol seems to be a long drawn out process for many parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, delaying the Protocol’s entering into force. This short paper suggests that four innovative elements of the Protocol may require time-consuming consideration prior to implementation: the Global Multilateral Benefit-Sharing Mechanism and the encouragement of Transboundary Co-operation; the reference to human pathogens, the reference to food security and affordable access to treatments and finally the demand to accommodate customary laws of indigenous peoples. At the same time, these four elements are essential to achieving global justice in access and benefit sharing regulations and therefore highly welcome.

Transboundary Resources, Consent and Customary Law

by Graham Dutfield

This brief commentary focuses on the unresolved access and benefit sharing (ABS) challenges of transboundary resources and situations where getting prior informed consent is not possible. In the absence of the global mechanism envisaged by the Nagoya Protocol, satisfactory ABS deals can still be struck but these are unlikely to be either common or effective in generating substantial benefits for the indigenous peoples. The commentary closes by underlining the moral imperative of ensuring that traditional knowledge and genetic resource users comply with the laws and customary practices established by indigenous groups rather than simply impose their own norms. However, there are many legal and conceptual obstacles to be overcome first.

Volume 9/1

Marie Cuq

Analysis of the Legal Frameworks for Marine Protected Areas in West African Countries

By analysing the national rights relating to protected areas of seven West African countries (Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone) in a cross-cutting manner, this study seeks to introduce factual knowledge and an understanding of these national rights, both at a normative and institutional level, as well as to question their content, implementation and adaptability in relation to environmental, social and economic issues in the West African sub-region.

Sushmita Purohit and Till Markus

India’s Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011-Tipping the Scales Towards Environmental Sustainability?

India’s coastline and its nearshore marine environment are increasingly being pressurised by multiple uses and exploitation interests. Economic, planning and environmental laws need to respond to this development and provide a clear vision of the direction in which India’s coasts should develop. Any new or modified laws particularly need to provide answers on how to balance ecological, economic, and social interests. Among all of India’s laws which govern activities in its coastal and marine areas, the ‘Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2011’ was specifically chosen to target this particular challenge. First adopted in 1991, it has been amended 25 times, with the latest amendment in early 2011. Though different positive developments can be identified within the development of the CRZ Notification, it is argued here that there is plenty of room for substantial improvement of the law. This article will provide a critical assessment of the current version of the CRZ Notification and develop some ideas and concepts that might increase its effectiveness in maintaining ecological, economic, and social stability and prosperity. Both the recent reform of the CRZ Notification and the fact that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has recently given its approval to begin work on replacing the CRZ Notification with an Act of Parliament provide a good opportunity to reignite the debate about the future of India’s coastal areas.

Tumai Murombo

Regulating Mining in South Africa and Zimbabwe: Communities, the Environment and Perpetual Exploitation

Mining as an extractive activity has the potential to promote sustainable economic growth in developing countries; however this largely depends on how the activities are regulated. Mining contributes to environmental pollution and degradation, and the social degeneration of local communities. Corporate social responsibility initiatives are often self-serving short-term programs that in the long term do not benefit mining communities. In this article, the mining, environment and community trilemma is investigated through the lens of what is happening in South Africa and Zimbabwe. It is argued that continued calls for nationalisation and indigenisation are the sequel of the failure of postcolonial mineral law and policy reforms. Regulatory continuity from colonial laws has seen mining companies continue to treat mineral rich developing countries as sources of raw materials. Little is done to develop the communities impacted by mining activities. Recommendations are made on how mining can support sustainable development without creating a cycle of poverty within mining communities. This can happen through effective regulation embedded within sustainable development, transparency and accountability and equitable access to mineral wealth.

Xiangbai He

Integrating Climate Change Factors within China’s Environmental Impact Assessment Legislation: New Challenges and Developments

Climate change and its undeniable impacts must be considered while applying the existing development tools. As a preventative instrument to identify, assess and mitigate the adverse environmental effects of proposed and current undertakings, the incorporation of the impacts of climate change into Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been recommended. This article finds that EIA can be more beneficial with a “climate change – plan/project – environment” interaction, where the climate change impacts on a proposed plan/project and the environment are also assessed. In that case, the integration of climate change issues within EIA can improve the resilience of the proposed plan/project. Although difficulties of integrating climate change within EIA are apparent (such as scientific uncertainty, the difficulty of separating climate variability and the interaction between climate change and economic activities), various approaches have been developed to overcome these challenges. Canada’s experience will be used as an example to illustrate how EIA in China can integrate climate change factors. However, given the ineffectiveness of China’s current EIA legislation, significant improvements are imperative to provide climate-friendly and climate-proofing solutions. This article also reveals that integration of climate change does not change the essential steps of EIA, but will inevitably influence some minor steps by accounting for climate change factors.

Michael Halewood et. al.

Implementing ‘Mutually Supportive’ Access and Benefit Sharing Mechanisms Under the Plant Treaty, Convention on Biological Diversity, and Nagoya Protocol

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) commit their member states to implement very different access and benefit-sharing systems: one system, under the ITPGRFA, is designed to encourage international pooling and sharing of genetic diversity; the other system, under the CBD, is designed to maximise each country’s sovereign control over their genetic resources. Progress in domestic implementation of both systems has been relatively slow. One factor contributing to delays is that policy makers in many countries are uncertain about how to address the interface between these two access and benefit-sharing systems. Based on research and policy development experiences in several countries, the authors first identify the issues national policy-makers need to address, and the steps they need to follow, to implement the multilateral system of access and benefit sharing under the ITPGRFA. Second, the authors analyse the points of intersection, at the national level, between the ITPGRFA’s multilateral system and access and benefit-sharing, and mechanisms developed (or being developed) pursuant to the Convention on Biological Diversity and its recently adopted Nagoya Protocol. Third, the authors analyse factors that are contributing to the lack of coordination, in many countries, between the national public environment and agriculture agencies that have mandates to lead national implementation of these international agreements.

Mise en œuvre de façon "synergique" des mécanismes d'accès et de partage des avantages dans le cadre du Traité sur les ressources phytogénétiques, de la Convention sur la diversité biologique et du Protocole de Nagoya

Le Traité international sur les ressources phytogénétiques pour l’alimentation et l’agriculture (TIRPAA) et la Convention sur la diversité biologique (CDB) engagent leurs Etats-membres à mettre en œuvre des systèmes d’accès et de partage des avantages très différents : d’un côté, le système établi en vertu du TIRPAA vise à renforcer la mise en commun et le partage au niveau international de la diversité génétique ; de l’autre côté, le système de la CDB a pour objectif de maximiser le contrôle souverain de chaque pays sur ses ressources génétiques. La mise en œuvre nationale de ces deux systèmes s’est révélée relativement lente. Ce retard est notamment dû au fait que dans de nombreux pays les décideurs nationaux ne savent pas vraiment comment gérer l’interface entre ces deux systèmes d’accès et de partage des avantages. Sur la base des recherches et des expériences en matière d’élaboration des politiques conduites dans plusieurs pays, les auteurs identifient en premier lieu les questions que les décideurs politiques nationaux doivent aborder et les étapes qu’ils doivent suivre pour la mise en œuvre du Système multilatéral d’accès et de partage des avantages du TIRPAA. En second lieu, les auteurs analysent les points d’intersection, au niveau national, entre le Système multilatéral d’accès et de partage des avantages du TIRPAA et les mécanismes mis en place (ou qui sont actuellement élaborés) en application de la CDB et de son Protocole de Nagoya, récemment adopté. En troisième lieu, les auteurs analysent les facteurs qui contribuent dans de nombreux pays à un manque de coordination entre les institutions publiques nationales chargées de l’environnement et celles chargées de l’agriculture qui ont pour mandat de diriger la mise en œuvre nationale de ces accords internationaux.

Aplicación de mecanismos de acceso y distribución de beneficios que se “refuercen mutuamente” en el marco del Tratado Internacional sobre los Recursos Fitogenéticos, el Convenio sobre la Diversidad Biológica y el Protocolo de Nagoya

Las Partes Contratantes han asumido, en virtud del Tratado Internacional sobre los Recursos Fitogenéticos para la Alimentación y la Agricultura (TIRFAA) y del Convenio sobre la Diversidad Biológica (CDB), el compromiso de establecer sistemas de acceso y distribución de beneficios muy diferentes: en el marco del TIRFAA, el sistema se ha concebido para reunir recursos genéticos en un fondo internacional común y compartir la diversidad genética; en el marco del CDB, el sistema se ha diseñado para que los distintos Estados ejerzan su derecho soberano a controlar debidamente el acceso a los recursos genéticos bajo su jurisdicción. Los progresos respecto a la aplicación a nivel nacional de ambos sistemas han sido relativamente lentos. Ello se debe, entre otros factores, a que los responsables de la adopción de políticas en muchos países no saben a ciencia cierta cómo abordar la interfaz entre estos dos sistemas de acceso y distribución de beneficios. A la luz de la investigación y la experiencia adquirida en materia de formulación de políticas en varios países, se determinan en primer lugar los problemas que los responsables de la formulación de políticas nacionales deberían abordar y las medidas que deberían adoptar a efectos del establecimiento en el plano nacional del sistema multilateral de acceso y distribución de beneficios en virtud del TIRFAA. A continuación, se analizan los puntos de intersección, en el plano nacional, entre el sistema multilateral de acceso y distribución de beneficios del TIRFAA y los mecanismos establecidos (o que se vienen estableciendo) con arreglo al CDB y el Protocolo de Nagoya del Convenio adoptado recientemente. Por último, se analizan los factores que contribuyen en muchos países a la falta de coordinación entre los organismos públicos de medio ambiente y de agricultura que tienen el mandato de velar por la aplicación a nivel nacional de estos acuerdos internacionales.