The ABS Project

“ABS” - otherwise known as “Access and Benefit-sharing” is a concept arising out of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in which “equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources” is one of the three primary objectives, as well as the basis for 5 primary obligations of the parties. Despite notable progress in the last few years, international and national efforts to advance the Access and Benefit-sharing agenda remain unsatisfactory. It is clear that the failure to address, or in some cases even consider, certain critical legal issues has been at the heart of the continuing inadequacy of ABS implementation.

The IUCN Environmental Law Programme (ELP) has been integrally involved in work on ABS for many years, beginning in the earliest negotiations of the Convention. Following the CBD’s entry into force, notable publications like the Guide to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Guide to Developing Legal Regimes for Access and Benefit-sharing, provided a sound basis for initial examination of this issue. However, in the 11th year of the Convention, it is important to take the additional steps to ensure that this critical objective is realized.

In 2003, the ELP began two initiatives that will contribute to this effort.

• The IUCN Environmental Law Centre (ELC), in conjunction with this Specialist group and with CEL more generally, began work on The ABS Project, in collaboration several other units of IUCN (including PBIA, ROSA, SUR and others), notable ELP partners (including SPDA, INE, INRENA, IISD, IPGRI, and the University of California at Davis), and other organizations. Its object: to assist national governments and international processes in bringing the ABS objective and obligations to fruition.
• The IUCN Commission on Environmental Law (CEL) formed a Biodiversity Specialist Group, under the Chairmanship of Grethel Aguilar (Costa Rica), the CEL Regional Vice-Chair for Meso America.

The ABS Project is able to take on the “ABS challenge”, thanks to generous support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-Operation and Development (BMZ). It will provide legal and technical advice, evidence and support to the process of developing the ABS Regime, at the international, regional, national and sub-national levels.

In its first year, The ABS Project has focused on assisting the further development of the Bonn Guidelines on Access and Benefit-sharing, and helping national delegations to participate more effectively in several all-important decisions regarding creation of an “international regime on ABS”.
In preparation for key meetings in Montréal and Kuala Lumpur, the Project has produced several key information tools (books, documents, workshops, institutional advice, and other collaboration.)

These documents, now posted on this site, are available to delegates at the 7th Conference of the Parties to the CBD, and have been used, in draft in other forums. Now that COP-7 has made its decisions, the ABS project's outputs will be combined and reworked, to produce tools for practical national and regional ABS implementation.

In 2004 and 2005, the ABS Project will focus on direct assistance to countries and regional groups in applying this knowledge, and on working with other outstanding international issues, including especially intellectual property rights.


Latest News

05 August 2004

IUCN-ELC's "ABS Project" has sponsored and co-presented a regional workshop on "Legal Issues of Access and Benefit-sharing in Central Asia and Mongolia", through a collaboration with the IUCN Office for Central Asia and UN University. Over 25 participants from Mongolia and all 6 central Asian republics met in Almaty, Kazakhstan for 3 days of intense, high-level discussion of the practical issues surrounding the creation of genetic resources frameworks within these countries. During the discussion the workshop's emphasis began to focus on the possible need for a more comprehensive framework addressing the broader range of genetic resource issues, including biosafety, agriculture and farmers rights, as well as ABS - an approach that might create new pathways and solutions of ABS and other genetic resource implementation problems. This potentially ground-breaking approach is one result of the first year of work under the ABS Project, and is the subject of an intensive international research project. The ABS Project is supported by the German Ministry for Development Co-operation (BMZ).

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For more information on the ABS Project click here.
UNU-IAS Access and Benefit-Sharing Programme

16 February 2004

More than 2500 delegates from over 150 countries began deliberations under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) last week, to address several of key themes ranging from mountains to oceans, and from tourism to target-setting. In the middle of these discussions one of the two "priority issues" in the meeting is "technology transfer." Since the mid-1980s, the need for transfer of technology for environmental protection, conservation and sustainable use has been formally recognized in the United Nations, but the current work in the CBD Conference of the Parties (COP) is the first time the issue has been addressed as an overarching priority. In looking to improve the way that countries provide and receive various kinds of hard and soft technology, the COP is clearing the way for a programme of work that can have far-reaching implications in virtually all issues, biomes, and activity areas in which the CBD operates.

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For more on the CBD click here.


11 February 2004

The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation commits states to negotiate, within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and bearing in mind the Bonn Guidelines, "an international regime to promote and safeguard the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources". The ABS Project aims to provide factual and documented information about efforts taken to date, and the factors that have slowed and stopped progress. Findings made through the Project will be featured at a side event on 'Legal and Practical Issues in the Development, Negotiation and Implementation of an ABS Regime', to be held today during the CBD 7th Conference of the Parties, Kuala Lumpur.

Full story on side event
For more information on the CBD click here.

18 December 2003

Earlier this month the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) began the "next level" of negotiations regarding implementation of the concept of access to genetic resources and equitable sharing of the benefits from their utilisation (also known as ABS.) This current stage responds to the mandate of the last Conference of the Parties to the CBD and the CBD's Strategic Plan and Multi-year Programme of Work, as well as to the WSSD Programme of Implementation. Against this background, the ABS Project (a project of IUCN ELP, in conjunction with many partners, with funding by the German Ministry for Development (BMZ)), undertook a number of key activities, including (1) co-sponsorship with the University of Davis (USA) of a workshop addressing the ABS legislation and legislative needs of the Pacific Rim, (2) co-sponsorship with SPDA, INE and INRENA of a Latin American workshop on the concept of "certificates of origin" (or legal provenance) of genetic resources, and possible interfaces with CITES; and (3) formal participation in the CBD's Ad-hoc Working Group on Access and Benefit-sharing. All three events will ultimately produce major publications on various aspects of ABS.

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5 December 2003

From 1-5 December 2003, the Second Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Access and Benefit Sharing is meeting in Montreal to take forward the mandate adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, which called for the development of an international regime on fair and equitable benefit sharing arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. This mandate is meant to build on the Bonn Guidelines on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising out of their Utilization, adopted by the Sixth meeting of the Conference of Parties of he Convention on Biological Diversity in 2002 in The Hague.

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Background documents are available here.

18 August 2003

IUCN-ELC has embarked on a 3-year project addressing the development and implementation of "access to genetic resources and equitable sharing of the benefits from their use" (usually referred to as "access and benefit-sharing" or "ABS") under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Despite a general lack of clarity regarding the concept, representatives of the 187 countries that are parties to the CBD will sit down to finalise the Convention's "international ABS regime" - a process mandated both by earlier conferences of the CBD parties, as well as by an express statement in the WSSD Plan of Implementation. The IUCN-ELC project focuses on the practical elements of such a regime. In 2004-2005, it will place primary emphasis on technical assistance for implementation of the elements of the regime at the national and regional levels collaborating closely with the secretariats from the CBD and other conventions, and working with and through a number of experts and partner organisations. A web-page (for general information) and web-portal (for collaborating partners and advisors) are being developed and will be posted within the next few months. This project is possible due to the generous and far-sighted support of the German Ministry for International Co-operation (BMZ).

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20 June 2003

Following closely on the success of IUCN's new Guide to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the IUCN Environmental Law Centre is pleased to announce the next "Guide" in the series. Work has already commenced on the Guide to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which will be developed in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, and the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI). The International Treaty constitutes the first and one of the most important concrete steps in the development of the "international regime on access and benefit-sharing" required under the WSSD Plan of Implementation. It offers an easier, single-source approach to access, and an internationally overseen approach to benefit-sharing. Through this combination, it can achieve the goal that many national and regional ABS programmes are struggling for - practical implementability.

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