CONGRESSES, MEETINGS AND WORKSHOP PROCEEDINGS
February 26-28 2007
Governments and organizations involved in implementing or funding biosafety capacity-building activities held their third coordination meeting in Lusaka, Zambia from 26 to 28 February 2007. The meeting was attended by a total of 43 participants from 27 governments and 14 organizations. The meeting was hosted by the Government of Zambia, through the National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research (NISIR). The Government of Germany provided financial support for participants from developing countries and countries with economies in transition
The meeting was officially opened by the Honorable Brig. Gen. Dr. Brian Chituwo, the Minister of Science, Technology and Vocational Training (MSTVT). In his remarks, Hon. Chituwo emphasized the importance of capacity-building in biosafety, including biotechnology to the extent that it is required for biosafety. He observed that if the issue of capacity-building is not adequately addressed, the effort that went into negotiating the Protocol will have been in vain. He also highlighted the importance of collaboration between Parties in building capacities for biosafety. In this regard, he commended the fruitful collaboration between the Governments of Norway and Zambia through which a National Biotechnology Laboratory was established. Hon. Chituwo informed participants that the third Coordination Meeting was timely, taking place shortly after the African Union summit that adopted the African Strategy on Biotechnology, whose implementation will require addressing biosafety issues.
Opening remarks were also made by Dr. Henry Mwenda, the Chairperson of the NISIR Board of Directors, Mr. Charles Gbedemah, the representative of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and Ms. Eva Axthelm, the representative of the German Government. Mr. Gbedemah highlighted the progress made in developing tools and mechanisms for the implementation of the Protocol and welcomed the efforts made by different governments and organizations in building the necessary capacities. He emphasized the importance of ensuring coordination and cooperation among the different stakeholders at the country, sub-regional, regional and global levels and noted the role played by the coordination meetings in this regard. Ms. Eva Axthelm highlighted the role played by the German Government prior to and since the adoption of the Protocol and pledged German’s continued support for its effective implementation. She reported that the German Government, through the initiative entitled Capacity-Building for the Implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, launched in 2000, has supported a number of bilateral biosafety projects and the regional Africa-wide Biosafety Capacity-Building Project implemented by the African Union (AU) Commission. Ms. Axthelm emphasized the need for countries to put in place functioning biosafety frameworks and to build sufficient human resource capacities to implement the Protocol. In this regard, she noted that the Global Environment Facility (GEF)’s continued support to countries within the framework of the new GEF Biosafety Strategy is essential. The participants elected Mr. Hartmut Meyer (Germany) to serve as Chairperson of the meeting and Ms. Regla Maria Diaz Jimenez (Cuba) to serve as Rapporteur.
The following principal substantive issues were discussed by the meeting:
Participants also reviewed the progress made in implementing the conclusions and recommendations of the second coordination meeting, held 18-20 January 2006 in Tromso, Norway.
Furthermore, participants made short presentations on the latest developments under their ongoing capacity-building projects and initiatives. Fifteen written briefs submitted prior to the meeting were compiled and made available to all participants in an information document (UNEP/CBD/BS/CM-CB/3/INF/1). Four detailed case‑study presentations (discussed below) were also made and copies posted on the Secretariat’s website at: http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meeting.aspx?mtg=BSCMCB-03.
Drawing on their experiences and the Secretariat’s synthesis report (UNEP/CBD/BS/COP-MOP/2/INF/7), participants discussed and identified the critical capacity-building needs for many countries. A priority-setting exercise was undertaken to identify issues for discussion at the next coordination meeting with a view to finding possible solutions.
Under the agenda item on regional and sub-regional approaches to capacity-building in biosafety, the following detailed case-study presentations were made:
Following the presentations, three working groups were established to discuss the following issues:
The meeting discussed and adopted draft “Guidance for Promoting Regional and Sub regional Approaches to Capacity-Building in Biosafety”. Participants agreed to forward the draft guidance to the Conference of the Parties to the Convention serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Biosafety Protocol for consideration at its fourth meeting, which will be held in Bonn in May 2008.
Under the agenda item on options for building national capacities for implementation of the LMO identification and documentation requirements under Article 18, paragraph 2, of the Protocol), the meeting heard a detailed case‑study presentation by Dr. Chris Viljoen from the GMO Testing Facility at the University of the Free State. The presentation highlighted the experiences and lessons learned from the documentation and identification of LMOs in South Africa.
Under other matters, participants exchanged views on possible agenda items for the next coordination meeting, as well as the tentative venue and date. A participant from the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests expressed his country’s interest in hosting the next meeting. He promised to consult the relevant national authorities and inform the Secretariat in due course of the final decision including, if agreed, the date and venue. The Steering Committee was mandated to develop the agenda for the next meeting.
In accordance with the operational procedures and guidelines for the coordination meetings adopted at the first Coordination Meeting, participants elected the following persons to serve on the new Steering Committee for the next two years:
Participants highlighted the need to expand the coordination function and mandate of the coordination meetings beyond the sharing/ exchange of information. It was agreed that the meetings should play a bigger role in fostering coordination among different players, for example, by facilitating interactions and inter-linkages between the donor agencies and the organizations implementing biosafety capacity-building activities. Some participants also recommended that the meetings should discuss ways of fostering linkages between biosafety and the broader development issues, plans and programmes, such as poverty alleviation
A. Regional and sub-regional approaches to capacity-building in biosafety
The main conclusions and recommendations of the meeting regarding regional and sub-regional approaches to capacity-building in biosafety include the following:
1. Criteria for identifying issues that could be addressed through
regional and sub-regional cooperation.
It was further recommended that the issues selected should:
Some of the issues that could best be addressed at the regional or sub-regional levels, or for which regional and sub-regional cooperation would be useful, include the following:
It was noted that a number of provisions in the Protocol require or encourage countries to cooperate on many of the above issues.
2. Institutional mechanisms for facilitating regional and sub-regional cooperation on biosafety.
The following criteria should be considered in the selection of a body or bodies to facilitate regional and sub-regional cooperation on capacity-building in biosafety. The body or bodies should:
The above criteria should be applied in a flexible manner, taking into account the needs and circumstances of different participating countries, subregions and regions.
3. Mechanisms and measures (ways and means) for promoting regional and sub-regional cooperation on biosafety.
Countries may wish to consider putting in place the following institutional arrangements to facilitate regional and sub-regional cooperation in biosafety:
Some of the implementation mechanisms and processes that could facilitate regional and sub-regional cooperation in biosafety include the following:
Information exchange is a prerequisite for any regional and sub-regional cooperation effort. As such, it is important to put in place mechanisms to facilitate the sharing of information on capacity-building initiatives in any given region. Partly because its focus is limited to the Biosafety Protocol, the Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH) may not be sufficient to address the unique circumstances of different regions/ sub-regions. Accordingly, countries should consider developing regional and sub-regional biosafety websites and databases.
Regional and sub-regional mechanisms should not rely on external funding. They should, as far as possible, be funded from reliable local funding sources in order to ensure their sustainability.
B. Practical experiences in, and capacity-building needs for, the implementation of the LMO identification and documentation requirements under Article 18, paragraph 2, of the Protocol
During discussions under agenda item 4.3, participants observed that the issue of LMO documentation and identification has not yet been comprehensively addressed at the national level. It was noted that only a few countries had addressed this issue during the process of developing their national biosafety frameworks. This was partly because COP-MOP had not by then adopted a decision on LMO identification and documentation requirements. It was reported that some countries intend to address this issue through specific regulations for implementing their biosafety legislation.
It was further observed that many relevant stakeholders (including exporters, transporters, port authorities, customs officials and others) have not been sensitized and trained in the LMO identification and documentation requirements under Article 18.2 of the Protocol.
In view of the above situation, participants concluded that it was not possible at this stage to comprehensively identify capacity-building needs and gaps in the implementation of the LMO documentation and identification requirements. In this regard, the following recommendations were made:
C. Capacity-building needs and priorities for the implementation of the Protocol
Participants identified the following, in order of priority, as the most critical capacity-building needs for many countries:
It was agreed that the following four issues should be addressed at the next two coordination meetings:
The Steering Committee was mandated to decide which of the above four issues should be addressed at the next meeting. Participants were requested to send the Secretariat suggestions of possible case-studies on topics to be agreed upon by the Steering Committee for presentation at the next meeting. The Secretariat was also requested to explore the possibility of commissioning a few case-studies on the selected topics.
Further information about this meeting including Annex I: Draft guidance for promoting regional and sub-regional initiatives and approaches to capacity-building in biosafety and Annex II List of participants, is available on the website at: http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meeting.aspx?mtg=BSCMCB-03
Dr. Hartmut Meyer
Dr. Erie Tamale
Dr. Lionel Gil