Hindu Kush-Himalayan Countries agree to collaborate on Access and Benefit Sharing of Biological Resources and Traditional Knowledge

18 May 2010



Government representatives from Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan agreed to collaborate on developing regional approaches to ‘access and benefit sharing of biological resources and associated traditional knowledge (ABS)’ at a side event at the 14th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA14) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at Nairobi, Kenya on 17th May. The event was organised by ICIMOD in partnership with the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) countries to discuss the status of implementation of CBD in the region and development of a framework for access and benefit sharing in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region. SBSTTA14 is the scientific preparatory meeting for the 10th Conference of Parties meeting (COP 10) of the CBD which will take place in Nagoya, Japan in October. Various issues related to biodiversity, the CBD Programme of Work on Mountain Biodiversity (PoW-MB), and the framework were presented by ICIMOD researchers Eklabya Sharma, Bharat Desai, and Krishna Prasad Oli, and the panellists, government representatives of five HKH countries, provided observations and comments as a part of the Panel Discussion. The discussion was enriched by contributions from some of ICIMOD’s strategic partners such as UNEP, WWF, and IUCN-WCPA.

The side event was planned to raise awareness within the regional and international community of the extent to which the CBD is being implemented in the region and how governments are confronting the challenges, as well as to share a draft framework for collaboration on ABS and to solicit suggestions for a regional initiative on research and cooperation. Participants discussed the target of the CBD Programme of Work on Mountain Biodiversity (PoW-MB), whose overall purpose is significant reduction of mountain biodiversity loss by 2010, with the aim of  making a significant contribution to poverty alleviation in mountain ecosystems and lowlands dependent on the goods and services they provide. The Programme of Work has five specific actions including mitigating threats to mountain biodiversity, promoting sustainable use and acces to and sharing of benefits, and maintaining genetic diversity, in particular through the preservation and maintenance of traditional knowledge and practices. The Kailash Sacred Landscape Initiative was referred to as a good example of piloting of CBD objectives for addressing ground realities, with effective conservation and active participation of the communities.

The genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge systems in the region have a great potential for reducing poverty among mountain communities, but development of the sector has not supported adequate sharing of benefits with the communities and countries of origin; in many cases resources and knowledge have even been appropriated without these communities and countries knowing. The Hindu Kush-Himalayan countries share a mountain area and have many resources in common, but flow of information among these countries on their genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, and planned bio-prospecting activities within each country, is still limited. All countries face the same problem of difficulties in surveillance of access to genetic resources as a result of the hilly and mountainous terrain. The draft ‘Regional Framework on Access and Benefit Sharing from Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge for the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Countries’ attempts to address these needs through institutional mechanisms, access and benefit sharing mechanisms, and showing how common genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge can be shared among the indigenous local communities and the governments of the countries of the region. This draft was appreciated as a pioneering step and now needs to be refined and improved and all HKH countries involved in developing the principles before COP 10.

The regional government representatives emphasised different aspects. Dr Ha:gen Xu from China and Dr LMS Palni from India emphasised the need for capacity building of stakeholders on ABS and suggested that good practices and policies in the region should be documented by ICIMOD in preparation for COP 10. Dr KC Poudel from Nepal added that capacity building is key, but that it is equally important for the countries to develop institutional processes on ABS. Mr Karma C Nyedup focused on the complexity of the ABS mechanism issue, which as Dr Xu reminded the audience is made more challenging by the diversity of social systems in the region. Dr Shahzad Jehangir from Pakistan noted that there was a special focus on mountain biodiversity in his country, with ABS law a priority. ICIMOD’s draft ‘ABS Regional Framework in the HKH Region’ should be given special attention in the next few months.

The panel discussion and presentations helped to identify some of the key challenges in implementing the CBD. Poor, marginalised, indigenous and local mountain communities are highly dependent on biological resources, equally many biological resources and associated traditional knowledge systems in the mountains have a great potential for reducing poverty. Efforts need to be focused on harnessing this potential towards better livelihoods of mountain communities. The analysis of CBD implementation will use the inputs from the side event to help identify the key challenges and make recommendations that can be of value to the CBD contracting parties in the HKH countries. Such an analysis is needed to feed into the emerging policies of the contracting parties and to empower mountain communities to adapt to the new challenges.

For further information contact
Ms Nira Gurung
Communications Officer
email: info@icimod.org, ngurung@icimod.org

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