Informal Consultative Group (ICG) on ABS
30 October 2010
Nagoya Biodiversity Summit Succeeds in Approving a Strategic Plan for Conservation
and a new ABS Protocol, though Long Term Financing Support is in Doubt
By Atty. Elpidio Peria
The European Union (EU) tried to hold the adoption of the ABS Protocol hostage in the closing plenary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) here in Nagoya, Japan as it moved to propose that the ABS Protocol, the Strategic Plan for 2011-2020 as well as the draft decisions on the the Financial Mechanism for the Convention be approved together as a package even if the document on Innovative Financial Mechanism has several paragraphs with brackets in it, which means it has no consensus, but this was opposed by Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia and Kenya and the COP President had no choice but to go through the process of adopting each document one by one, eventually leading to the non-adoption of the document on Financial Mechanism, which contained the innocuously-named Green Development Mechanism as one innovative financial mechanism to raise additional funds for the conservation work of the Convention.
The COP 10 President, Japan's Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto, had to struggle with several problems in the President's table, from bad translation to ill-timed or sometimes too-energetic banging of the gavel and even the hasty calling for adoption of documents which still have some brackets in it, but on this suggestion by the EU for a one comprehensive adoption of three separate decisions, itself an act of questionable procedure, the COP10 President took the side of the countries who called for going through each of the key remaining decisions item by item.
There was a near-comic moment when the COP 10 President inadvertently asked if the document before the Plenary, which is the draft decision adopting the ABS Protocol, is ready for adoption and he was about to bang his gavel and his aides stopped him from doing so and shouting “ahhh aahhh ahhh” and he appeared to have suffered from serious anxiety as shown by the anguish on his face, but he apparently recovered fast, as he was then smiling afterwards.
Proper procedure would have required that he asked first if anyone on the floor have any objections to the document before it, and it should be only then can he call for the adoption of the said document.
But approve he did, and finally, after having been given up for dead the other night, the ABS Protocol was finally approved, at around 12:25am, based on the digital clock on the wall of the Event Hall of the Nagoya Congress Center where the final plenary session of COP 10 was held.
It nearly did not happen.
The other night, when the ICG Co-Chairs closed the session of the ICG with the assertion that the differences of the Parties on the negotiating table are so fundamental there is not enough time allotted to the ICG for Parties to come to an agreement, Japan made an announcement that on the last day of COP, on 29 October, at 840am, several delegations are to be summoned to be shown a copy of a proposed clean text of a draft ABS Protocol.
That is what exactly happened in the morning of 29 October, and this limited-circulation document was given to Like-Minded Megadiverse Group and Like-Minded Asia-Pacific group of countries and they then repaired to their designated meeting room in the Nagoya Congress Center to discern their position on the document.
The group discussed its concerns and at around 1030am, another document appeared, which contained a correction of the earlier-released document.
Later came an announcement that the COP 10 President would be meeting the group at around 2pm.
The group sent its representatives to the office of the COP10 President, led by Brazil, and followed by Malaysia, Iran, Cook Islands, Colombia, Peru and South Africca.
The group in their discussions had three essential issues to try to bring into the document, after which they could then consider the document balanced.
These issues are : one, the definition of “utilization” and “derivative”; two, the scope of the Convention which, as it appears in article 3 of the draft, is limited only to “genetic resources” which excludes consideration of traditional knowledge; and three, the deletion of some wordings in the article on compliance in order to include the notion of mandatory disclosure requirements and checkpoints.
What actually transpired in the meeting with the COP President came mainly from accounts gathered from Iran, Malaysia, Colombia and Cook Islands, but they are unanimous in saying that it was a difficult discussion, three times they asked the COP 10 President to allow some small changes in the document to make it balanced and they were refused, and they got some agreement on the change in the word “genetic material” such that it will now be “genetic resources”, and they were at the point of arguing and insisting on the further changes needed on the document when the African Ministers got ushered in the room and they were asked by the COP 10 President if the document is agreeable to them which was answered in the affirmative and after that the COP 10 President no longer entertained any changes.
Thus, from the document presented to the Parties concerned, only one change was made, that one on the definition on “utilization”, which should now include research and development on the genetic and/or biochemical composition of “genetic resources”, instead of the earlier-proposed “genetic material”.
With this change, the Protocol would now cover within its rules a broader set of activities relating to genetic resources which will be subject to its provisions on fair and equitable benefit-sharing, access and compliance.
During its adoption, several countries spoke of their non-acceptance or unhappiness of the document, but they did not stand in the way of its eventual adoption.
These countries were Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.
Namibia spoke but mainly to endorse the document, including Ukraine.
Argentina, the incoming G77 Chair, was more concerned with its procedural amendments on the draft decision.
What happens now is that the Convention has a more modest set of targets, but without a clear set of targets or indicators for resource mobilization strategy, since a process was approved to confirm these targets at a later time.
The draft decision on innovative financial mechanism which contained the green development mechanism was set aside; instead, what was adopted was a proposal by Bolivia from the floor calling for a proccss to explore further these innovative financial mechanisms at a later date.
Most of the delegates left the plenary hall at way past 2pm, even though some regions were still making their obligatory closing statements, but at the back of the plenary hall, the hardened ABS negotiators who for the past sixteen days since October 13 were arguing with each other, were seen shaking hands and hugging, and chatting, and this time most of them were all smiling.
Earlier in the plenary, there was an adjournment at around past 6pm, to allow the delegations to attend the closing reception by the Indian Government, the host of the next COP meeting in a still unspecified city in India, sometime in October 2012.
Interestingly, the dancing Bollywood dancers were Japanese women, who mimicked the movements of Indian dancers, to the same effect and delight of the delegates.
Gurdial Singh Nijar of Malaysia, wearing a flowing black robe, in the style of an Indian raja, was seen by most delegates dancing along with some members of the Secretariat and those delegates whom he can entice to join him, which many did.
Delegates that night were largely happy, mainly perhaps at the prospect that they will be returning home, most of them were here in Nagoya for already three-weeks, as most of them also attended the COP-MOP of the Cartagena Protocol, and they will just reckon later with the consequences of their actions some other time, but not in that particular night.