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BSWG-6
Sixth Meeting of the Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety
Cartagena, Colombia
14 - 19 February 1999

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Briefing

MID-TUESDAY UPDATE: As of Tuesday afternoon, 16 February, delegates met in morning sessions of Sub-Working Group I (SWG-I) and Sub-Working Group (SWG-II) and continued contact group and informal group discussions.
SWG-I heard contact group reports on risk management and then further debated the issue. They also established a contact group to discuss contained use. SWG-II heard a report from the contact group considering capacity building, which reported no breakthroughs. The contact group considering trade issues reported that the discussion had clarified positions, in that delegates had discussed the practicality of including a ban on trade with non-parties and possible conflicts with WTO agreements.
Contact Group-I (CG-I) continued debating definitions and the Preamble. The Sub-Group of Contact Group-II (CG-II) considering liability and redress discussed a non-paper from the Chair that may serve as the basis for a protocol Article on the issue, with enabling language for future consideration. However there was concern that the language did not go far enough in ensuring future work
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MONDAY RECAP:
On Monday, 15 February, some delegates followed the Colombian Environment Minister's advice to loosen their formal neckties, but most BSWG-6 delegates went a step further and rolled up their sleeves to get down to serious work. As Chair Koester's Wednesday deadline approaches, over nine contact groups, as well as Sub-Working Groups, regional groups and informal groups met, some running late into the evening. Despite this effort, delegates did not report major breakthroughs on any of the longstanding, polarized disagreements. A mixed chorus of voices was heard reiterating their preference for "no protocol rather than a bad protocol." Still others recalled that position shifts in negotiations, especially for legally binding agreements, frequently await the final hour. Some predicted that the Friends of the Chair meeting held in the evening would intensify the impetus for agreement.

Photos and Real Audio from 16 February

On the issue of �contained use,� some delegations stated that LMOs destined for contained use should be subject to the same provisions as other LMOs. Others said that different provisions should apply to these LMOs, specifically, that their transboundary movements should not be covered by AIA procedures. One delegation stated that LMOs for contained use should be excluded from the protocol. Co-Chair Wint (Jamaica) convened an informal group, co-chaired by Australia (shown here here) and Peru, to continue discussions

SWG-II reconvened in the afternoon to discuss Articles 21 (Confidential Information) and 23 (Public Awareness and Participation). On Article 21, delegates differed on the need for its inclusion in the protocol. Co-Chair Khwaja (India, on the right) suggested the possible creation of a small group to deal with the issue.

Press conference

UNEP Executive Director Klaus Topfer, Colombian Environment Minister Mayr and BSWG Chair Veit Koester gave a press briefing Tuesday afternoon.
Dr. Toepfer (on the left) highlighted the precautionary principle, liability, the relationship between trade and environment and socio-economic consequences as key issues to be addressed in the negotiations.
Minister Mayr (right, seen here talking to local reporters) emphasised that the main aim of the protocol was to reduce risks associated with the transboundary movement of LMOs.
Chair Koester (below, far left) commented that, although progress had been slow to date, he was optimistic that a meaningful protocol would be successfully concluded at this meeting.

Dr. Toepfer also appealed to all delegates to contribute to a solidarity fund for Colombia's earthquake victims. He is seen here making the first contribution.


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Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1999. All rights reserved.