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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

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Many delicate-looking delegates, weary from yet another late night of meetings, are still busy debating outstanding issues. Many appeared cautiously optimistic, at least more than on Monday. Both Sub-Working Groups, Contact Group-I and several informal consultations took place in the morning sessions. Sub-Working Group-II debated Articles on illegal trade and developed countries fought for discretion over the amount of information that must be provided to the biosafety clearinghouse. They also discussed intentional transboundary movements of LMOs. Sub-Working Group-I debated draft protocol Articles related to human health, risk assessment and timeframes. Contact Group-I continued discussing the definition of "contained use."
TUESDAY RECAP: Despite another day of discussion that lacked conspicuous movement, some delegates voiced an optimistic outlook for a protocol, noting that informal group discussions have clarified awareness of positions and subtle shifts may be afoot. Some questioned the efficacy of splitting up the various issues among so many contact or informal groups, given the linkages among the issues and cautioned against viewing the Friends of the Chair as a panacea for all outstanding disagreements. Others noted that discussion on how or whether to include the precautionary principle, implicating as it does the trade interest, has the potential to create serious rifts within and between the regional groups. Few expect it to feature in the operative portion of the protocol. Delegates met throughout the day until late in the evening both Sub-Working Groups and several contact groups to debate outstanding issues. The Friends of the Chair (FOC) met in the evening and many informal groups were asked to report to the BSWG Chair.

Photos and Real Audio from 17 February

BSWG-6 met in Plenary at 10:00 pm to hear reports from the Co-Chairs of SWG-I, SWG-II, CG-I and CG-II and provisionally adopt several articles. All pending issues were transferred to the Friends of the Chair. Chair Koester promised to produce a revised text of the protocol containing compromise solutions by 10:00 am, Thursday.

Delegates enjoy the generous hospitality of their Colombian hosts, particularly the coffee!

Interview with Dr. Klaus Toepfer

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, spoke with ENB writers in this exclusive interview during which he commented on:

  • His general impressions on the biosafety negotiations so far
  • Relations between trade issues and international environmental issues
  • The centrality of the precautionary principle to the negotiations in Cartagena
  • If the precautionary principle conflicts with WTO rules on exemptions and constitutes a trade barrier
  • Future UNEP involvement in biosafety-related issues

Waiting for Toepfer: ENB writers (from left to right) Stas Burgiel, Chad Carpenter, Joanna Depledge and Lavanya Rajamani outside the Executive Director's office


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Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1999. All rights reserved.