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MEA Bulletin - Guest Article No. 107 - Thursday, 13 January 2011
Ethics, Justice and the Convention on Biological Diversity
By Balakrishna Pisupati and Doris Schroeder1
The International Year of Biodiversity (2010) ended on a very positive note for the global conservation community. History was heralded at the tenth meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10) in Nagoya, Japan. The meeting made several landmark decisions on issues of conservation, sustainable use and fair and equitable sharing of benefits from genetic resources. Of these decisions, the adoption of the Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing (termed the ‘Nagoya Protocol on ABS’) stands out as one of the most important achievements of the Convention.

With close to sixteen years of negotiations on the issue of ABS, time has come for the contracting Parties to the CBD (193 countries as of January 2011) to implement ABS provisions in earnest. Simplistically put, the ABS Protocol represents the ‘win-win’ interests of both the developed and developing countries. The ‘Grand Bargain’ aims for a fair sharing equilibrium between the users and the providers of genetic resources. The CBD is an instrument of collaboration between Parties that aspires to achieve justice between generations as well as justice between nations: justice between generations through the conservation of biodiversity and justice between nations through the sharing of benefits between the providers and the users of genetic resources.

Nowhere are ethics and considerations of justice more powerful than at the global level, providing the foundation for forward-looking, widely supported, international legal frameworks aimed at improving livelihoods and contributing to sustainable development. Conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is an urgent requirement for attaining intergenerational justice that demands sustained, engaged international collaboration.

With the Nagoya Protocol on ABS opening for signature in New York at the United Nations on the 2nd of February 2011, one needs to reflect on how countries can better understand and interpret the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol to ensure national self-interests balance with requirements of global justice. UNEP in collaboration with the University of Central Lancashire produced a report addressing the issues of ethics, justice and equity within the CBD in time for COP 10 to help focus on issues of ethics and equity in the final text of the Protocol. The report can be accessed at:  http://unep.org/dec/PDF/publicationEthicsJusticeandCBD.pdf

“The report will make an excellent contribution towards enhancing our understanding of justice and the CBD. This issue is coming up repeatedly in discussions and it will be great to have a resource one can use for guidance.”
Dr. Rachel Wynberg, Deputy Director Environmental Evaluation Unit, University of Cape Town

 “This is a new perspective for many CBD hands and I can't wait to hear their reactions. An excellent piece! I hope all those who read the report will react and hopefully think further.”
Tim Hodges, Co-Chair, UN CBD Working Group on Access and Benefit Sharing
1Dr. Balakrishna Pisupati – UNEP-DELC - balakrishna.pisupati@unep.org
Prof. Doris Schroeder – University of Central Lancashire - DSchroeder@uclan.ac.uk
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