The Conference was officially opened by FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, who welcomed delegates to Leipzig. In his opening speech, Jochen Borchert, the German Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Forestry, emphasized that the main task facing the Conference was consensus on the GPA, which would serve as a milestone in the FAO Global System. Rolf Jahnichen, the Minister of Agriculture and Food of the German Free State of Saxony, noted the important role of PGR in maintenance of the world's cultural heritage, and expressed the hope that delegates would agree upon recommendations for future action in this area.
Herr Lehmann-Grube, the Lord Mayor of Leipzig, welcomed all delegates, and noted the symbolic importance of holding the Conference in a city that had undergone major political changes in the last decade. He expressed hope that the "spirit and energy" of Leipzig would inspire delegates to resolve the many difficult issues facing the Conference.
In his keynote address, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf noted that ITCPGR-4 was a unique and historic event, and one that represented a watershed in international efforts to conserve and sustainably use the world's PGR. He underscored the need for scientific and technological breakthroughs, and for political will at the highest level to ensure sustainable agriculture and food security for all in the coming decades.
After the opening speeches, participants unanimously elected Franz-Josef Feiter (Germany) as Chair of the Conference. In his acceptance speech, Feiter called on delegates to demonstrate the common commitment and capacity for compromise that characterized the preparatory process leading up to Leipzig. He then informed delegates of the results of the Bureau elections. Based on unanimous agreement that the Bureau would be drawn from the FAO regions, the following Vice-Chairs were elected by acclamation: Abel Mahmoud Aboul-Naga (Egypt), Thomas Forbord (US), Abdul Jamil Mohd. Ali (Malaysia), Don Fernando Gerbasi (Venezuela), Kristiane Herrmann (Australia) and Djibril Sene (Senegal). R. B. Singh (India) was elected Rapporteur.
Following the elections, Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, the President of the second meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP-2) to the CBD, addressed the Conference. He noted the importance of other conventions to the CBD's three objectives, and urged other international fora to help achieve these objectives through the CBD's overarching framework. He underscored that many Parties to the CBD are also FAO members, and that this should allow for a strong basis from which to build complementary programmes in PGR. He emphasized the importance of PGRFA as critical components of biodiversity, and the sovereign rights of States over their natural resources. He highlighted the need to make ITCPGR-4 processes and the provisions of the CBD mutually supportive, complementary and consistent, and invited the FAO to present the outcome of ITCPGR- 4 to COP-3.
Delegates then adopted the Provisional Agenda (ITCPGR/96/1-Rev. 1), which included: Presentation of a report on the ITCPGR-4 in the context of the FAO Global System for the Conservation and Sustainable use of PGR (item 4); Presentation of a Progress Report on the Revision of the International Undertaking on PGR (item 5); A review of the Report on the State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (RSW) (item 6); Review of the GPA (item 7); Adoption of the GPA and recommendations for its implementation (item 8); Review of possibilities for the implementation and financing of the GPA (item 9); Adoption of the Leipzig Declaration (item 10); and Adoption of the ITCPGR-4 Report (item 11).
Bureau deliberations on the organization of work continued through the first full day of the meeting. On the second day, the Chair announced the decision to establish a working group (WG) to discuss adoption of the GPA (Agenda item 7), to be chaired by Fernando Gerbasi (Venezuela), which would report to the Plenary on Thursday. The WG would then reconvene to discuss the Leipzig Declaration (Agenda item 10), under the chairmanship of Thomas Forbord (US). He also announced the establishment of a contact group, under the chairmanship of Jurgen Detken (Germany), to discuss implementation and financing of the GPA (Agenda item 9). This contact group met throughout the week. The working group on the GPA also established additional contact groups on technology transfer and Farmers' Rights.
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