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COMPETENT AUTHORITIES/FOCAL POINTS

The Chair’s aide-memoire on competent authorities (UNEP/CBD/BSWG/2/CRP.2) asked: should the protocol require Parties to designate competent authorities or focal points or both; should there be a single competent authority or focal point per Party; and should there be an option for regional focal points. The aide-memoire also noted possible responsibilities such as: receiving notifications; transmitting information to other Parties; evaluating risk assessment; taking decisions on notifications under AIA; transmitting decisions on AIA; and enforcement. The aide- memoire also asks when the competent authorities or focal points should be designated.

Delegates offered a range of views on the designation and number of authorities and focal points. The EU and the RUSSIAN FEDERATION said there could be many competent authorities and preferred one focal point per Party. SOUTH AFRICA favored more than one focal point and/or competent authority and noted that the responsibilities would depend on whether the focal point is the same body as the competent authority. SWITZERLAND and SRI LANKA favored an obligation to appoint one of the competent authorities to be a focal point. NORWAY called for one authority, regardless of the title, with clear responsibilities. MALAYSIA favored a competent national authority with a more formal role than a focal point. CANADA distinguished the “point of contact” role of the focal point from the decision-making role of the competent authority.

Many delegations, including the EU, CAMEROON, PAPUA NEW GUINEA, SRI LANKA, SWITZERLAND, CANADA, RUSSIA and PERU, favored including an option for regional focal points. A number of delegations, including the EU, NORWAY, PERU, SWITZERLAND and AUSTRALIA, said the responsibilities for competent authorities should not be prescribed or fixed because of countries’ different capacities. CANADA added risk assessment to the proposed responsibilities. MALAYSIA said the competent authority should make regulations on transfer and release, risk assessment and management decisions, and should impose national procedures beyond those in the protocol if necessary.

The EU, PAPUA NEW GUINEA and SWITZERLAND said competent authorities should be designated as soon as possible. NORWAY and CANADA proposed that they be established no later than the entry into force of the protocol. CAMEROON said each country should designate their authority prior to ratifying the protocol. The MARSHALL ISLANDS, supported by MAURITIUS, PAPUA NEW GUINEA and MALAYSIA, noted that national authorities may be “responsible,” but that without technical and financial assistance many of them will not be “competent” to handle biosafety matters.

In the final Plenary, delegates accepted the Chair’s draft element paper on competent authority(ies)/focal point(s) (UNEP/CBD/ BSWG/2/CRP.8). The paper outlines the options presented by delegates regarding the number and type of competent authority(ies)/focal points, the time by which they should be designated and their responsibilities.

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