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CAPACITY-BUILDING/PUBLIC PARTICIPATION/ PUBLIC AWARENESS

Discussions on capacity-building, public participation and public awareness were based on the Chair’s aide-memoire on Information Sharing/Capacity-Building/Public Awareness/Participation (UNEP/CBD/BSWG/2/CRP.3).

CAPACITY-BUILDING: The aide-memoire asked: what is the primary aim of capacity-building; would a capacity-building mechanism serve other functions, such as providing advice on queries from importing Parties; and should the protocol contain specific provisions related to capacity-building.

A number of aims for capacity-building were suggested. ZAMBIA and SOUTH AFRICA highlighted strengthening indigenous capacities to implement the biosafety protocol, including developing biotechnologies suitable to their situations. BRAZIL stressed strengthening implementation of the protocol, legislation and monitoring, and ensuring compliance with biosafety regulations. JAMAICA highlighted strengthening informed decision-making on LMO transport and risk assessments. AUSTRALIA noted the need for capacity-building for developing countries particularly and, supported by SOUTH AFRICA, highlighted risk assessment and management. CUBA’s aims included development of policy and information systems, biotechnology capacity, and technical competence to identify and control risks in the use and dissemination of LMOs.

ZAMBIA, the EU, BRAZIL and SWITZERLAND referred to the UNEP International Technical Guidelines for Safety in Biotechnology. A number of other ongoing efforts to promote capacity-building were also mentioned, including CBD Article 18.2 on the promotion of technical and scientific cooperation (SWITZERLAND), COP decisions III/20 and III/5 on GEF financing (EU, BRAZIL), UNIDO, (EU), the SBSTTA, Agenda 21 organizations, WHO, FAO and bilateral alliances (AUSTRALIA).

The EU proposed that the protocol refer to the need for capacity-building but not include a specific provision. AUSTRALIA noted that capacity-building can be enhanced through information-sharing. However, the REPUBLIC OF KOREA stressed the priority of capacity-building needs. The RUSSIAN FEDERATION stressed identification of needs and priorities at the national level and steps to be taken. SOUTH AFRICA noted that the provision of resources, such as training and expert advice, is a component of capacity- building, both at the regional and national levels. BRAZIL said a capacity-building mechanism should include a list of expert advisors, a data base, training and provision of other resources. TOGO and NIGER also stressed that financial assistance must come in a timely way to ensure capacity-building strengthens application of the protocol. ETHIOPIA expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of commitment to new resources for capacity-building. The Chair pointed out that financial aspects would be discussed at later sessions.

In the final Plenary, delegates accepted the Chair’s draft elements paper on capacity- building (UNEP/CBD/BSWG/2/ CRP.10). The paper states that the aim of capacity- building includes: facilitating the elaboration of national legislation related to biosafety; permitting the competent authority to make informed decisions on risk assessment; and promoting the establishment of appropriate institutional mechanisms. The paper also contains proposals made by delegations related to a clearinghouse specifically for biosafety information and regional training centers.

PUBLIC AWARENESS/PARTICIPATION: With regard to public awareness and participation, the Chair’s aide-memoire asked: should the protocol provide for an article on public awareness; what mechanism should be used to promote public awareness; what action should be addressed; and who is responsible for public awareness. It also asked whether the protocol should provide for public participation, what it should address and who would define the level of participation.

A number of delegations, including BANGLADESH, NORWAY, AUSTRALIA, the EU, ETHIOPIA, MALI and CAMEROON, supported the inclusion of public awareness provisions. COLOMBIA called for national and international mechanisms. BRAZIL noted the need to protect confidential information. MALI emphasized the importance of NGO involvement. NEW ZEALAND, the RUSSIAN FEDERATION and JAPAN did not support including a specific mechanism and said each Party should decide for itself. SOUTH AFRICA noted that Article 13 (public education and awareness) of the CBD already covers this issue. The THIRD WORLD NETWORK recalled that confidentiality concerns were second to the rights of citizens and that prior informed consent cannot be left at the domestic level.

The EDMONDS INSTITUTE and ECOROPA stressed the need for public participation. The PHILIPPINES supported the importance of NGO participation. BRAZIL said the protocol should not mandate public participation in regulatory affairs. The EU, NEW ZEALAND and INDIA supported public participation provisions. The US noted that without public participation the actual effect of LMOs is hard to gauge.

During the final Plenary, delegates accepted the Chair’s draft element paper on public awareness and participation (UNEP/CBD/BSWG/2/CRP.11). The paper includes proposals on whether the protocol should specifically address public awareness and potential public awareness mechanisms. The paper also contains options regarding the types and levels of public participation, some of which highlight NGO roles.

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