The Commission considered Agenda Items 3 and 9 together. The Secretariat introduced these items and explained that, pursuant to the FAO Resolution to broaden the mandate of the Commission, the FAO Council adopted interim statutes for the Commission in November 1995, which provided that the CGRFA may establish intergovernmental technical sectoral working groups, with appropriate geographical balance, to assist it in the areas of plant, animal, forestry and fisheries genetic resources, taking into account financial and administrative implications. As a basis for deliberations on this issue, delegates referred to the document, Establishment and Terms of Reference of Intergovernmental Technical Sectoral Working Groups of the Commission (CGRFA- 7/97/2), in particular, Annex 2, Proposed Statutes of the Working Group, which was agreed at CGRFA-6. Although there was general agreement on the establishment of an intergovernmental technical working group on animal genetic resources (AGR) and the transformation of the standing Working Group of the Commission into an intergovernmental technical working group (ITWG) on plant genetic resources, the Commission devoted two sessions to debating the terms of reference, including the mandate and composition of the working group(s), timing and frequency of sessions, and election of officers.
SECTORS: CANADA noted that forestry genetic resources (FGR) could be brought into future sessions of the CGRFA, in line with the gradual broadening of its mandate, but that it would be premature to create an ITWG-FGR at this time. The US expressed support for the continuation of the Panel of Experts on Forests and proposed that FGR be the subject of the next ITWG established by the Commission. SIERRA LEONE underscored the urgent need to establish an ITWG on forest genetic resources.
SAMOA called on the Commission to address fisheries and forestry genetic resources, both priorities for small island developing States. CAPE VERDE called for an ITWG to be established for fisheries genetic resources.
TERMS OF REFERENCE/MANDATE: The US and AUSTRALIA proposed that any new ITWG should examine specific questions assigned to it by the Commission. EGYPT took issue with the US contention that the statutes for both ITWGs be identical, and stated that progress should be reviewed every biennium by the Commission. MEXICO called for a specific mandate for each ITWG, taking into account progress made.
The EU recommended that the ITWG-AGR elaborate and develop strategies from the already formulated Global Strategy for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources (GS-FAGR) as a follow-up to the relevant CBD COP-3 decision on ongoing loss of genetic diversity in farm animals. ARGENTINA, JAPAN and PAKISTAN specified that the ITWG-AGR should focus on GS-FAGR.
MALAWI and BANGLADESH both noted that the ITWG-AGR should consider adequate funding for developing countries to stem the great loss of AGR at the national level. Underscoring the problem of producing sufficient animal protein in most developing countries, INDONESIA expressed support for a ITWG-AGR, but cautioned that it would be meaningless without the resolution of PGR issues. COLOMBIA noted its preference to continue addressing PGR within the Commission itself. SOUTH AFRICA recommended that the ITWG-PGR not be established until negotiations on the revision of the IU were concluded, unless it be assigned a special task, such as facilitating the implementation of the GPA. POLAND stated that the primary task of a ITWG-PGR should be to assist the Commission in completing the IU revision.
TIMING AND FREQUENCY OF SESSIONS: CANADA, supported by the US, noted a contradiction between the Commissions draft statutes (which specify that meetings shall be held at least once a year) and FAO Councils statutes (which specify meetings no more than once a year). The EU, AUSTRALIA, VENEZUELA, ETHIOPIA, CHINA and UGANDA recommended that the ITWG-AGR should exist for a limited, well-defined period of time. MADAGASCAR proposed that the meetings of the two ITWGs be held concurrently to avoid the costs of excessive sectoralization.
COMPOSITION: CHINA, the EU, GRULAC and the AFRICAN GROUP supported the draft statutes that provide that the ITWG be comprised of 23 Member- States as follows: five from Africa; five from Europe; four from Asia; four from Latin America and the Caribbean; three from the Near East; one from North America; and one from Southwest Pacific.
CANADA proposed a reduced ITWG membership of 17 as follows: North America and Southwest Pacific would each retain one representative but the remaining regions would be reduced to three. The US expressed its preference for two representatives per region but indicated its willingness to consider three representatives for other regions who so preferred. AUSTRALIA proposed two representatives for each of North America and the South Pacific, and three for the other regions. SAMOA requested that the Southwest Pacific regional representation be extended from one to two and that the mega-diverse region be designated Pacific so as to incorporate more small island developing States.
ELECTION OF OFFICERS: While the US and EGYPT recommended that the election of officers be vested with the ITWG itself, ARGENTINA, CUBA, MALAWI, MEXICO and BANGLADESH stated that the ITWG Chair should be elected by the body that confers the mandate and in which country representation is greatest, i.e., the Commission. Moreover, while the EU and CANADA recommended that the ITWG report to the FAO Commission on Agriculture (COAG) until IU negotiations are concluded, BRAZIL, the US, EGYPT, ARGENTINA, CUBA, MEXICO and UGANDA proposed that the ITWG-AGR report directly to the Commission.
FINANCIAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE ISSUES: JAPAN underscored that the activities of the ITWG should be covered within the budget and programme of the FAO. NORWAY and SWEDEN underscored that an extraordinary session of the CGRFA should not require extra-budgetary resources. The EU underscored that no engagement could be entered into until financial implications had been considered. The EU stated that the first priority must be the IU.
AUSTRALIA questioned the appropriateness of establishing these Working Groups at this time given the Commissions crucial responsibility to complete the revision of the IU. The US noted that without financial assurances from the FAO Director-General, it was difficult to see how meetings of the Working Groups would not interfere with IU revision. In response to requests by CANADA and the US regarding the financial and administrative implications of ITWG meeting(s) over the next biennium, the Secretariat explained that the availability of funds will depend on whether the zero growth proposed by the FAO Director-General is real or nominal.
BUREAU STATUTES: On the basis of the above interventions, the Bureau revised the draft statutes. The following statutes were adopted by the Commission, with two minor amendments made in the final plenary.
The Commission will assign specific tasks to the ITWGs so that they can carry out its mandate to review issues related to agro-biodiversity in the areas of PGRFA/AGRFA and advise the Commission on these matters; consider progress made in implementing the Commissions programme of work on PGRFA/AGRFA as well as any other matters referred to it by the Commission; and report to the Commission on its activities. The timing and duration of each ITWG session, which cannot be held more than once a year, will be decided by Commission. The ITWGs will be composed of 27 representatives: five each from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe; three from the Near East; and two each from North America and the Southwest Pacific. The ITWGs will elect their own officers, including a Chair and one or more Vice-Chairs from among its own members at the beginning of each session.
The Bureau proposed that the first task assigned to the ITWG-AGR will be to develop and facilitate the implementation of the GS-FAGR. Noting that the ITWG-PGR may not be the appropriate mechanism for active and effective participation of all countries in revising the IU, the Bureau further recommended that rather than holding a meeting of ITWG-PGR during this biennium, a one-week extraordinary session of the Commission should be convened in order to continue and, if possible, conclude negotiations on the IU. The Secretariat confirmed that although they would request funds for an extraordinary session, they could not guarantee their delivery, and invited countries to defend this proposal in the appropriate FAO fora.
After lengthy debate on terminology, delegates agreed that the statutes should refer to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and animal genetic resources for food and agriculture.
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