Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE FOURTH SESSION OF THE AD HOC WORKING GROUP ON BIOSAFETY THURSDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 1998
On the seventh day of BSWG-4, delegates met in two Sub-Working
Groups (SWGs) in morning and afternoon sessions and in Contact
Groups (CGs) throughout the day. SWG-I discussed Articles 3-14,
definitions and Annexes. SWG-II discussed Articles 1,1 bis, 18-
22, 24 and 26-27.
SUB-WORKING GROUP I
SWG-I reviewed and approved for presentation to the Plenary,
revised text on Articles 3-14, using Conference Room Papers. In
the afternoon, Co-Chairs from CG-I and CG-II presented revised
text on definitions and Annexes. SWG-I concluded its work
following a brief general discussion on substantive and
Revised text on NOTIFICATION FOR ADVANCED INFORMED AGREEMENT
(AIA) (Article 4); RESPONSE TO AIA NOTIFICATION (Article 5);
REVIEW OF DECISIONS UNDER AIA (Article 7); NOTIFICATION OF
TRANSIT (Article 8); BILATERAL AND REGIONAL AGREEMENTS (Article
11); RISK ASSESSMENT (Article 12); and MINIMUM NATIONAL
STANDARDS (Article 14) was adopted with no comments or editorial
changes and clarifications.
APPLICATION OF THE AIA PROCEDURE (Article 3): One delegate
requested adding �unilateral declaration� to situations where
the AIA procedure would not apply.
DECISION PROCEDURE FOR AIA (Article 6): One delegate requested
addition of a reference to �technical experience� in the
decision procedure for AIA. Some delegates proposed merging a
stand-alone paragraph prohibiting transboundary transfer of an
LMO without the authorization of the receiving Party, but this
was opposed by another delegate, who noted that this would
dilute the reference.
SIMPLIFIED PROCEDURE (Article 9): A delegate requested text that
would add �for subsequent imports of the same LMO� to a
provision for substitution of AIA by simplified procedures.
SUBSEQUENT IMPORTS (Article 10): One regional group requested a
footnote stating that the concerns of this article could be
reflected in Articles 6 (Procedure for AIA) or 9 (Simplified
Procedure), but agreed to withdraw this in light of the �no
RISK MANAGEMENT (Article 13): One delegate called for addition
of language noting that the lack of scientific certainty
regarding harm should not preclude preventive measures.
DEFINITIONS: The Co-Chair of CG-I presented a revised definition
of an LMO. Delegates requested clarification on various points.
The Co-Chair requested that government submissions on the issue
of LMOs �and products thereof� be forwarded to the Secretariat,
which would prepare a synthesis for consideration at BSWG-5.
The CG-II Co-Chair presented its work on legal definitions and
asked for clarification on five issues to facilitate its work:
whether the term State or Party should be used in defining
transboundary movement; whether the Protocol would apply only to
transboundary movements from one State/Party to another
State/Party, or if it would also apply to extrajurisdictional
areas; if transboundary movement included transit States;
whether transboundary movements would refer to both intentional
and unintentional movements; and who the �exporter� is. Several
delegations commented on the State/Party question and preferred
Party because: the Protocol will only apply to Parties; issues
of trade with non-Parties could be covered in Article 23 (Non-
Parties); and the term applies to entities such as regional
groups. While one delegate noted that the term transboundary
movement implies both intentional and unintentional movement,
two separate proposals were made to insert first, intentional,
and then, unintentional, before movement. The Co-Chair of CG-II
agreed to present the questions in more detail to facilitate
government submissions on them, prior to BSWG-5.
ANNEXES: The Co-Chair of CG-I presented revised drafts of
Annexes I (Advanced Informed Agreement) and II (Risk
Assessment). Delegates made minor modifications to Annex I. On
Annex II, delegates discussed the minimum and maximum options.
Several delegations preferred the �minimum� Annex II. One
regional group noted the omission of �and products thereof��
after LMO in the Annexes and requested that it be added. One
delegate preferred deleting Annex II to allow for risk
assessment (RA) to be developed at the national level, while
considering information outlined in Annex I. The Annexes and
definitions will be included in a list of documents prepared by
CG-I and will remain on the table for discussion at BSWG-5.
The Co-Chair then invited final comments from SWG-I on
substantive or procedural matters. Delegates thanked the Co-
Chairs for their efforts during the past week. One delegate
noted that general discussion on each article, with text
consolidation by small groups, was a good procedure. One
delegate suggested that including definitions in the body of the
text would help to clarify their content. One developed country
delegate summarized his country�s position on the role and
responsibilities of the Importer in the AIA notification
procedure. He noted three considerations -- purpose,
practicality and experience -- for why the Importer would be
responsible for AIA notification, and highlighted the need for
capacity building in this context. A representative of
environmental groups thanked SWG-I for the opportunity to follow
its discussions. A representative of an international
organization noted the need to harmonize the RA procedures being
developed or utilized in various international fora. With these
final comments, SWG-I concluded its proceedings.
CONTACT GROUP I
Following presentation of their work to SWG-I, CG-I met briefly
in the evening to incorporate comments received on the
definition of LMO and Annexes I and II.
SUB-WORKING GROUP II
SWG-II completed work on Articles 1 and 1 bis, using
UNEP/CBD/BSWG/4/Inf.2 and Inf.5; Articles 18, 20-22, 24, 26 and
27, using Conference Room Papers 4-8, 10-12, and 24; and on
Article 19, using consolidated text from a drafting group.
PRINCIPLES/OBJECTIVES (Article 1): Delegates agreed to remove
the word �Principles� from the title, since the article does not
currently include any principles. No options were deleted and
delegates requested inclusion of text regarding, inter alia:
risks to human health and effects on socio-economic well-being.
One delegation stated that this provision would help provide a
benchmark against which to measure progress. Several delegations
stressed the importance of shared responsibility and
cooperation. One delegate stated that the objective of the
Protocol should be to promote the safe transboundary movement of
GENERAL OBLIGATIONS (Article 1 bis): Several delegates noted a
preference for brevity in the article and suggested deleting
options addressed in other articles. Some delegates stated that
it was premature to start deliberations on general obligations
until discussion on other articles was further along.
HANDLING, TRANSPORT, PACKAGING AND LABELLING (Article 17): The
Co-Chair stated that this article had been approved for Plenary,
but that bracketed text on information that would accompany
transboundary movement of LMOs, which referenced an unspecified
Annex, would be referred to CG-I.
INFORMATION SHARING/BIOSAFETY CLEARING-HOUSE (Article 19):
Several delegations stated that further consolidation of the
draft text was possible and identified four key concepts
regarding an information exchange mechanism: its purpose; its
establishment; its content; and reporting aspects. One
delegation stated that the options differed in the kind of
clearing-house that would be established. Another delegation
requested bracketing the words �publicly available� regarding
information contained in the proposed mechanism. One delegate
added text stating that the first meeting of the Parties (MOP)
would determine the function and scope of the mechanism, since
the article�s technical aspects preclude its completion before
the Protocol�s adoption. A drafting group consolidated text
which was approved with some modification.
CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION (Article 20): Delegates briefly
discussed whether the text reflected consensus. The Co-Chair
stated that all text should be viewed as bracketed.
CAPACITY BUILDING (Article 21): A drafting group removed the no
provision option, which delegates accepted. Several delegations
supported addition of text specifying that capacity building
would be achieved through �financial,� as well as technical
assistance, from the private sector.
PUBLIC AWARENESS/PUBLIC PARTICIPATION (Article 22): One delegate
proposed insertion of language on public involvement in the
�process� of approving release of LMOs.
SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS (Article 26): After discussion in
the morning session, two developing countries consolidated
options that reflected their individual views.
LIABILITY AND COMPENSATION (Article 27): A small drafting group
met to streamline one of the options, which was favored
principally by one regional group. One delegate requested
language on ensuring recourse in national legal systems for
prompt and adequate compensation. One delegate proposed
inserting language as to �whether� to establish procedures on
liability and compensation in accordance with CBD Article 14(2)
at the MOP.
Co-Chair Herity closed SWG-II by thanking both delegates and the
Secretariat for their efforts over the course of the meeting.
CONTACT GROUP II
Delegates discussed Articles 31 (Secretariat) and 36 (Assessment
and Review of Procedures), and legal definitions. In reference
to proposed text on the Protocol�s Secretariat, Calestous Juma,
Executive Secretary of the CBD, spoke about some of the
practicalities and responsibilities that might be expected of
the Secretariat, especially in regard to an information exchange
IN THE CORRIDORS
As the meeting drew to a close, participants� views on BSWG�s
progress varied nearly as much as the options in the
consolidated text. Some participants expressed frustration with
unrealistic expectations and apparent intransigence of some
delegations. Others viewed the distance between governments on
key issues as simply indicative of the negotiation phase and
were hopeful that the gaps could be bridged. Given a flurry of
inter-regional meetings, some participants speculated that the
first steps at political bargaining had already begun. All
agreed that a much clearer set of options on both substantive
and procedural issues resulted from the meeting, and that BSWG-5
must negotiate in earnest as the clock is ticking.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
PLENARY: Plenary will meet at 10:00 to review and adopt the work
of the SWGs.
SCBD BRIEFING ON MODUS OPERANDI: After the Plenary, the
Secretariat will host a briefing on the CBD�s modus operandi to
be considered at COP-4.