Natural Justice’s Gino Cocchiaro and Josh Ogada are attending the Pan-African ABS Workshop, being held from the 10-14 March 2014, in Cotonou, Benin. Organized by the ABS Capacity Development Initiative and now in its 8th iteration, the workshop is being hosted by the Ministère de l'Environnement Chargé de la gestion des changements climatiques, du reboisement et de la protection des ressources naturelles et forestière.
The meeting brings together a range of stakeholders and interested parties including ABS National Focal Points, representatives of competent national authorities for ABS, representatives of relevant regional and international (research) institutions, NGOs, indigenous and local communities, as well as representatives of the private sector involved in bio-trade and bio-prospecting. Natural Justice is a key partner to the Initiative, and this workshop provides a unique opportunity to review and strengthen the partnership, as well as forge stronger linkages with other stakeholders in the area of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS).
The first day of the workshop was dedicated to updating the participants on the different ongoing processes taking place at a regional and International level. There was a comprehensive report on the 7th Workshop held in Phalaborwa, South Africa, in February of 2013. This included the results of the evaluation of the ABS Initiative that was carried out on the recommendations of the steering committee, with the purpose of determining if the processes are on track. It was particularly important to carry out this evaluation given that the current funding cycle is coming to an end and decisions need to be taken whether or not commitments are renewed. The evaluation found that the ABS mechanism remains highly relevant and valued by the various stakeholder groups, without overlooking the need for improvements in certain areas, such as the level of attention given to national processes.
The plenary also heard a report-back and reflections from the African Union Commission on Third Meeting of the Open-ended Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Committee for the Nagoya Protocol (ICNP3), and the subsequent preparatory meeting of the African Group held in preparation for COP12. Mahlet Teshome of the AU briefed participants on the agenda items of the ICNP3 and the process undertaken to provide a clear position on each, as well as the designation of spokespersons from within the African Group. This process of preparation is due to continue through the workshop week.
The remainder of the week will focus on more substantive discussions around further development of ABS strategies and inputs, as well as receiving updates from different country initiatives. There will be particular attention paid to the strategic valorization of genetic resources (GR) and associated traditional knowledge (aTK).
The workshop hopes to conclude with a clearer way forward, especially in terms of innovation for ABS implementation, as well as setting priorities for capacity development at a national level.