Tuesday, September 11, 2012

E-Module on ABS for Communities

Natural Justice has developed a draft e-module that aims to provide an introduction to access and benefit sharing (ABS) and its implications for Indigenous peoples and local communities. It explores the implications of a range of rights and responsibilities and how communities may be able to realize them in practice. Natural Justice is developing a number of e-learning modules to support communities developing biocultural community protocols (BCPs) to increase their understanding of key international legal frameworks, concepts and programmes. 

Throughout history, Indigenous peoples and local communities have used traditional knowledge and biological resources to cure sicknesses, provide nourishment, and fulfill everyday livelihood needs. More recently, many people have benefitted from the use of some of this knowledge and biodiversity to develop pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, crop varieties and livestock breeds, and other products for personal use. However, the communities that have nurtured the genetic diversity over thousands of years of cultivation and wild use often have not benefitted from these developments. Frequently, they are not involved in the research and development process, receive little to no compensation for their knowledge or resources, and have no access to the final products. 

Over the past couple of decades, the concept and practice of access and benefit sharing (ABS) has emerged in attempt to address these concerns at international and national levels. According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, ABS is defined as the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. International law states that states are the 'owners' of genetic resources located within their borders. Communities have both customary and recognized rights over genetic resources and traditional knowledge of those resources. Those who want to research and use traditional knowledge or genetic resources are obliged to follow certain procedures and uphold standards in collaboration with the appropriate governments and communities. 

The actual practice of ABS does not always live up to its stated aim. Communities can be excluded or even dispossessed due to conflicting claims or understandings of relationships with genetic resourcesand traditional knowledge. It is essential that communities to understand their rights and obligations under ABS to achieve the best possible results. This e-module seeks to support that aim. 

The full e-module can be downloaded here. Other e-modules drafted by Natural Justice can be accessed here. These modules supplement ‘BCPs: A Toolkit for Community Facilitators’, which can be viewed here. The documents are not final and any comments can be directed to Holly Shrumm (holly (at) naturaljustice.org) and Harry Jonas (harry (at) naturaljustice.org).

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