The first meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol (COP MOP-1) was held last week in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea from 13-17th October 2014.   During this meeting Governments adopted a series of decisions to bolster the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing including those to promote its effective implementation through the availabilities of resources, mechanisms to ensure compliance, capacity building, and a strategy to raise awareness of the Protocol and its requirements upon entry into force on the 12th October 2014.  Also of importance was the decision around the modalities for the operation of the ABS Clearing-house as well as reporting formats and guidelines for interim national reports.  These decisions will be prepared into formal documents by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and made available. There was a call for those Parties who have not yet ratified the Nagoya Protocol to do so as soon as possible, taking the number of Parties up from the current 54. This includes some of the Southern African countries where PhytoTrade members are based, as well as some target market countries including France and the UK in Europe.

The key issue now is how the provisions of the Protocol are taken up at the national level and how these national laws will facilitate the use of genetic resources and the sharing of benefits.   It is at this level where the practical implications for providers and users of genetic and biological resources will become apparent, and where PhytoTrade will provide services to support members and their customers, to ensure compliance and facilitate the continued research and development and trade and natural ingredients.

Alongside the Plenary and Working Group sessions, a series of official side events where held throughout the COP. These side events covered a wide range of topics from ‘Implementation of Aichi Targets in South Africa’ to ‘Effective communication with various stakeholder groups’ and provided opportunities for the presentation of work and the sharing of lessons among participants.  Despite the low temperatures inside the meeting halls, engagement was encouraging and actors within the sector were keen to learn from others dealing with the same issues across the world.  The Secretariat of the CBD strongly calls for this sharing of lessons between countries and stakeholders to progress with practical implementation.

PhytoTrade participated in the Business and Biodiversity Forum which ran from 12th to 14th October.  It began with UNCTAD’s BioTrade Congress III which focussed on the theme of ‘Promoting Sustainable Use through Business Engagement’.  The congress provided an opportunity for the private sector to enter into the discussions around biodiversity and companies including MANE, Yves Rocher, Beraca and Gucci, provided details of their approaches.  This was said to be the strongest involvement of industry at COPs to date and it is an outcome that was encouraged to develop further.  Industry were called to lobby their county delegations in the lead up to future COPs to ensure that their views are also expressed in the text negotiations and plenary halls.  In turn, there was a call for businesses to fully engage in the achievements of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011 – 2020, and the future Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where the aim is for companies to ‘mainstream’ biodiversity approaches into policies including the sustainable use of biological and genetic resources.  Topics covered during the Forum also included the implications of the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol for biotrade businesses, practical tools for sustainable sourcing of biodiversity and a roundtable discussion on sustainable supply and ethical demand presented by industry representatives.  In the final discussion the need for strong partnerships was highlighted as well as a call for further information of what the private sector was concretely doing to address sustainable use approaches.

In the closing remarks by Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the CBD, he described COP 12 as a journey ‘that has led us all to a satisfactory outcome’, and where a major highlight was the entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol on ABS, and delegates were encouraged to take the energy of the meetings back home to facilitate implementation.  The host of COP 13 and COP MOP-2 in 2016 will be Mexico and countries now must put in place national legislation, and where possible begin to build up practical examples of implementation.  PhytoTrade will be following closely the development of these national regulations in the relevant countries and work with member value chains to ensure compliance and develop best practices.  Although the Nagoya Protocol may bring some additional challenges to the affected sectors, it also provides opportunities for long-term partnerships between industry and providers of the genetic resources, effective benefit sharing, and the conservation of biodiversity though sustainable utilization. All eyes are now on the relevant stakeholders, eagerly awaiting practical examples of successful implementation.