The National Biodiversity Centre, MoAF, Serbithang organized a two-day National Stakeholders’ workshop on developing Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Policy of Bhutan on Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge (TK) associated with Biological Resources from 19th to 20th April, 2011 at Namgay Heritage Hotel, Thimphu.
Considering the increasing number of both national and international Biotech and Pharmaceutical companies seeking access to Bhutanese genetic resources for commercial utilization, it has become imperative for Bhutan to develop a policy providing overall direction on access to genetic resources and TK associated with biological resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization. The policy development was initiated since early 2010. The objectives of the current workshop were to:
- Facilitate an understanding of the philosophy, law, economics and politics of Access and Benefit Sharing related to genetic resources.
- Share information on the international legal landscape within which ABS is located.
- Discuss the way forward for Bhutan’s ABS policy based on critical understanding of the ABS mechanism and principles and Bhutan’s needs and priorities.
The workshop was attended by participants from government, non-government, private sector and community representatives: Department of Forests and Park Services, Department of Agriculture, Policy & Planning Division (MoAF), RNR Research Council, Institute of Traditional Medicine Services, Bhutan Trust Fund for Environment Conservation, Bhutan Pharmaceutical Private Ltd., Bio-Bhutan, Tarayana Foundation, Guide Association of Bhutan, and representatives from Community Forestry Groups and NWFP Exporters.
The workshop was facilitated by two international legal experts with wide range of experiences in developing and dealing with ABS policy: Mr. Morten Walløe Tvedt of Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway and Mr. Kabir Bavikatte of Natural Justice-Lawyers for Communities and the Environment, South Africa.
The participants found the workshop educating and very insightful and were amazed by the complexity surrounding ABS. The facilitators cautioned the workshop participants not to rush the policy development process but to provide optimal time and energy in developing the ABS Policy that is Bhutanese and anchored to its values.
A National ABS policy, in addition to guiding the country in regulating access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable share of benefits arising out of their utilization, would also enable the country in fulfilling the national obligation of developing a National ABS Policy and legal framework under the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Resources (CBD). Bhutan became party to CBD in 1995.