Building a Coherent System of Resource Management and Access and Benefit Sharing in Nepal
SAWTEE organized a two day policy dialogue on “Building a Coherent System of Resource Management and Access and Benefit Sharing in Nepal” on 21-22 September 2014. The main objective of the dialogue was to explore the relationship between three international instruments: Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (ILO169) on the issue of access and benefit sharing (ABS) in Nepal. The programme was attended by 17 experts on agriculture and plant genetic resources from various government and non-government agencies.
The programme started with a presentation by Dr. Smriti Dahal, senior programme officer at SAWTEE, exploring the potential and challenges of harmonizing these three treaties in the context of Nepal who then opened the floor for discussion on possible ways forward on enhancing the ABS mechanism for plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. Stressing the importance of the impact of climate change on biological diversity, Dr. K P Pant stated that at present the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) and Local Adaptation Plan of Action (LAPA) framework do not articulate ABS system with regard to genetic resources. He also pointed out various ways of incorporating issues of ABS and biodiversity conservation through the LAPA process.
Addressing issues related to the legal mechanisms in the conservation and utilization of natural resources in the context of Nepal, Mr Dina Mani Pokharel, expert on constitutional law and natural resources, elaborated the existing constitutional debate on the topic of ABS and stated the importance of proper interpretation of key terms like ‘sovereignty’ , ‘rights’ and ‘ownership’ over natural resources. Mr Pokharel further specified that the state does have sovereignty over natural resources, including genetic resources, under the Eminent Domain and can utilize such resources for public benefits. However, he stated, while utilizing these natural resources the state has to provide equitable benefit to the local communities prioritizing their rights to participate in the management and sustainable use of natural resources.
Mr Madan Bhatta, Chief, National Agriculture Genetic Resource Center, listed various criteria for selection of crops under the Annex I of the ITPGRFA to be included in the multilateral system. He mentioned that the ITPGRFA obliges the contracting parties to include all Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA) which are listed in the Annex I of ITPGRFA and which are under their management and control and in public domain. However, since Nepal does not possess legal framework that defines inter alia either ‘public domain’ or ‘under the management and control of contracting parties’ there was consensus to at least develop a guideline for the implementation of the treaty.
Talking about issues of ABS in existing Seed Policy and Regulations, Dr Devendra Gauchan, Chief of Socioeconomic Policy and Research Division at National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), explained that Nepals current Seed Vision, policy and legislation focus on developing mechanisms and programmes in providing easy access to improved quality seeds to farmers. He also mentioned that revision of Seed Act, and Seed Policy and Regulations by accommodating farmers rights is essential to address the concerns related to the implementation of ABS.
The participants also stated that along with plant genetic resources, animal genetic resources is also an import sector in agriculture and needs to be incorporated into decision and policy making as we move forward with resource conservation and ABS.
In conclusion, Mr Kamalesh Adhikari, doctoral candidate, Australian National University, stated that both CBD and ITPGRFA aim to facilitated access to PGRFA and there is a need to understand the strengths of each of these international instruments and need to coordinate CBD, ITPGRFA and ILO169. Mr. Uday Chandra Thakur, Joint Secretary, Food Security and Environment Division, Ministry of Agricultural Development, agreed that a guideline for the implementation of ITPGRFA was a must and the government in partnership with non-government organizations like SAWTEE should take the agenda forward.