Recap: Global ABS Conference 2020

Published on
December 14, 2020

On 29 October 2020 it was exactly 10 years ago that the Nagoya Protocol was adopted. To celebrate the 10th anniversary, the UNDP-GEF Global ABS Project organised the Global ABS Conference 2020. This online event highlighted the progress made on ABS so far and discussed a vision for the future.

The conference was organised in partnership with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and in collaboration with the Governments of Japan and Jordan and other partners. Taking place over multiple days in October and November, the theme of the conference was “the ABS we all need”. After the opening session on October 29th, sessions followed focusing on researchers (November 4th), the private sector (November 11th) and indigenous peoples (November 18th), while the concluding session on November 25th looked towards the future. Most sessions were concluded by a Q&A and debates. Using #theABSweALLneed on social media, participants were also invited to share their perspectives on ABS.

The conference’s recordings and presentations are available on the Global ABS Community website (after logging in): ‘Global ABS Conference 2020’.

Happy Birthday Nagoya Protocol

On October 29th, Alejandro Lago of the UNDP-GEF Global ABS Project kicked off the birthday celebrations. His enthusiasm set the tone for the rest of the session. Biodiversity leaders from all over the world had recorded video messages to wish the Nagoya Protocol a happy birthday and expressed their vision for access and benefit-sharing in the future (watch the videos here). Following a photo montage of important moments in benefit-sharing history, the Nagoya Protocol negotiations panel started. The six panellists, all directly involved in ABS negotiations and implementation, provided insights in the historical perspective and technicalities of the Nagoya Protocol, touching on the highs and lows of the process, as well as looking towards the future.

ABS for Users I: A Dialogue Between Governments and Researchers

The second session, taking place on November 4th, gathered governments and researchers to exchange experiences and discuss challenges. Speakers discussed the ABS systems in different regions and countries, and there was a panel with Competent National Authorities (CNA) and researchers. The presentations on Digital Sequence Information (DSI) and its relevance for ABS were particularly interesting, considering the ongoing discussions about this topic. Another very relevant presentation was ‘Pathogens and Health Emergencies’, which contained case studies of the Zika virus and the currently very topical COVID-19.

ABS for Users II: A Dialogue Between Governments and Private Sector

On November 11th, a number of companies that are taking the lead on ABS and biodiversity conservation shared their perspectives through a panel with Competent National Authorities (CNA) and private companies, as well as a private sector’s panel.

ABS Dialogue Between Governments and Indigenous Peoples. The Lessons Learned

On November 18th, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) were invited to talk about their practices and resources, voice their needs and discuss how to address them in the Post-2020 Biodiversity Strategic Framework. A panel of NGOs and multi-stakeholder organisations highlighted how collaborations between IPLCs and between IPLCs and other stakeholders can be beneficial, not in the least for education and capacity-building.

Building the ABS we all Need for the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework

In the closing session of the conference on November 25th, speakers from the previous sessions elaborated on the key messages and lessons learned from this webinar series and they looked towards the future. What is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and how can the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework contribute to ABS implementation? It was argued that consumers play a key role. An increase in customer demand for natural and sustainable products encourages businesses to include corporate social responsibility and sustainability in their company values and strategies. These values could be more effective incentives for corporations than (restrictive) rules and laws.

Monitoring systems included in the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework can help by using indicators to measure progress towards goals and targets, providing an insight in the specific actions that are needed to achieve them. It was also stressed that open, clear communication between all involved parties is important to grow mutual trust and understanding, and decrease impatience and frustrations.