During its Fifteenth meeting, held in December 2022, the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (COP-15) decided that benefit-sharing from the utilisation of DSI on genetic resources will follow a multilateral approach with a global benefit-sharing fund. Important basic principles of the agreement are that the system should be consistent with open access to data, that it should be effective, efficient, feasible, and practical, and that it should not hinder research and innovation. A follow-up process will be started to discuss further details of this multilateral benefit-sharing system and the ways in which the global benefit-sharing fund will be operationalised.
During the past few years, an international discussion has been taking place on whether the utilisation of Digital Sequence Information (DSI) on genetic resources should be subject to Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) obligations, like the utilisation of genetic resources already is. The main discussion forum is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with other international ABS instruments mostly awaiting the outcomes there.
Various policy options have been developed on possible ways to deal with access to and benefit-sharing from the utilisation of DSI on genetic resources, and a multi-criteria framework was developed to assess the different policy options, with the criteria focusing on effectiveness, efficiency, good governance and coherence. A decision on DSI was to be taken during the Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (COP-15), which was held in Montreal, Canada, from 7-19 December 2022, and where DSI was one of the main issues discussed.
DSI outcome of the CBD meetings in December
DSI was discussed during various CBD meetings in December, concluding with COP-15. During COP-15 it was decided that a multilateral approach will be followed for benefit-sharing from the utilisation of DSI on genetic resources. The system for benefit-sharing from the utilisation of DSI on genetic resources will be in the framework of the CBD and not in the Nagoya Protocol, and it will not follow the bilateral approach of the Nagoya Protocol. A follow-up process will be started to discuss further details, which will be submitted for a decision during the next COP meeting in 2024.
A basic principle of the agreement is that the system should be consistent with open access to data, while it should also be effective, efficient, feasible, and practical; generate more benefits than costs; provide certainty and legal clarity for providers and users; not hinder research and innovation; not be incompatible with international legal obligations; be mutually supportive of other ABS instruments; and take into account the rights of indigenous people and local communities.
It was also agreed that capacity-building and development will play an important role and that a global fund will be established for the sharing of benefits from the utilisation of DSI on genetic resources. The way in which this fund will be filled is one of the elements that will have to be worked out in the follow-up process.
The follow-up process, in which modalities and details of the system for benefit-sharing from the utilisation of DSI on genetic resources will be discussed, will be in the form of an Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) within the CBD. The Netherlands will participate in this OEWG and will also remain active in other fora where DSI is discussed, such as the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), to arrive at coherent solutions.