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Negotiation of the FAO International Undertaking
4th Extraordinary Session of the CGRFA, Rome, 1 - 5 December 1997
Report by Patrick Mulvany, ITDG*
For an official report, see FAO's International Plant Genetic Resources pages or see International Institute for Sustainable Development for a summary
DRAFT AGRICULTURAL BIODIVERSITY RESOLUTION TO THE FAO CONFERENCE
FINALLY ADOPTED RESOLUTION BY THE FAO CONFERENCE
ESSENTIALS OF FARMERS' RIGHTS
BIOTALK EXCERPTS ON:
THE CGRFA PROCESS (AN EARLY VIEW)
VIA CAMPESINA INTERVIEW
"Get it straight...
It's a farmer's right
to save seed... and
it's your (agribusiness')
privilege to be able to
From BIOTALK cartoon of
a peasant woman talking to
a Northern businessman.
Courtesy of RAFI
"My forefathers were, to say the least,
landless agricultural workers."
Comment, when talking about Farmers' Rights, by Franklin Moore, black US Senior Biodiversity Advisor in the N. American /NGO meeting
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This was a week in which progress was made. There is now a consolidated, though much bracketed, text for the whole International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources (for food and agriculture) and most areas, bar Finance and Definitions have been covered at least once. The major area of concern was Access and Benefit Sharing (rather narrowly defined as monetary compensation with a creeping extension of Intellectual Property Rights into Farmers' Collective Knowledge), which was discussed in a Closed Contact Group. Farmers' Rights, which might have been totally ignored but for active NGO lobbying and their inclusion in the Open Working Group on the insistence of Ethiopia, made little progress, but that was to be expected until the Access questions are resolved. The Open Working Group also went through all the other Articles. MAFF, because of the British Presidency of the EU, will have to lead these negotiations on behalf of the EU during 1998, a time when the European Patent Directive will also be going through the European Parliament.
Progress was also made in developing ideas on wider agricultural biodiversity issues, with FAO staff including the Directorate, with Delegations, especially the Dutch, and with ECP/GR, which is developing the 1998 European Symposium in Braunschweig in July. The report of the June FAO-CBD Workshop on 'Farming Systems Approaches to the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Agricultural Biodiversity and Agro-Ecosystems' was made available for Delegates - the only new FAO information document.
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Delegations felt good at the end of the week having achieved a consolidated text (with the qualifications noted above in the summary) and agreed to 2 further extraordinary sessions in 1998 (the second dependent on extra-budgetary funds) before the 8th regular session in May 1999. There really is a chance of the text being fully negotiated in time for the 1999 FAO Conference, something that was almost inconceivable 6 months ago - at the end of the May meting.
The EU under the leadership of the Netherlands has been pushing hard for progress and it was at their insistence that this meeting was held at all. The Norwegians and the Swedes and the Germans who have continued to put up money. Even the Swiss are (usually) supportive if their home-grown biotech and pharmaceutical industry allows them. Then there are the majority of the countries of G77, which are fighting for sui generis options that respect the rights of their farmers, perhaps with the exception of a few Mercocsur countries e.g. Argentina., and Brazil, which plays its own canny role, not wanting anything here to conflict with the scope of the CBD - so they are firmly fixed on the Genetic Resources of the major food crops - punto final...
But the spokespeople of, particularly, Ethiopia (Tewolde Egziabher), India (P L Gautam), Malaysia (Engsiang Lim), Philippines (Rene Salazar) and Zambia (Godfrey Mwila) and many other countries are very confident and can dominate OECD countries' arguments.
The UK is biding its time awaiting the EU presidency with some trepidation, knowing that the sentence will likely be for a year as they will shadow (or dominate) the Austrian presidency in the second half of 1998.
This time most delegations were falling over themselves to be diplomatic, polite, courteous, conciliatory and even accommodating. RAFI on behalf of public interest NGOs had written to the Chairs of all the Regional Groups to ask for Observer status at their meetings and to meet with them to discuss our concerns. While we were not permitted to observe their private sessions, all except GRULAC (Latin America) invited us to meet with them and we had between half and one hour with each Group. Some memorable contributions were made and there was a willingness to try and find areas of compromise, and certainly improve understanding. The issue of the European Patent Directive dominated most sessions and the EU was caught on the defensive, agriculture Ministries for the most part not being in favour of the Directive and some countries (The Netherlands) voting against and others (Italy and Belgium) abstaining from the vote in the Council of Ministers. All were interested, however, in what we had to say and were relatively open about their concerns.
But still, the USA had difficulties with 'the concept of farmers' rights' as ever. Argentina played their games and rubbed salt into the wound by achieving non-recognition of the whole CGRFA Undertaking process by Argentine President Menem when he came to speak to FAO Permanent Representatives, by chance half way through the meeting. And even Dr Diouf (FAO Director General) in his presentation to Menem also managed to miss out a reference to this aspect of FAO's work (the Open Working Group had been temporarily suspended in the Conference Room because the President's visit had prior claim on the interpreters), despite a wide-ranging presentation from Food Security to Sustainable Fisheries. Australia just continued to be difficult - even using up about half an hour of full plenary debating the text relating to the date of the next meeting. And they protected their precious [ blank space in the negotiating text!
So what did the NGOs achieve. Apart from the normal round of discussions with delegates, two issues ofBIOTALK and the very useful Regional meetings, we focused on the likely impacts of the European Patent Directive, the need for Farmers' Rights to be debated and further negotiated bearing in mind the importance of not allowing the spread of IPR systems into the whole area of Collective Knowledge. We organised the only lunchtime sessions on the European Patent Directive and the External Review of the CGIAR (Pat Mooney is one of the 2 NGO people on the Review Panel). We circulated new text on Farmers' Rights and lobbied intensely for the negotiating text to emphasise the G77 agreed text of May 1997 (in fact we circulated copies of the negotiating text with all the G77 text highlighted). Many African and EU delegates welcomed this.
GAIA and GRAIN circulated a lot of information about IPRs and the European Patent Directive. NGOs made 3 interventions in the Open Working Group (RAFI, GAIA, CONTAG-Brazil). It is also noteworthy that the only new FAO information paper available at the meeting was the report of the FAO-CBD JuneWorkshop on 'Farming Systems Approaches to the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Agricultural Biodiversity and Agro-Ecosystems', edited by ITDG.
The FAO Biennial Conference resolution on Agricultural Biological Diversity, which the Dutch developed after the June Workshop, SBSTTA-3 and the FAO-CBD Memorandum of Cooperation, and presented by them on behalf of the EU to the FAO Conference, was savaged by the FAO Biennial Conference, and the finally adopted resolution was relatively insubstantial. In the end no one asked the beady questions about budget allocation, although FAO was preparing itself for such questions. In the light of this it was a pity that NGOs did not lobby on this issue with a range of Delegations including those from the South. The opportunity to build a strong lobby in advance of the 1999 FAO Conference is there: NGOs / CSOs could help decisively with this process.
That said there is now a sense of purpose in FAO and the Commission that I have not previously witnessed - all stakeholders are trying to achieve consensus. Even the difficult countries are being less abrasive. The NGOs and the, often previously silent, countries are more confident and wiser. And the progressive countries, which now include the EU - smarting from embarrassment at the European Patent Directive vote in the Council of Ministers, are pushing hard for resolution of this negotiation by the end of 1999. Even demoralised FAO staff are seeing a possible resolution of the negotiations and the opportunities for further developments in the conservation and sustainable use of the wider agricultural biodiversity.
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What do we learn for the future? To provide even more background briefing for G77 delegates - especially making the links with the parallel negotiations of the CBD, WTO and so on. To improve the briefing of NGO and Farmers' and Indigenous Peoples' Organisations and seek wider 'representation' of views at the meeting or in pre-meetings. To ensure that this briefing focuses on achievable outcomes and helps the negotiating process, strengthening the position of the guardians of these resources. To focus our efforts on the medium and long-term desired outcomes, including in practical sustainable use and conservation issues (such as in the European Symposium) as well as lobbying on Trade, IPR and policy issues. Pyrrhic victories of a word here and a phrase there in a soon-to-be-forgotten text achieve little. In a world of failing democracies, in which short-termism dictated by the headlong rush to trade, market-domination by TNCs and their subsidiaries, all of whom are on very short time-scales for survival, Civil Society is the only group which could (and should) have a long vision. It is this that needs to be captured and projected into these negotiations.
(presented by the Netherlands on behalf of the European Community and its Member States)
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Considering the importance given in Agenda 21 to promoting the conservation and utilization of biotic and abiotic resources for sustainable agricultural development of the world and the role of genetic resources for the promotion of sustainable agriculture and rural development;
Considering that conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biological diversity is a key issue for sustainable agriculture and food security, and therefore an integral part of the policy for sustainable agriculture and rural development;
Recalling Decision III/11 of the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (Buenos Aires, November 1996) which highlighted the importance of biological diversity for agriculture, the interrelationship of agriculture with biological diversity; the development of a multi-year programme of activities on agricultural biological diversity aiming to promote:
Believing that the field of agriculture offers a unique opportunity for the Convention on Biological Diversity to link concerns regarding biological diversity conservation and sharing of benefits arising from the sustainable use of genetic resources with the mainstream economy, taking into account the need for a balances development of the three objectives of the Convention;
Recalling Resolution 7/93 of the 27th session of the FAO Conference on the Revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture;
Recalling the conclusions of the 7th session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the 112th session of the FAO Council, which identified as a top priority the need to convene an Extraordinary Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (GRFA) devoted solely to the continuing negotiations for the revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources. Other priorities are meetings of the Inter-governmental Technical Working Groups on Farm Animal and Plan Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture;
Noting that the ability to meet these priorities depends upon the budget allocations under the current and the 1998-99 Programme of Work and Budget, the need to allocate the funds in the budget and, if necessary, to seek extra-budgetary resources to ensure the timely convening of the extraordinary meetings agreed by the Commission;
Noting the call of the FAO Council and of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity for an effective and speedy completion of the revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources;
Welcoming the outcome of the 4th International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources which adopted the Leipzig Global Plan of Action for the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA;
Recalling the World Food Summit Plan of Action committed governments to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and in particular to implement the Leipzig Global Plan of Action;
FINAL RESOLUTION AS ADOPTED BY THE 29th FAO CONFERENCE ON 18/11/97
The Conservation and Sustainable Use of
Genetic resources for Food and Agriculture
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Considering the importance given in Agenda 21 to promoting the conservation and sustainable utilisation of biotic and abiotic resources for sustainable agriculture development of the world and the role of genetic resources for the promotion of sustainable agriculture and rural development;
Noting the call of the FAO Council, of the 7th Session of the Commission on Genetic resources for Food and Agriculture, and of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity for an effective and speedy completion of the revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic resources;
Welcoming the outcome of the 4th International Technical Conference on Plant genetic resources, in particular the Leipzig Global Plan of Action as adopted;
Recalling the World Food Summit Plan of Action committed governments with the support of international institutions to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity;
Emphasises that the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources for food and agriculture is a key objective in FAO policies and relevant programme areas and is a priority issue in the 1998-99 Programme of Work and Budget;
Encourages FAO to collaborate closely with the Executive Secretary of the CBD;
Calls upon Member Nations to continue negotiations for the revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic resources in a constructive spirit of compromise in order to be able to report considerable results to the Fourth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and to finalize these negotiations, as early as possible;
Invites members to contribute extra-budgetary resources to support the convening of extraordinary meetings, if needed, necessary to finalize the negotiations;
Encourages FAO to facilitate and promote the implementation of the Leipzig Global Plan of Action, as adopted, by all stakeholders;
Recommends that FAO study the possibility of assisting developing countries in projects in conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources for food and agriculture in collaboration with UNDP, the World bank and UNEP.
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There is broad concern that the current discussions on Farmers' Rights are only focusing on monetary compensation mechanisms for granting free access to biodiversity for industrial interests, thus reducing the biodiversity commons to a dwindling source of simple marketable commodities, undermining the full rights of farmers. The negotiations on access and benefit sharing need to be part of an integrated approach which takes full account of the following essential aspects of Farmers' Rights.
Farmers' Rights must:
Any mechanism for the implementation of Farmers Rights include:
The following necessary institutional processes should be established:
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G-77 AND EU SHOULD FORGE AHEAD EVEN IF CHRONICALLY-CHALLENGED
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"North America is more than about 5 hours behind us, it seems like it's about 5 light years." Muttered one delegate leaving last night's contact group meeting. The sentiment isn't a new one. At the end of the last Commission meeting North America and Australia, especially the US, looked (and felt) isolated. Some EU members were not so subtly signalling they were ready to move ahead without them.
"Let 'em eat dust," says Liz Hosken of the UK's Gaia Foundation, "Uncle Sam will eventually catch up and join the club." It took 8 years for the chronically-challenged US to join the Commission. "They never even formally adhered to the old Undertaking," says ITDG's Patrick Mulvany, "so instead of putting key parts of the Undertaking on hold, let's put the North Americans - and the Australians - in brackets."
Leaving the US behind wouldn't even be unusual. In fact, you could argue it's the norm. In addition to all the delays at FAO, the US had a nine-member delegation to the CBD's recent meeting on Article 8(j) in Madrid, despite never having ratified the convention. "This meeting reminds me of COP II," says one Southern delegate, "in Jakarta some countries wanted to wait around for the US; but if we had listened to them, where would we be now?"
Cynics have even sarcastically suggested that the US, and maybe Canada and Australia here, are just playing a perverse financial game. At the current rate of genetic erosion at almost 2% a year, if they delay the revision of the Undertaking long enough, so the rumor goes, the costs of joining the club will be lower.
While the US pattern of delay continues in Rome, this month in Ottawa, another international conference is meeting to adopt the international convention banning land mines. The United States will not be among the signatories - even though one of its own citizens won a Nobel Peace Prize for her role in creating the treaty. Recently, too, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan went on US television to denounce US tardiness in repaying its long overdue UN fees. US delegate Benjamin Franklin Moore denies that there are plans being developed to establish a debt for nitro swap. According to Moore, "There is no substance to rumors that there's a deal for the UN to reduce our unpaid dues by a dollar for each land mine we turn in."
Not Really a Financial Matter
Vía Campesina Talks About the
Need for Action on Farmers' Rights
Interview with Ernesto Ladron de Guevara
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Q: I've heard of Vía Campesina; but what exactly is it?
Via Campesina is a group of 65 national organizations from 40 countries working together for the defense of campesino rights and the implementation of public policies that benefit the small farmers that protect natural resources. We work for policies to improve conditions of rural life and that permit greater democracy and social participation. Among the principal themes on which we work are food security, technology transfer, rural finance, democracy, the rights of women, and rural education and training.
Q: Why are these negotiations important to you?
The rational conservation, use, and development of genetic resources is not possible without an international framework in the revised Undertaking that seriously supports us, small farmers.
Q: You're talking about Farmers' Rights?
Yes. Fundamental to understanding Farmers' Rights is being clear they are not just a question of money. Recognizing them is not an exercise in establishing a financial value of the PGRFA in farmers' hands and/or the value of resources and knowledge developed by us. People who think this are questioning our dignity. Among the most important elements of Farmers' Rights is recognition that Farmers' Rights precede others. They are historic rights. Farmers' Rights are collective rights of communities and peoples. They are rights to resources and associated knowledge. They are rights to decide the use and utilization, now and in the future, of our genetic resources. They include rights to appropriate technology and research. And, of course, they include our right to grow, keep, and exchange germplasm without restrictions. They support a model of sustainable development that rationally and intelligently uses natural resources.
Q: What would you think if the Commission agrees on access, as it now appears it may, without also strongly recognizing Farmers 'Rights?
It would be insulting - like walking into a home without asking the permission from the people who live there. If you're going to open access to our genetic resources to transnationals, it's only just that we get free access to their technology, research, and resources.
Tel: +44 1788 661100; Fax: +44 1788 661101
For Further Information, Please Mail ITDG
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