Nam Accedes to the Nagoya Protocol

IN A move that shows the country’s commitment to the protection and sustainable use of its biological diversity, Namibia has acceded to the Nagoya Protocol (NP) on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Last Thursday, Namibia deposited an instrument of accession to the Nagoya Protocol to the United Nations Headquarters in New York through its ambassador to the United Nations, Wilfried Emvula.

On Friday, Kauna Schroeder, the Principal Project Coordinator and Aiser to the Office of the Environmental Commissioner, announced that Namibia’s instrument seeking accession to the Nagoya Protocol has been accepted and the country is now officially a Party to the Nagoya Protocol.

“Namibia clinched the 35th slot and is now an official party to the NP,” said Schroeder, adding that acceding to the NP means more challenging work and opportunities as well as ongoing negotiations are ahead for Namibia.

The country was chosen by Africa to negotiate on behalf of the African Group of Negotiators in the process that led to the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol.

This team of Namibian negotiators consisted of Schroeder, biodiversity expert and the director of tourism, Sem Shikongo, and well-known Namibian environmentalist Pierre du Plessis.

The Nagoya Protocol came as a response to the implementation of the third objective of the CBD, which calls for the fair and equitable benefits sharing arising from the commercial utilisation of genetic resources. The Protocol was adopted on 29 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan.

There are two ways of becoming a party to multi-lateral environmental treaties.

One is through ratification, which requires signing and accession which mean depositing an instrument seeking acceding to the treaty.

Schroeder explained that Namibia took the accession option because the former Minister of Environment and Tourism, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, took a decision that Namibia should only become a party to the NP once the country has a domestic law dealing with ABS issues.

“Unfortunately, the process to develop and get the Bill on Access and Benefit Sharing and Related Traditional Knowledge endorsed by Cabinet and Parliament is still ongoing and awaiting final approval,” said Schroeder.

On the 23rd of last month, environment minister Uahekua Herunga asked Parliament to allow Namibia to accede and become a party to the Nagoya Protocol as it will be in line with its current endeavour to regulate access to its genetic resources. The Protocol will come into force after the 50th instrument of ratification has been deposited.

The Protocol was opened for signatures from 2 February 2011 to 1 February 2012.

Namibia’s decision to accede to the Nagoya Protocol has been hailed by a number of conservationists, environmental lawyers and environmentalists.

Lesle Jansen of the South African-based Natural Justice congratulated Namibia on taking this great step.

Kenneth Uiseb, an evironment ministry conservation scientist, also congratulated all those involved in the process that led to Namibia acceding to the Protocol.

“This is commendable,” said Percy Chimwamurobe, a lecturer in the Department of Biological Diversity at the University of Namibia.

Lazarus Khairabeb, a representative of a traditional authority in Southern Namibia on issues of ABS said, “Well, well, what pleasant news. Well done. Forward ever, backward never.”

Professor Oliver Ruppel, who lectures environmental law at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, said “Congratulations for yet another milestone”.

Mohamed Sessay from the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said it was an important milestone for Namibia and “As the lead negotiator for our continent on ABS issues, you have done us proud”.

Until today, complaints about western countries unethically taking away genetic resources from Africa continue and it is hoped that the Nagoya Protocol will put a stop to this, once in force. Namibia’s Bill on ABS and Related Traditional Knowledge will, amongst others, make sure that for anyone seeking access to traditional knowledge related to genetic resources (in rural communities) should get permission from the traditional area of the chief of that area and that access to genetic resources should be done through the Prior Informed Consent procedure.

Regional consultations seeking inputs into the Bill were conducted from 2011 – 2012. The CBD is one of the three international environmental agreements that originated from the 1992 Rio Conference on Environment and Development.

Biodiversity is defined as the variability among living organisms from all sources, including land ecosystems and aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part and this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

Article 15 of CDB recognises the sovereign rights of States over their natural resources that the authority to determine access to genetic resources, rests with the national governments and is subject to national legislation. Article 95 (I) of the Namibian Constitution says the State shall “maintain ecosystems, essential ecological processes and biological diversity of Namibia and the utilization of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future.”

Source : The Namibian