Story by Ronnie Vernooy
From May 27-28, 2013, the 1st Regional Meeting of the project “Enhancing Understanding and Implementation Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in Asia” was held at the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand. This new three years (2012-2015) regional project, supported by the Government of Japan, aims to support 15 Asian countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Viet Nam) to build institutional capacity to realize facilitated access through the multilateral system (MLS) of the Treaty. The project is implemented by the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific with technical support of FAO headquarters, the Treaty Secretariat and Bioversity International.
The first regional meeting, attended by delegates of 14 countries (of the 15 listed above), delegates from Japan, and a number of resource persons, aimed to brief participating countries on the objectives of the project, raise awareness of the importance of the Treaty, identify scope of the work and cooperation among countries, and develop country work plans. Guided by the facilitation of Duncan Vaughan, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Tsukuba, Japan, delegates listened to presentations made by resource persons about the history, purpose and provisions of the Treaty and the MLS (Daniele Manzella, Treaty Secretariat), the links between the centers of the CGIAR and the Treaty (Ruaraidh Sackville-Hamilton, International Rice Research Institute) and the progress made in Treaty implementation in the project “Strengthening national capacities to implement the ITPGRFA,” implemented in eight countries among which Bhutan and Nepal (Ronnie Vernooy, Bioversity International).
Delegates then presented brief overviews of the status of Treaty implementation in their country and the challenges faced to move forward. Delegates from Japan, Mongolia and Sri Lanka announced that their government would soon be signing the Treaty. Delegates from Thailand and Vietnam explained why their government has not (yet) signed the Treaty. Among the most mentioned challenges are: lack of awareness about the Treaty and the MLS, in particular among key stakeholders, lack of legal and technical capacity to implement the Treaty, weak coordination and cooperation between ministries/agencies responsible for implementation of the Treaty and for implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol, and nascent and under-resourced national system for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources.
Based on the deliberations during the workshop each delegate presented a draft country work plan aimed to advance national Treaty implementation and overcome one or more of the challenges identified. Workshop participants concluded by formulating a number of recommendations, including: Conduct consultations with farmers’ organizations and communities on the Treaty including the MLS. Translate the Treaty and the SMTA into the various national languages, where they are not already translated, and prepare easy guides to understanding the Treaty and SMTA in national languages. Take action as needed to promote a dialogue between environmental and agriculture authorities concerning access and benefit sharing in the national setting (e.g. to create legal space for the operation of the MLS). Organize a ‘Training of Trainers’ workshop on the Treaty workshop as soon as possible.
Proceedings of the workshop are forthcoming.
For more information about the project, please contact: Mr Subash Dasgupta, Senior Plant Production Officer, Agriculture and Food Systems Group (AFS), FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand, Subash.Dasgupta@fao.org