Valuing and Sharing of Biological Resources to be discussed in ASEAN Conference on Biodiversity

The ASEAN region cradles a vast wealth of plant and animal species that people depend upon for food, medicine, shelter, livelihood, and other needs. A pressing issue faced by the region and other parts of the world, however, is the sharing of these natural resources.

Access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of their utilization, or what is commonly known as ABS, has become a critical issue in recent years.

Biodiversity stakeholders will discuss the various facets of ABS during one of the main sessions at the ASEAN Conference on Biodiversity 2009 (ACB2009) to be held on 21-23 October 2009 in Singapore. With the theme “Biodiversity in Focus: 2010 and Beyond”, the conference is being organized by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and the National Parks Board (NParks) of Singapore at the Republic Polytechnic. The event will be held back-to-back with the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment.

“ASEAN countries should actively participate in the current discussions on issues related to access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from its use as it provides opportunities to exercise their sovereign rights to exploit their own natural resources and ensure that appropriate national policies and legislations are in place to deal on issues on facilitating access to genetic resources, prior informed consent, mutually agreed terms and benefits sharing,” Mr. Rodrigo U. Fuentes, Executive Director of the European Union-supported ACB, said.

He added that “Parties have the obligation to take appropriate measures with the aim of sharing the benefits derived from their use.” At the regional level, ASEAN Member States have treated ABS as a priority issue for regional collaboration and harmonization, devoting significant time and resources to developing ABS regimes.

The conference session on ABS will provide a venue for stakeholders to fully understand how to add value to the available genetic resources; understand negotiation issues on ABS terms with users and providers of the resources; and ensure that benefits are gained by the local communities and translate into conservation actions.

Dato’ Zakri A. Hamid, Tuanku Chancellor Chair at Universiti Sains Malaysia, leads the roster of ABS experts during ACB2009. Speakers include Mr. K. Nagulendran, Principal Assistant Secretary, Conservation and Environment Management Division, Malaysia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment; Mr. Timothy Hodges, Co-Chair of the Convention on Biological Diversity Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Access and Benefits-Sharing, Dr. Sam Johnston, Senior Research Fellow, United Nations University; Dr. Andreas Drews, Coordinator, ABS Capacity Development Initiative for Africa GTZ; Dr. Raman Letchumanan, Head, Environment and Disaster Management Unit, Bureau for Resources Development, ASEAN Secretariat; Dr. Martin Everett, Head of Research, Merlion Pharmaceuticals, Singapore; Dr. Perry Ong, Director, Institute of Biology at the University of the Philippines, and Mr. Paul Oldham, ESRC Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (Cesagen), Institute for Advanced Study at Lancaster University in UK.

The two other thematic sessions to be featured at the conference are Climate Change and Biodiversity, and Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity – the ASEAN Region’s Contribution.

Key partners for the conference include the Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA), the United Nations University (UNU), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), East and Southeast Asia Biodiversity Inventory Initiative (ESABII), and the Japan Ministry of Environment.

Over 200 experts, policy and decision makers are expected to participate in ACB2009. For more information on ACB2009 and for copies of the registration form and provisional programme, log on to www.aseanbiodiversity.org or e-mail the conference secretariat at ACB2009@aseanbiodiversity.org.