Equitable sharing of benefits
The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from biodiversity is one of the central objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD acknowledges the significant environmental, economic and social value of biodiversity. It also seeks to ensure that the rights of countries and communities over their biological resources and related knowledge are respected, and that the benefits derived from their use are equitably shared. The CBD thus sets out commitments for maintaining the planet’s ecological foundation in the context of sustainable development strategies.
What is ABS?
Access and benefit sharing or “ABS” refers to a specific regime of benefit sharing established by the CBD for the use of “genetic resources” and associated traditional knowledge.
The exact scope of the term “genetic resources,” however, has not been determined. It is in cases interpreted broadly. Some national laws and experts define the concept to include not only genetic information but also the biochemical substances in living organisms.
In particular, the CBD establishes a system for access and benefit sharing (ABS) in relation to genetic resources. It recognizes that access to these resources must be subject to the prior informed consent of the provider country and based on mutually agreed terms, including fair and equitable sharing of any resulting benefits. The CBD also requires that access to related traditional knowledge occur with the approval of the holders of such knowledge, who must also participate equitably in the resulting benefits.
The fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of biodiversity is at the core of Ethical BioTrade, and constitutes one of the key elements of the work of UEBT. ABS principles are included in the Ethical BioTrade standard, both expressly and in the context of broader benefit sharing requirements. The UEBT third-party verification system assesses company policies and their implementation, and determines any necessary changes that need to be gradually implemented to comply with Ethical BioTrade practices, including on benefit sharing. In addition, UEBT provides technical advice and support on benefit sharing and ABS issues, including through practical tools and workshops. By addressing benefit sharing in its outreach activities, UEBT is also helping to raise awareness of these issues within industry.
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