The Nagoya Protocol on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their use in the Convention on Biological Diversity, also called ABS Protocol (for "Access and Benefit Sharing"), was adopted 30 October 2010 in Nagoya (Japan) at the Tenth Conference of Parties at the CBD (CBD COP10).

The adoption of this protocol was welcomed, as were all the results of the CBD COP10, as one of the greatest achievements in the environmental field by the Belgian Presidency of the European Union level.

Nagoya Protocol: Why and for whom?

The Protocol aims at implementing of the third goal of the CBD. It provides greater legal certainty and greater transparency for both providers and users of genetic resources.

Genetic resources, whether of animal, plant or microbial origin, are used in a variety of activities, such as basic research or the development of new products to be marketed.

Users of genetic resources can be:
• research institutes,
• universities,
• ex-situ collections (i.e. outside the natural environment)
• private companies
•  …

They use these resources in a wide range of sectors:
• biotechnology;
• protection of cultures;
• horticulture;
• cosmetics;
• pharmacy;
• …

Some key features of the Nagoya Protocol

In simplified terms, this protocol can be summarised as a requirement,
• on the one hand, for the user countries to ensure that they comply with the legislation on ABS in force in the supplier countries (Article 15) and,
• on the other hand, for the supplier countries to ensure that their legislation on ABS is clear and transparent (Article 6.3).

According to the national legislation in force, the access to genetic resources may be subject to agreements called "Prior Informed Consent" ("PIC") of the country providing the resources (Article 6) as well as "Mutually Agreed Terms" ("MAT") defining the distribution of benefits from the utilisation of genetic resources with the country providing them (Article 5). Countries applying the Protocol must also set up a monitoring system ("checkpoint") to document the access to genetic resources in their territory and to ensure that this access is compliant with PIC and that the MAT have been defined.

In addition, and this is a major achievement of the Protocol, the issue of traditional knowledge held by indigenous and local communities and associated with genetic resources was widely discussed (Articles 5.2 , 5.5, 6.2, 7, 11.2 and 12). In accordance with Article 8 (j) of the CBD, the contribution of traditional knowledge is recognised and the involvement of the holders of such knowledge is required (in accordance with the national legislation in force) when it comes to approving their use.

Finally, the Protocol urges users and providers of genetic resources to allocate the benefits derived from their use to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity (Article 9). Similarly, Article 5.5 encourages Parties to the Protocol to share the benefits arising from the utilisation of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources and held by the indigenous and local communities with the latter.

Publications to give a better understanding

The CBD Secretariat has published an explanatory booklet on the Nagoya Protocol, and provides the official text of the Protocol (FR or EN).

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has also published an explanatory guide on the Nagoya Protocol (in English only).