MYANMAR FIRST NATIONAL CONSULTATION ON ACCESS TO GENETIC RESOURCES and FAIR and EQUITABLE SHARING of BENEFITS (ABS)

ObjectivesThe Consultation aims to 1) scope ABS-relevant policies on ABS in Myanmar; 2) draft road map towards developing national ABS legal framework; and 3) identify capacity needs of key stakeholders on ABS in Myanmar.

Highlights of Consultation:
1.Opening Ceremony
The Ceremony was attended by _ participants (list of participants in ANNEX 1). The Minister of Environmental Conservation and Forestry Win Tun gave a key note address and stressed the importance and the commitment of Myanmar in setting the context and building capacity for a harmonized national process in implementing the CBD provisions on access to and benefit sharing of genetic resources (ABS).  He likewise commended the high level of participation turnout which proves to be a testimony on the sense of ownership among the various institutions of Myanmar as regards to the issue of access and benefit sharing.  Policies and legislations related to the conservation of natural resources were also highlighted.  Specifically, mention was also made of certain activities including a project on Community Based Natural Resource Management initiated in protected areas relating to the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.  Gaps and challenges in the context of ABS dues to the lack of comprehensive ABS policies and regulations and national road map, as well as lack of capacity for the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol were also mentioned.  As a result of these gaps and challenges, the importance and timeliness of the workshop was emphasized not only for the future strategic policy and framework of ABS in Myanmar, but also the outcomes of the workshop and in leaving a lasting mark on ACB’s work in the years to come. 
Mr. Anthony Foronda, Project Coordinator of the ACB-UNEP-GEF Regional Project, also provided a message on behalf of ACB. He emphasized the usefulness of the activity for the participants to help Myanmar in developing an ABS mechanism to provide incentive in the conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use. He also underlined that ACB would like to build the capacity of Myanmar to develop and implement the national roadmap on ABS.

2.ABS and NP-ABS
The presentation provided an informal overview of the Nagoya Protocol to provide participants an understanding of how it works,the benefits Myanmar will accrue being a signatory to the Protocol and the ratification process.  It further highlighted the obligation of provider countries to establish ABS measures at the national level that should provide for legal certainty, clarity and transparency; fair and non-arbitrary rules and procedures; clear rules and procedures for PIC and MAT; and how issuing a permit or equivalent is evidence that PIC was obtained and MAT established.  The presentation also provided for what is and is not included in the definition of “genetic resources” under the Nagoya Protocol.  Developed country obligations to developing countries were also discussed, specifically in terms of how resources accessed from Myanmar can be protected once they leave the country.  Capacity building options under the Protocol was also stressed.  In summary, the presentation highlighted that the Nagoya Protocol has been designed to protect the interests of developing countries while at the same time it also protects research and development through improved legal certainty.  Mechanisms are likewise in place to support ratification and implementation and how countries within the Protocol will have a research and development advantage over those who do not. 

3.ABS relevant policies: Environment & Forestry
The presentation provided a background of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol and Myanmar’s role as a signatory to the Convention.  The institutional set up or arrangement in relation to biodiversity conservation and access and benefit sharing was also presented.  ABS related policies related to the environment and forestry was also discussed.  International agreements related to biodiversity conservation as well as ABS related legislation in the different sectors such as agriculture & irrigation, culture, industry, livestock & fisheries, science and technology, national planning & economic development were highlighted.  Finally, the national ABS Work Plan for Myanmar, specifically its status and expected outcomes were also presented. 

4.ABS relevant policies: Agriculture

At the outset, the presentation provided a list of international agreements that Myanmar has ratified in relation to food security.  The presentation likewise discussed different initiatives such as the Germplasm Distribution Policy which provides for a Protocol for domestic and foreign institutions, the Multilateral System of ABS, and the responsibilities it still has to fulfill being a party to both the CBD and the ITPGRFA.  Points to be considered were also raised such as: ownership and farmer’s rights, the paradigm shift with resources being considered originally as part of common heritage to becoming part of national sovereignty; and the question of how developing countries like Myanmar are ready to implement such mechanisms.  Measures to be taken in the future were also presented specifically on the need for information gathering; inventory of materials; identification of materials to be considered under public domain and its formal inclusion into the Multilateral System of ABS and notification.  To conclude, emphasis was placed on the need for a multidimensional approach, clear policy legislation and strong institutional frameworks wherein support is crucial; the need for an ITPGRFA committee under ABS; and the need for conflicts between access and rights to be resolved. 

5.ABS relevant policies: Biotechnology

The presentation focused on the role of molecular biology in accessing genetic resources, specifically, on the current status of research experiments concerned with genetic resource identification and contributions to the workshop in terms of scientific and technical ideas for the conservation of natural genetic resources. 

6.ABS relevant policies: Livestock & Fisheries

The presentation provided information on the livestock population of Myanmar including the Livestock Development Policy.  The presentation went on to focus on the current status of biodiversity in the country particularly on animal genetic resources and its ongoing activities related to genetic conservation.  Constraints in implementation of animal genetics include incomplete or lack of data; lackof priority given in national policy; lack of awareness among policy makers; and lack of technically trained persons in animal genetic resources conservation.  Steps for conservation of animal genetic resource were also presented to include characterization; inventory/monitoring of location, population status, trends; understanding diversity, distribution, basic characteristics and comparative performance; periodically assess the status of trends; increase awareness of indigenous peoples; and ex sit and in situ conservation.  A template of the Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) for genetic materials for genotyping was also presented.  The importance of Common Pool Resources (CPR) was also discussed.  Finally, a table on the preparation of a proposed national strategy and action plan for ABS consisting of 9 phases was also presented. 

Open forum:

Q: Difference between CITES and ABS.(Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation)

A: If a resource is taken for the purpose of trade, it falls outside the Nagoya Protocol and falls under CITES and other regulations related to trade.

Q:How is traditional knowledge (TK) protected and benefits shared to the communities.

A: The Nagoya Protocol requires countries to safeguard the use of TK, whoever receives must comply with the contract and with the owners of the knowledge.  It is left to the countries on how to protect such TK.  Agreement is between knowledge holders and users as to the value, except when knowledge is in writing and there is patrimonial ownership of the country (e.g. India).

Q: Is there conflict between patent law (intellectual property rights) and ABS law?

A:There is no conflict.  The IP system focuses on protecting the economic value of an invention whilst ABS focuses on how economic value will flow back to the owners.

Q: Where does the process begin in terms of research - for application and commercialization? (Ministry of Health)

A:The first step in scientific research is to acquire access to the research material.  The bulk of research is for non-commercial research.  Also, Article 8a of the Nagoya Protocol provides for an opportunity for countries to lower the barriers to such kind of research.  As such, in the case of Australia, users are required to share results; to not provide a copy of material acquired to a 3rd person without permission from the providers; and to come back to the provider and negotiate the benefit sharing agreement, among others. 

Q:What is the status of the biosafety law? With the opening up of the country, economically and politically, there is a need to protect GMOs. (Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation)

A:The Biosafety law is now under the MOECAF but there is a need for coordination with other relevant ministries specifically with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Q: Suggestion to promote community forestry at the field level, as well as the need for legal support to farmers.  It is also important to highlight agricultural ecology having great potential for conservation.  Can ABS produce some policy specifically on agriculture? (ECODEV)

A:The system of agricultural ecology has been developed at the policy level by Japan through the Satoyama Initiative.  There is also a need for support from the government in terms of funding.  In Myanmar there is a system which is similar to the Satoyama Initiative.  Also, the Forestry Department is currently revising the Forestry Law to include more community involvement.

Q: Mr. Burton’s presentation made mention that essences (fragrance) are not included under the definition of “genetic resources” under the CBD.  The Myanmar Flora & Biotech Company is currently working with a Japanese cosmetic company for a fragrance from an orchid found in Myanmar.  How does this situation fall under the CBD? (Myanmar Flora & Biotech Company)

A:  If essence is collected for the purpose of research & development for its biochemical make up, then it falls under the Nagoya Protocol.  However, if the purpose is for production, then it does not fall under the Nagoya Protocol.  It is important to always take note of the PURPOSE of the collection.

Q:  There is a need for a Red data book for Myanmar.  What needs to be done? (University of Mandalay)

A:  It is important to know what species you have, where, and what condition they are in.  Emphasis should be given to the basic taxonomy of flora and fauna.  International collaboration through GBIF, the International Bar Code of Life can also be made to address the capacity issue.    A list is likewise already established in collaboration with MOECAF with assistance from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).  A list was also extracted from CITES and IUCN.  The need to classify and assess is very important to identify red data. 

7.       Stakeholder Analysis and Road Map Development

The presentation provided for the relevance of stakeholder analysis and the importance of stakeholder participation.  An example of a stakeholder map, which was a result of the 2nd Regional Workshop on ABS held in Thailand in August 2012, was presented to give the participants an overview of how stakeholder mapping works and how it can be applied in the case of Myanmar.  The relevance of road map development was also discussed specifically by providing the participants different road map models developed by other AMS for their respective ABS road maps.  Seven fields of action were also presented together with their respective objectives to achieve and from this; the participants can choose their priority fields of action in developing the national ABS roadmap. 

8.       The Nagoya Protocol: Ratification and Implementation

The presentation discussed the obligation of countries once they have acceded to the Nagoya Protocol.  Such obligations also include user compliance measures as well as awareness raising measures.  In summary, much of ABS policy is already settled because the Protocol is already delayed which simplifies its implementation.  The implementation of the Protocol is also assisted by the development of the ABS Management Tool and the IUCN Guide for to the Protocol.  And finally, the scale of effort in implementing the Protocol’s obligations should be proportionate to a country’s capacity which is to include the expected level of scientific interest and the abundance of its biodiversity. 

9.       Biodiscovery Management: Australia’s Experience (Genetic Resources – Access and Benefit Sharing)

The presentation focused on Australia’s experience as the first megadiverse OECD country to have successfully applied the Bonn Guidelines.  Mention was made of its biodiversity and ABS policy including an overview of the Access Law.  Experiences and lessons learned were also shared, specifically on the challenge of educating researchers and the need to respond to industry and science concerns.  Application of other lessons learned include: development of new model contracts; establishment of long term access and benefit sharing arrangements with universities and research institutions; adopting to biotechnology industry’s changing business model; moving to a simpler access model to include negotiation of commercial MAT when triggered by a biodiscovery; among the others.  Most importantly, the role of transparency was also highlighted, specifically, concerning disclosure, monitoring tracking and compliance.  Handouts were also provided to the group containing the ABS process for commercial research and the pharmaceutical commercialization model being followed in Australia. 

Workshop on National ABS Policies

Four groups were created representing the sectors of Agriculture, Health, Livestock and Fisheries, and Forestry.  Respective members of the group were asked to identify and answer the following:

(1)    Who owns and manages the genetic resource found in-situ and ex-situ in their respective sectors;

(2)    What are the relevant policies to ABS; and

(3)    What kind of policy is needed for research or international collaboration?

Group Outputs are presented as ANNEX 2

Roundtable Discussion on Road Map Development

MoECAF presented a visual presentation of the road map and table of activities specific for each milestone.  A roundtable discussion proceeded and identified further key stakeholders and timeline to achieve the milestone. 

Result of the discussion is presented as ANNEX 3

Annexes:

Annex 1: List of participants

Annex 2: Workshop outputs on national ABS policies

Annex 3: Workshop outputs on Road map development

Annex n: Powerpoint presentations?

Annex n+1: Insert relevant photos including resource persons