The Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Kwaku Afriyie has stressed the need for Ghana to create awareness and build the capacity of key stakeholders on the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol.
The Nagoya Protocol on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization, is a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity. It provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
Dr Afriyie, who was opening a day’s sensitization workshop for the Focal Point and Competent National Authorities (CNA) in Accra, noted that it was important to impart stakeholders and the public with what Nagoya Protocol entailed and the procedures to follow when one needs to utilize genetic resources which originate from the country.
He said the Nagoya Protocol was accepted as a landmark agreement in international governance of biodiversity and was relevant for commercial and non-commercial sectors involved in the use and exchange of genetic resources among countries that signed on to it.
Dr Afriyie stated that “In times past, a lot of countries in the tropical world which are endowed with lots of flora and fauna lost out on these resources as some persons and other selfish interest groups made huge gains through genetic manipulations from the originals and that, these were the sort of things the Nagoya Protocol seeks to rectify among other concerns.”
He further observed that in the case of Ghana, the majority of the genetic resources were taught by ancestors through the millennia via oral tradition regarding their uses such as medicinal and other purposes but were allowed to slip into foreign hands.
He was hopeful that with the introduction of the Focal Point and Competent National Authorities, all stakeholders and responsible state institutions would be vigilant and play their part effectively so that the whole regime about the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) of genetic resources, did not put Ghana at a disadvantage.
A retired Professor at the Department of Plant and Environmental Biology, School of Biological Sciences of the University of Ghana, Prof. Alfred Apau Oteng-Yeboah said biodiversity and relative issues have received a lot of attention on the airwaves while every 22nd of May every year is used to celebrate the International Biological Diversity Day to bring to the fore, the relevance of nature and its resources to the Ghanaians and the world at large.
He urged stakeholders to work in concert to provide the kind of services that would ensure that the Nagoya Protocol is properly domesticated in Ghana.
Giving a background, Prof. Oteng-Yeboah disclosed that the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity was one of the three agreements which emanated from discussions from 1987 through to 1991 when governments through their people, observed that there were so many crises in the environment resulting mainly from human activities such as climate change and land degradation. He added that “biodiversity resources, as a result, were being lost at speeds faster than it could be arrested.”
Consequently, Agenda 21 deliberations came up later in Brazil during the UN’s meeting on environment and development to seek sustainable solutions to these negative effects on biodiversity and the environment in general. This then gave birth to three Conventions namely; the Climate Change Convention, the Desertification Convention and the Biodiversity Convention.
Following this was the entry of signatures agreeing to the adoption of the Biodiversity Convention and representatives of some 136 countries, including Ghana did append their signatures for adoption and implementation. According to Prof. Oteng-Yeboah, a minimum of 50 countries ratifying a convention gives it the green light to roll out, adding that the ratification for the biodiversity convention was rapid.
Prof. Oteng-Yeboah disclosed that the Biodiversity Convention has three major objectives including the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of biological diversity and equity in the sharing of benefits that arise from the use of genetic resources. He added that the Convention has a governance structure known as the Conference of Parties that meets at appropriate times for deliberations and for decisions to be taken.
The decisions so taken are binding on all members because these are usually arrived at by a consensus but not voting.
Responding to questions from participants, the Prof. said any person or entity venturing into plant research and herbal production, for instance, would have to first receive clearance or certification relating to efficacy, toxicity and other vital variables before production and sale.
Irene Wirekoaa Osei, ISD
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