Contributed by Krystyna Swiderska, Co-Director of the ISE Global Coalition

The Global Coalition, in conjunction with the Ethics Committee, works closely with other non-profit organizations and academic and professional societies on policy and advocacy, including implementation and adoption of the ISE Code of Ethics. During the 2012 ISE Congress, a full-day workshop in the ISE Indigenous Forum was organized by the Global Coalition with the objective of improving understanding and increasing dialogue amongst the different actors concerned, and to identify ways in which support for community protocols could be strengthened as a way to revitalize the implementation of MEAs at the local level.

This dialogue on community protocols brought together experts from MEA Secretariats and government and ISE Congress participants who explored the role of community protocols in implementing the Nagoya Protocol in the context of the Biodiversity Convention and in the agriculture sector under the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as well as the role of community protocols in implementing indigenous peoples’ rights in support of sustainable development.

Some of the conclusions from the workshop include:

  • Community protocols can be used by communities to set out requirements and processes for Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) and ethical research; to defend their customary rights to biodiversity resources against development threats; and to promote sustainable and equitable management of resources. The process to develop protocols is important and valuable in itself, and can lead to good conservation outcomes, even if it does not result in a protocol. Biocultural Community Protocols (BCPs) must be something that come from the community (i.e. bottom-up).
  • BCPs for ABS can enhance legal certainty and clarity for both users and providers, protect communities from exploitation, and channel benefits to local level to incentivize conservation. In implementing the Nagoya Protocol, governments and donors should ensure that communities that are approached for ABS receive support for developing BCPs. BCPs may not be cost effective as a pre-emptive strategy for ABS, but can be useful to address other threats or needs relating to community biodiversity resources. Even where ABS is not the main objective, BCPs have contributed to implementing the Nagoya Protocol by establishing local representative structures for ensuring Prior Informed Consent (PIC), strengthening capacity for PIC and Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT), and taking customary laws into account.
  • BCPs are an important tool for strengthening community governance and conservation of biodiversity and traditional knowledge, and hence for enhancing capacity for adaptation to climate change and resilience. A number of cases show that BCPs have improved conservation of biodiversity by communities—e.g. traditional crops and medicinal plants—particularly where the process to develop protocols has been participatory and extensive. Conservation values are strengthened through the process and the more participatory the process, the more binding the outcome.
  • BCPs also have a role to play in implementing sustainable development at the local level by linking environmental conservation, economic development and social equity objectives.

The Potato Park’s BCP ensures that economic revenues from the park are shared equitably amongst the six communities, based on contribution to sustaining biocultural diversity and on need, and that they are used in accordance with conservation and equity principles. And by strengthening local institutions for resource management internally, BCPs can make communities better organized, and so better able to defend their biocultural resources against external threats.

Please find the full report here.