After five long days of negotiating, delegates breathed a collective sigh of relief as the gavel went down in the closing plenary of the first ever meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on benefit-sharing from the use of digital sequence information (DSI) on genetic resources.
Delegates met in sessions of the Committee of the Whole (CoW) throughout the day under the guidance of Co-Chairs Martha Mphatso Kalemba, Malawi, and William Lockhart, UK. They discussed conference room papers (CRPs) on the multilateral mechanism for benefit-sharing from the use of DSI on genetic resources, including a global fund.
Discussions were structured around five identified clusters of work on:
- contributions to the DSI fund;
- fund disbursement;
- non-monetary benefit-sharing;
- governance; and
- relation to other approaches and systems.
Deliberations in the morning focused on elements for governance and relation to other approaches and systems. The CoW battled through a long list of possible elements, structured around those on which there is potential convergence and those in need of further discussions.
In the afternoon, the CoW continued addressing elements requiring further discussion, before turning its attention to revised CRPs that reflect interventions made during the week. Despite a reminder by a delegate that a footnote was added to the document earlier in the week, to clearly indicate that the elements outlined provide a non-exhaustive list of elements that parties may wish to consider as a priority for future work, while retaining the right to raise and consider additional elements, discussions were tangled and lengthy. Tired but strong-willed delegates strived to ensure that their positions would be reflected in the final document, with the vast majority of suggestions finding their place among the elements that require further discussion.
On the way forward, Co-Chair Kalemba reviewed the steps for intersessional work, as discussed and agreed in a Contact Group meeting on Friday evening. These include:
- information sharing, including through webinars;
- setting up an informal advisory group (IAG) to provide opportunities for technical discussion among parties, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and stakeholders, building up from the positive experience of the previous IAG on DSI; and
- informal consultations to be facilitated by CoW Co-Chairs Kalemba and Lockhart, including regional online consultations to facilitate exchange of views.
In the Working Group’s closing plenary, delegates adopted the final outcome on the possible elements of a multilateral mechanism for benefit-sharing from the use of DSI on genetic resources, including a global fund. They further adopted the steps for intersessional work until the second meeting of the Working Group in August 2024.
In closing remarks, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Acting Executive Secretary David Cooper highlighted points of convergence on how to operationalize the mechanism on DSI and the fund, living up to the high ambition set in Montreal at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15). He expressed hope that delegates will use these ideas and mutual understanding to further reflect and consult, stressing that the process on the revision of national biodiversity strategies and action plans provides a good opportunity for stakeholder consultation. Cooper underscored the importance of intersessional work for building the foundations for needed creative solutions. He stressed that the decision on DSI at COP15 was a landmark agreement, but, with this process, “we have the potential to develop a transformative mechanism that will make a difference to all the objectives and goals of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).”
Working Group Chair Ning Liu, China, highlighted that the meeting sent a strong, positive signal of ambition for true transformative change, and stressed fairness, transparency, inclusiveness, and a spirit of compromise as key for the way forward. He emphasized that “on Tuesday, nothing looked easy, now the task looks a bit easier but it is not time to relax,” with much work to be done in little time. Liu stressed that the GBF and the DSI mechanism can bring about truly transformative change, towards the realization of the CBD Vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050. He thanked delegates and participants for their hard work and spirit of cooperation that allowed for some progress and gaveled the meeting of the Working Group to a close at 9:54 pm.