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Pretend you are a business person ...

... in the pharmaceutical field who wants to gain access to specific genetic resources that I claim to own. I am a farmer in another country and give you access to my resources and share my knowledge about their medical value.

In return, you give me a share of the profits made by, after intensive research, commercializing the medicinal drug you derived from these resources. You also promise my government that at least a portion of the research results will be shared. You and I negotiate and agree on the terms of this business deal. This agreement is legally binding. If one of us does not comply with the obligations contained therein, the other party can file a lawsuit. Non-compliance will be punished by law.

But what if you doubt that I am actually the owner of these resources?
What happens if another party, maybe from another country, claims ownership of the same resources?
Who monitors the compliance measures of our agreement?
On which law do we base our agreement?
How can I be sure that you accurately divulge to me the profit you make?
How can you ensure that I give you access to the resources as agreed?
Who has the intellectual property rights to the genetic resource and the drug - you, I or both of us?

The above example illustrates important questions which arise when implementing the third objective of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): "the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources" (ABS).

These questions also demonstrate that Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) is not easy to put into practice. There are more than a few challenges to be met. The 2010 Nagoya Protocol provides important mechanisms and tools in this regard.

While the CBD pushed ABS into the global political limelight, it took 18 years to carve the concept in stone through the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol. This international agreement is without doubt a major milestone in the efforts to ensure justice in the protection and sustainable use of biological and genetic resources worldwide. It is also well integrated into the global context of sustainable development: reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), ensuring food security, supporting the emergence of a Green Economy and establishing North-South Justice.

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