Session 4: The Convention on Biological Diversity - Making access decisions

The adoption of the CBD in 1992 was a milestone in international environmental law and has shifted the paradigm regarding policies and rules governing access to and use of plant, animal and microbial genetic resources. Prior to 1992, in international law, free access and the principle of the common heritage of humankind ruled the use of genetic resources. As of 1992, States’ sovereign right to regulate how and under what conditions their genetic resources may be accessed was underscored in the CBD.

This sovereign right does not necessarily imply that States have property rights over genetic resources; rather, sovereignty refers to a faculty and right to enact laws and regulations.  The specific legal status or the answer to the question of who owns genetic resources will be defined and responded to according to different legal traditions and national constitutions.

In this session we analyze the implications of one of the fundamental shifts in the social and legal conceptualization of PGRFA, i.e., the emphasis on state sovereign control over access to those resources.  The CBD is one of the primary international  instruments which promotes this approach.

Training materials for session 4 include lecture notes, a PowerPoint presentation and an interactive exercise. The exercise aims to reflect on the CBD and analyse its emphasis on state sovereign control over access to resources.

Additional handouts to enrich the training include a summary of overheads for each presentation, references to the full-text of relevant laws and policies and a bibliography for further reading.

Other materials for trainers include an overview with a complete list of handouts, workshop schedule, an evaluation form and Day 1 Instructions for Trainers with a timed schedule of activities and handouts. See also Information for Trainers , for a selection of templates, tips, and step-by-step guidelines for planning and delivering a successful training workshop.

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