The fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of biodiversity is at the core of Ethical BioTrade and constitutes one of the key elements of the work of the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT). The UEBT third-party verification system assesses company policies and their implementation and determines any measures, including on access and benefit sharing (ABS), that need to be implemented to gradually achieve compliance. ABS principles such as prior informed consent are included in the Ethical BioTrade standard, both expressly and in the context of broader economic, social, and environmental requirements.

The active engagement of Indigenous peoples and local communities is critical to putting ABS into practice, including in the context of biotrade. Audits and other assessments show that these are issues in which companies and other organizations sourcing biodiversity require particular support. Ensuring adequate participation in negotiations, promoting respect for traditional knowledge, and respecting the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities are key to a fair, equitable, and sustainable relationship between companies and communities.

Biocultural community protocols (BCPs) are increasingly recognized as tools to ensure that the access and use of the biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples and local communities takes place according to their values and customary laws. These decision-making processes based on customary norms also provide clarity on communities’ terms and conditions for engaging with other stakeholders. As a result, BCPs could provide a helpful approach to enhancing the constructive engagement of interested Indigenous peoples and local community in ongoing biotrade activities.

In order to explore the value of BCPs in the context of biotrade, Natural Justice and UEBT, with the generous support of GIZ, entered into a partnership to test the development of BCPs in existing supply chains of UEBT members.

The partnership supported three test cases on 2011 in Peru, Brazil and Madagascar, which involved UEBT members and their suppliers and/or collectors from Indigenous peoples or local communities. In these settings, elements from BCP processes were used to provide a basis for ABS- and biotrade-related negotiations between biotraders and the communities. The three test cases were subsequently presented at a review meeting in Cape Town. A meeting report was produced as well as a possible framework for future ABS dialogue processes. The framework will serve as the basis of our future work in this field.


Project Review: The Use of BCPs in the Context of Ethical Biotrade (Natural Justice and UEBT, 2012)
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A Framework for Biocultural Dialogues (Natural Justice and UEBT, 2012)
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Tenure in REDD – Start-point or afterthought? (Cotula and Mayers, 2009)
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Biocultural Community Protocols: A Toolkit for Community Facilitators (Natural Justice, 2012)
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Biocultural Community Protocols: Articulating Stewardship, Asserting Rights, Affirming Responsibilities
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Biodiversity and Culture: Exploring community protocols, rights and consent (IIED Participatory Learning and Action 65, 2012)
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Biocultural Community Protocols: Articulating and Asserting Stewardship (Moving Images & Natural Justice, 2012)
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Rooibos Robbery: A Story of Bioprospecting in South Africa (Steps Southern Africa, 2012)
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Union for Ethical BioTrade Videos on ABS and Biopiracy
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Latest Publication

Biocultural Community Protocols: A Toolkit for Community Facilitators
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Images from our work in Africa, Asia, and the Americas
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