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International Workshop in Guatemala Highlights Importance of Community Protocols in the Context of the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol

From 8-10 June 2015, the Convention on Biological Diversity and several partners, including Natural Justice, hosted an international training workshop in Panajachel, Guatemala on Community-based Monitoring, Indicators on Traditional Knowledge and Customary Sustainable Use and Community Protocols, within the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. The first day of the meeting was dedicated to discussing community protocols.

Jael Makagon of Natural Justice gave a presentation providing background on community protocols in the context of the Nagoya Protocol. He explained how community protocols can assist in the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol and the CBD. While there is language in the CBD, the Programme of Work on Article 8(j), and the Nagoya Protocol that supports the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, a large implementation gap remains. Community protocols can help fill that gap by allowing communities to articulate local rules for access to their traditional knowledge and resources, helping to define the “community,” providing a basis for free, prior and informed consent, and creating transparency and certainty for users, among other things. He also shared examples of community protocols that address ABS issues, as well as some lessons learned in the development of community protocols.

Several other presenters addressed issues relevant to community protocols, including the experience of the Kuna people in Panama and traditional healers in the Cerrado region of Brazil. Two members of national governments–Brazil and Bolivia–also presented on actions their governments are taking regarding community protocols. Brazil passed a law in May 2015 that recognizes community protocols as an instrument that manifests the will of indigenous peoples. The law also provides a definition of community protocols and will provide support for development of protocols from a government-held fund for access and benefit sharing. Control of the fund will be under a board that will have seats for indigenous peoples and local communities. In Bolivia, the government is also developing a law that deals with community protocols, including by setting forth a “model community protocol” that communities can use to develop their own protocols.

The workshop demonstrated that there is a robust practice of development of community protocols at the local level. Additionally, governments are beginning to recognize that supporting and respecting community protocols can be an important element of fulfilling their international and national obligations. As more governments develop legislation relevant to community protocols, however, it will be important to ensure that their policies uphold the fundamental elements of community protocols, including that protocols be driven by communities in a manner that is participatory and with sufficient time given to ensure appropriate processes are undertaken.

The results of this workshop will be fed into the new CBD Subsidiary Body on Implementation, which will hold its first meeting in May 2016.

18 June 2015

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