Kabir Bavikatte from Natural Justice and Morten Tvedt from the Fridjof Nansen Institute were in Bhutan from the 28th of March to the 7th of April to provide legal assistance to the Bhutan’s National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) to develop Bhutan’s Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Policy. Bhutan, which is a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, began the process of developing its national ABS Policy in April 2011 with the assistance of Kabir and Morten. The multi-stakeholder consultation in April 2011 led to a draft national ABS Policy.
The national ABS Policy has been through a number of public consultations since, most recently in Central and Southern Bhutan. Kabir and Morten were involved in some of these consultations assisting the NBC in a re-draft of the ABS policy based on the inputs from these consultations. The NBC will conduct further community consultations on the Policy in the East of Bhutan after which the draft ABS policy will be presented to the Gross National Happiness Commission and the Cabinet of Bhutan for approval. The Policy, if it is approved, is likely to become one of the most innovative ABS policies in the world as it will ensure the conservation and sustainable use of Bhutan’s biodiversity while foregrounding the social, spiritual and economic wellbeing of Bhutan’s communities.