During the 7th Pan-African Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) workshop in Phalaborwa, South Africa, six thematic sessions were offered in French and English on 28 February 2013. Participants had the choice to participate in four sessions: interface protected areas and ABS; business models, benefit sharing, and the interface between biotrade and ABS; simplified access for basic research; compliance in Africa; biocultural community protocols (BCPs); and Interface ITPGRFA and the Nagoya Protocol.
Gino Cocchiaro and Lassana Koné of Natural Justice and Barbara Lassen of the ABS Initiative facilitated the session on BCPs. A presentation was made on BCPs highlighting some practical examples followed by a showing of the BCP film and an engaging discussion.
Participants attending the BCP sessions agreed that the process of developing a BCP is critical for the self determination of Indigenous and Local Communities (ILCs) and also for the self-management of their genetic resources. Participants also mentioned that similar experiences of instruments have been developed by local communities for many years with different terminology.
One of the questions which come out of the reflection was the recognition of BCPs as a binding instrument in the international regime. Although it would be ideal for African states to ratify the Nagoya Protocol or adopt ABS regulation at the local level, Natural Justice emphasised the role of BCPs in recalling the commitments of state parties expressed through the ratification of many others substantive international treaties pertaining to the preservation of nature and natural resources and the promotion of socioeconomic and cultural rights.
Participants were of the view that users and providers of genetic resources are not always fundamentally opposed but their visions need to be harmonised. BCPs offer an avenue for this. Participants were also concerned about the sustainability of BCPs. Natural Justice described BCPs an evolving processes that adapt to the need expressed by a specific community at a particular time depending on the circumstances. Participants also urged Natural Justice to strengthen its work in Francophone Africa.
In reporting back to the plenary on 1 March 2013, Natural Justice recommended that BCPs be expressly mentioned in the draft AU Guidelines on ABS.