ProBenefit – Conclusions and lessons from an ABS project in Ecuador
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) gives all countries the sovereign rights over their genetic resources. Many countries now develop regulations for access and benefit sharing (ABS), among them Ecuador. However, so far no well-documented model procedures for ABS exist that respect both the needs of local and indigenous communities and of small and medium-sized pharmaceutical companies that seek access to medicinal plants. The goal of ProBenefit was to develop a suitable procedure for equitable benefit-sharing for the use of biological resources and the associated indigenous knowledge in line with the principles of the CBD. To this end the project partners, together with the Ecuadorian government, the local Indian organisations and other relevant groups in society, as well as interested non-governmental organisations, explored new models for sustainable use of biodiversity in the Ecuadorian Amazon region. A participatory approach was chosen to analyze stakeholders' needs and perceptions and to create a consultation process for indigenous communities in the project region. An agreement on collaboration between the project and the major regional indigenous organization FONAKIN was signed. A training course on biological, pharmaceutical, economic, legal and political aspects of ABS was organized for indigenous representatives in the project region. In the end, no access contract was agreed upon within the framework of the project.
Acknowledgements: The reasons were analyzed within the research project and conclusions for further work on an ABS policy regime were drawn. Legal and socio-political analyses, scenario development, participatory approaches, ethnobotanical studies and pharmaceutical testing made up the methodological set-up of the interdisciplinary project. ProBenefit started in June 2003 and had a duration of five years. It was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the program BioTeam.