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The case for joint action on biotechnology in Africa

What are the main issues that African nations face in forthcoming negotiations on biotechnology and biosafety?

This policy brief from the International Institute for Sustainable Development identifies and analyses the challenges African policymakers and negotiators may face during 2007 international biotechnology and biosafety negotiations.

The authors, Soledad Aguilar and Elsa Tsioumani, discuss in particular: the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, where rules on liability and redress are being formulated; the Convention on Biological Diversity, dealing with access to genetic resources; and the Global Environment Facility, where funding negotiations for biosafety initiatives are under way.

Aguilar and Tsioumani review recent developments in biosafety and biotechnology policy in Africa, focusing on the frameworks adopted by African organisations in recent months, including the African Union's Consolidated Plan of Action on Science and Technology and its Freedom to Innovate report.

They identify three policy goals that have emerged in Africa: promoting biotechnology for sustainable development and poverty eradication; building capacity in biotechnology and biosafety governance; and adopting science-based biosafety regulations to support food security and economic growth.

The authors assess the likely impact of international negotiations, urging African governments to develop common positions and regional frameworks to present a coherent, coordinated front in these talks.

They highlight the need to choose policy stances that balance Africa's competing priorities — for example, the continent's interest in preserving genetic resources while exploiting them and sharing their benefits.

A great deal rides on African nations' ability to play a full and effective part in multilateral negotiations. Leaders across the continent must adopt a proactive, pragmatic approach to act in a concerted, timely manner if they are to make the most of the funding currently available for biosafety activities.

Soledad Aguilar and Elsa Tsioumani are both writers and editors for the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) with experience in environmental law.

Link to full article from The International Institute for Sustainable Development