COP15: Access and benefit-sharing important agenda at UN biodiversity summit in Montreal, Canada

COP15 is particularly important as a new global biodiversity framework is set to be adopted.

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 06 December 2022

‘Rooibos’, pronounced “roy-boss” (Aspalathus linearis) is a mountain bush endemic to South Africa. It makes a deep red brew devoid of caffeine and low in tannin and is a healthy alternative to coffee or tea. Loaded with antioxidants, it can boost immunity, reduce risks of heart diseases, and has anti-aging properties.

The San and Khoi communities were the first to learn health benefits of rooibos’ needle-like leaves, but have remained marginalised in its trade. In 2010, Swiss company Nestle claimed five patents on products prepared from rooibos to treat inflammatory diseases and as probiotic foods. But the San and Khoi indigenous communities opposed the move and the patent applications were rejected.

This is significant as it recognises the communities as traditional knowledge-holders of the benefits of tea.

In 2019, the government facilitated an agreement between 10 processors and the San and Khoi, wherein the communities would receive 1.5 per cent of the farm-gate price annually. In July 2022, the industry paid 12.2 million Rand (around $709,000) to organisations representing the communities.

This deal shows the potential of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the only international legal instrument for the conservation of biodiversity, its sustainable use and, most importantly, fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of this biodiversity.

Access and benefit-sharing would be discussed at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to CBD to be held in Montreal, Canada. COP15 is particularly important as a new global biodiversity framework is set to be adopted.

The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework will continue the work done under the Aichi Biodiversity Targets set in 2010.

Down To Earth’s analysis of such agreements available on the Access and Benefit-sharing Clearing-House, indicates that targets have not been met.

CBD is not supposed to benefit just researchers or governments, but also people who have conserved the world’s biodiversity. There is still a need to find ways to enhance the contribution of benefit sharing to local livelihoods and biodiversity as a way to fully recognise and empower actors on the ground. This is what negotiators at COP15 must keep in mind.

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