A new report by Sarah Laird and Rachel Wynberg looks at the linkages between biodiversity conservation, sustainable use, and access and benefit sharing – focusing on Cameroon, Madagascar, Namibia, and South Africa.

Access and benefit sharing (ABS) first came into being with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992, and was conceived as an important part of the conservation toolkit. ABS was intended to serve as an incentive and funding mechanism for biodiversity conservation, while addressing historical inequities around the use of genetic and biological resources. Conservation originally featured prominently within ABS policy discussions and in some benefit-sharing agreements, but over the decades its role grew smaller as ABS partnerships and policies focused more on the equity aspects of the CBD objectives, and less on conservation and sustainable use. Conservation and sustainable use remained largely on the margins of negotiations for the Nagoya Protocol, and while the text includes reference to conservation, the obligations remain relatively weak.

The alarming loss of biodiversity in recent decades, highlighted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) 2019 Global Assessment and others, has brought attention back to the critical need for conservation, and the need to more effectively address it within ABS. This report is a first step in a larger process to assess the links between biodiversity conservation, sustainable use. It aims to enhance understanding of the many direct and indirect ways that research and commercial activities regulated by ABS measures may affect conservation.

The research supporting this report included interviews with 85 individuals from governments, research institutions, NGOs and the private sector, in the four BioInnovation Africa countries of Cameroon, Madagascar, Namibia and South Africa, and also globally. It also included a review of the literature and of existing and historical ABS measures, partnerships and agreements. A set of infographics accompanies the report, along with a video that aims to bring the conversation to life.

The report centers on:

  • Understanding how to strengthen the gains for communities, biodiversity research, conservation and sustainable use from ABS;
  • Exploring how broader objectives of ecosystem and habitat conservation might be achieved through these efforts;
  • Untangling the relationship between traditional knowledge (TK) and biodiversity conservation and exploring how ABS can support customary law, traditional resource management, and Indigenous peoples and local communities’ (IPLC) stewardship of biodiversity;
  • Understanding the roles and responsibilities of different actors, including government, industry, NGOs, researchers, private landowners and communities in ensuring conservation and sustainable use; and w Investigating policies, laws, institutions and mechanisms best suited for governing this complex suite of issues.

Download the report here.