The application programming interface (API) | About ABSCH | Access and Benefit-Sharing Clearing-House

The application programming interface (API)

Paragraph 1(c) of the modalities of operation of the ABS Clearing-House (decision NP-1/2, annex) provides that the Secretariat shall design the ABS Clearing-House to be interoperable and facilitate the exchange of information with other databases and systems, in particular Parties’ databases, as well as databases of other instruments and organizations.

With this aim, the Secretariat has developed an application programming interface (API). The API is the main tool to facilitate interoperability and the exchange of information with other IT systems or databases, in particular the IT systems of Parties, as well as, of other instruments and organizations. The API provides a standard interface described by a set of standard protocols to facilitate interaction with computer systems. The API is meant to allow the seamless integration of the data and functions of the ABS Clearing-House into other systems in ways that best fit their own needs, workflows and technologies.

Parties and others can make use of the API to avoid duplication in the submission of information to the ABS Clearing-House and, at the same time, create national or regional information systems that are fully compatible with the ABS Clearing-House. This may be particularly useful for domestic information systems containing information on permits or their equivalent or information collected or received to implement Article 17 of the Protocol.

Documentation for developers on the use of the API is available at: scbd.github.io.

Examples and sample code is available at: github.com/scbd/api-examples.

Please note the development of the API documentation, examples, and sample code is an on-going effort and is updated regularly.

For more information on how to use the API please contact the Secretariat at: absch@cbd.int.

Monitoring the utilization of genetic resources through the ABS Clearing-House

 

Provisions of the Nagoya Protocol work together to create a system to monitor utilization of genetic resources. The goal of this system is to inform and alert the appropriate authorities in both the provider country (country granting access to the genetic resource) and user country (country where the utilization is taking place), on events related to the utilization of genetic resources. The ABS Clearing-House forms part of a feedback loop that allows, in particular, provider countries access to the information related to the utilization of their genetic resources even when utilization happens outside of their jurisdiction. The information made available to the ABS Clearing-House can be used to help assess whether the user is utilizing the genetic resource in compliance with the ABS requirements and domestic regulations of the provider country and can help to ensure the resulting benefits are being duly shared. 

Parties are required to establish certain entities that play an important role to support the system to monitor the utilization of genetic resources set out by the Protocol. To successfully operationalise the monitoring system facilitated by the ABS Clearing-House, each Party must implement the Nagoya Protocol effectively at a national level and make available the required information to the ABS Clearing-House.

Key entities and concepts involved in monitoring genetic resources through the ABS Clearing-House

The information below provides an overview of the key entities and concepts involved in monitoring genetic resources through ABS Clearing-House: 

Parties: To successfully operationalize the monitoring system facilitated by the ABS Clearing-House, it is important that each Party implement the Nagoya Protocol effectively at a national level and make available the required information to the ABS Clearing-House. 

The ABS Clearing-House: The ABS Clearing-House (ABS-CH) is the main tool setup by the Protocol to share information and facilitate monitoring utilization of genetic resources. Established in Article 14, the ABS Clearing-House is a mechanism to share information relevant to ABS in order to enhance the necessary conditions for ABS to happen, namely: access, benefit-sharing, and compliance. The ABS Clearing-House also transmits information in order to alert the relevant authorities when information related to monitoring the utilization of genetic resources (IRCC and CPC) is made available. 

Users (of genetic resources): Users are responsible for sharing the benefits derived from genetic resources with the providers. They seek access to genetic resources for a wide range of purposes, from basic research to the development of new products. They are a diverse group, including botanical gardens, industry researchers such as pharmaceutical, agriculture and cosmetic industries, collectors and research institutes. To gain access, users must first get permission (known as prior informed consent or PIC) from the provider country and establish an agreement (known as mutually agreed terms or MAT) to share the resulting benefits equitably. 

Utilization/Use of genetic resources: Utilization of genetic resources (defined in Article 2 (c)) whether from plants, animals or micro-organisms, refers to the process of researching their beneficial properties and using them to increase scientific knowledge and understanding, or to develop commercial products. 

Provider Country (country providing prior informed consent): The Party responsible for granting prior informed consent (PIC) and establishing mutually agreed terms (MAT) and issuing a national permit or equivalent to the user for the specific genetic resources is referred to as the provider country. They also are responsible for submitting information on the national permit or equivalent to the ABS Clearing-House in order to constitute an IRCC as evidence that the genetic resources has been accessed with PIC and MAT has been established in accordance with the ABS requirements of the provider country (Article 6, paragraph 3(e)). 

The provider country will receive information (in the form of checkpoint communiqués made available in the ABS-CH) gathered from the user at checkpoints in the country where the genetic resources are being used. The provider country can use the information provided by checkpoint communiqué to locate the original national permit or equivalent. This way the provider can consult the national permit, which may contain confidential information, and compare this information against the information provided in the checkpoint communiqué. In case of any doubt or discrepancy to whether the genetic resource is being used in accordance with prior informed consent (PIC) and the established mutually agreed terms (MAT), the provider can take appropriate measures and contact the user or the country where utilization is taking place in order to cooperate bilaterally on the resolution of any potential issues of misappropriation. 

User Country (country where utilization is taking place): The User Country refers to the country responsible for the jurisdiction in which utilization of a genetic resource is taking place. All Parties are responsible for designating effective checkpoints and ensuring the information provided by users of genetic resources at their checkpoints is made available to the ABS Clearing-House. Designated authorities of the user country can also receive the information coming from their own checkpoints about how genetic resources are being used within their jurisdiction. This allows user countries to establish a channel of communication with provider countries, and if desired, to take steps to verify that users of genetic resources under their jurisdiction are in compliance with ABS measures and to cooperate in cases of alleged violation. 

Checkpoints (CP): Parties are to designate effective checkpoints along the value chain, that are to collect or receive information provided by users related to the utilization of genetic resources as described in Article 17 of the Protocol. The information collected or received by the checkpoints is meant to inform and alert relevant authorities, and above all, authorities in the provider country as to how their genetic resources are being used. The information collected or received at checkpoints is made available as a record on the ABS Clearing-House called a Checkpoint Communiqué (CPC). 

Internationally Recognized Certificate of Compliance (IRCC): Parties requiring prior informed consent (PIC) are to provide for the issuance of a permit or equivalent ( Article 6, paragraph 3(e)), at the time of access, and make this information available to the ABS Clearing-House ( Article 14, paragraph 2(c)). When information on a national permit or equivalent is entered into the ABS Clearing-House and published, it becomes available as an IRCC (Article 17, paragraph 2). An IRCC provides evidence that the user has accessed a genetic resource legally and in accordance with prior informed consent and that mutually agreed terms have been established, as required by the domestic ABS legislation or regulatory requirements of the provider country (country providing prior informed consent) (Article 17, paragraph 3). 

Confidentiality: The ABS Clearing-House does not host confidential information and therefore Publishing Authorities (PA) should take the utmost care to ensure that national records, in particular IRCCs and CPCs, do not contain confidential information. Article 17, paragraph 4, provides that the IRCC shall contain some minimum information when it is not confidential. Technically, in the ABS Clearing-House, the mandatory fields of the IRCC and CPC allow the possibility to avoid entering confidential information (either with checkbox indicating the information for the field is confidential or by the use of a free text field giving the submitter the flexibility to provide information that is not confidential).

The flow of information through the ABS Clearing-House to support monitoring the utilization of genetic resources

STEP 1: Issuing a national permit or its equivalent and constituting the Internationally Recognized Certificate of Compliance (IRCC)

Utilization of genetic resources (defined in Article 2 (c)) whether from plants, animals or micro-organisms, refers to the process of researching their beneficial properties and using them to increase scientific knowledge and understanding, or to develop commercial products. Users of genetic resources from the scientific or business community may seek access for scientific research or product development. To gain access, users must first get permission (known as prior informed consent or PIC) from the provider country. In addition, the provider and the user must negotiate an agreement (known as mutually agreed terms or MAT) to share the resulting benefits equitably. 

The information made available on the ABS Clearing-House can help potential users of genetic resources understand the ABS requirements and institutional arrangements in place in a provider country. The ABS Clearing-House also provides contact information for ABS national focal points. ABS national focal points can help facilitate access and clarify the requirements and procedures in place in their countries in order to access to genetic resources and/or the associated traditional knowledge. 

Competent national authorities (CNA) are bodies established by governments and are responsible for granting users access to their genetic resources, and representing providers on a local or national level. CNAs are responsible for granting prior informed consent (PIC) and establishing mutually agreed terms (MAT), and issuing a national permit or equivalent to the user for the specific genetic resources. Parties are required to submit information on the permits they issue to the ABS Clearing-House in order to constitute an internationally recognized certificate of compliance (IRCC). 

When the information on the permit or its equivalent is published in the ABS Clearing-House, an internationally recognized certificate of compliance (IRCC) is constituted. One of the responsibilities of the publishing authority is to ensure that no confidential information is published when constituting an IRCC on the ABSCH. 

Once published the ABS Clearing-House will email a copy of the IRCC to:

  • (a) the national focal point and the competent national authority or authorities of the country responsible for issuing the permit or its equivalent;
  • (b) the provider (entity that holds the right to grant access to the genetic resources) of the genetic resource, if this information is not confidential; and
  • (c) the person or entity that was granted prior informed consent (the user), when not confidential.

 

In the process of monitoring the utilization of genetic resources or associated traditional knowledge it can be important when determining whether the genetic resource is being used in accordance with prior informed consent (PIC) and mutually agreed terms (MAT) that the provider country is able to trace each IRCC back to the original permit or equivalent (which may contain confidential information). Each IRCC that is publish is assigned a unique identifier called the UID. The UID can be useful to link the national permit or equivalent to the IRCC. The unique reference or identifier of the national permit or equivalent can also be saved in the IRCC record format.

STEP 2: Utilization of the genetic resources

Monitoring the utilization of genetic resource to ensure benefits are shared and ABS requirements have been met can be difficult, especially when the utilization takes place outside of the provider’s jurisdiction. The ABS Clearing-House supports the implementation of the provisions of the protocol by establishing a feedback loop that provides information on the utilization genetic resources to the relevant entities and authorities. By making information available on the ABSCH related to utilization of genetic resources at checkpoints, authorities in both provider and users countries can be kept up-to-date in a transparent manner on the utilization of genetic resources. 

Parties to the Protocol are required to designate effective checkpoints. Effective checkpoints are located a key places along the value chain where information can be collected or received from users related to the utilization of genetic resources. Some possible examples of checkpoints are the places where a user would need to go to and provide pertinent information when undertaking research and development on a genetic resource, when claiming a right in relation to the innovation made from such research and development, or when commercializing any resultant product. 

When a user encounters a checkpoint they will need to provide certain key information related to prior informed consent (PIC), to the source of the genetic resource, to the establishment of mutually agreed terms (MAT) and/or to the utilization of genetic resources, as appropriate (Article 17, 1(a) (i)) when it is not confidential. The internationally recognized certificate (IRCC) which serves as evidence that the genetic resources which it covers has been accessed in accordance with PIC and that MAT have been established, already contains most of the key information and can help to facilitate the information the user is to provide at a checkpoint. 

The information collected or received at checkpoints is made available as a record on the ABS Clearing-House called a Checkpoint Communiqué (CPC). The CPC, when an IRCC is not provided, require the user at the checkpoint to provide similar key information related to PIC, MAT, the genetic resource, source country, utilization, and the person at the checkpoint. The additional information for the CPC, with the exception of source country, is entered in a free text format which offers the flexibility to provide the necessary information to assist provider countries to monitor the utilization of their genetic resources while allowing for no confidential information to be entered in the ABS Clearing-House.

STEP 3: Receiving the checkpoint communiqué

After publication on the ABS Clearing-House, the checkpoint communiqué (CPC) becomes publicly available, and is automatically sent to the following entities, as appropriate:

  • (a) The designated national authority/ies of the user country as determined in the common format on checkpoints;
  • (b) The national focal point and the competent national authority/ies of the country providing of the genetic resource; and
  • (c) The person or entity that was granted prior informed consent, if this information is not confidential.

 

Although, each entity receiving the CPC has the option to take steps in order to determine if the utilization taking place is being done in accordance with the original permit (or its equivalent) and domestic ABS requirements of the provider country, the provider country is best placed to assess the information received in the CPC and determine whether access to the genetic resource was properly obtained and being used and in accordance with the mutually agreed terms. When the CPC contains a reference to an IRCC or national permit (or its equivalent) and the information on how the genetic resource is being used, the provider country will be able look up and consult the original national permit (or its equivalent) containing any confidential information and compare this information against the information provided by the CPC and then decide to take appropriate measures or contact the user in case of doubt or discrepancy. 

Even when much of the required information is confidential, it is still valuable to the provider country that the CPC is published. As long as the CPC is published, even when the information is limited or confidential, monitoring the utilization of their genetic resources can still be possible through bilateral communication and cooperation between the authorities in the user and provider countries. Parties are required to cooperate in the resolution of situations related to possible non-compliance to ensure the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources are being shared, in a fair and equitable way, and that the conditions set out in PIC and MAT are met.