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.