DSI Scientific Network - CBD COP15 Outcome Statement
Following three years of negotiation, in December 2022, delegates from 196 Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). Digital Sequence Information on genetic resources (DSI) was at the centre of the negotiations. The decision on DSI and benefit-sharing was part of the GBF “package”, which includes the GBF Targets and Goals, the GBF monitoring framework, a capacity-building plan for the GBF, and an agreement on increased financing for biodiversity conservation strategies.
The DSI Scientific Network is heartened to see the progress made in coming to a common understanding around DSI and benefit-sharing. The decision openly acknowledges the importance of DSI for sustainable development as well as for meeting the GBF’s targets and goals. It also emphasizes the need for further capacity-building initiatives and scientific cooperation to enhance access and use of DSI worldwide.
The decision sets out a process to develop a multilateral mechanism for benefit-sharing from the use of DSI that is consistent with open access to data, avoiding the challenges that would be created by a bilateral approach – such as increased regulatory complexity and administrative burdens which could disproportionately affect research institutes in developing countries where financial, technical and legal resources are particularly scarce.
The adoption of this decision is an important milestone. However, much work remains to be done across the scientific, technical, and policy community to develop the mechanism and implement the decision before the next Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP16) takes place in 2024. The 2023-24 process includes commissioned studies, submissions and the creation of an Open-Ended Working Group, offering many opportunities for different voices to be heard, including from the scientific community.
Highlights from the DSI decision:
- Endorsement of a multilateral mechanism consistent with open access to data: The Network particularly welcomes the decision to create a “multilateral mechanism for benefit-sharing from the use of digital sequence information on genetic resources, including a global fund”. This approach is fundamental for researchers’ ability to access DSI and compatible with the use of DSI in the service of scientific progress and sustainable development. A bilateral system for tracking and enforcing mutually agreed terms at the level of individual sequences would be extremely complicated, expensive, and challenging to develop and maintain. A multilateral mechanism addresses many of these challenges, enabling predictable and near-term benefit-sharing in accordance with the way DSI is used today.
- Acknowledgement of the importance of capacity-building, technology transfer and scientific cooperation: This is another positive outcome that will help overcome institutional, technological, and infrastructural barriers faced by researchers worldwide, such as costly equipment and molecular reagents, limited opportunities for training, and lack of research funding in low- and middle-income countries.
- Establishment of an inclusive process to develop the mechanism: The CBD Secretariat will invite governments and observers to submit their views on a list of issues such as capacity development, technology transfer, data governance, and the role and interests of academia. The decision also sets up an Open-Ended Working Group, which will make recommendations to COP16 based on these submissions and the outcomes of the commissioned studies agreed on in the decision. This acknowledges the contributions of different stakeholders in the policy making process and is an opportunity for their further involvement in it.