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UNEP chief calls for fresh action on biosafety

Statement made to the fifth Conference of Parties (COP)/Meeting of Parties (MOP) of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

Nagoya, 11 October 2010 - On 29 January 2000 the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted as a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Named after the Colombian city of Cartagena, where the final round of negotiations was launched, the objective of the Protocol is to protect biological diversity from the risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.

Today, the governing body of the Protocol began a five-day meeting in Nagoya, Japan, to discuss and adopt further decisions, including international rules and procedures on liability and redress for damage resulting from living modified organisms. The meeting is also scheduled to adopt a "Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety" as well as a 10-year strategic plan.

Addressing the expected 4,000 delegates, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner said the following:

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

It is now 10 years since its adoption in 2000, and the Protocol has significantly grown in size to embrace 160 Parties with Guinea Bissau and Somalia becoming parties in May and July 2010, respectively.

I would also like to urge Parties to continue their commitment to strengthen the Secretariat to ensure priority areas of enforcement and capacity-building provide visible, rapid and transformational results.

While many issues have already been agreed upon in the last four Meetings of the Parties, some outstanding issues remain. These include Liability and Redress (Article 27).

Here in Nagoya is a moment to seize the opportunity for governments to adopt the Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress, including the provisions that require some further negotiations.

Meanwhile, COP-MOP-5 is a key moment in respect to the 10 year Strategic Plan for the Protocol and options for implementation.

Again an opportunity for coming to an agreement on both the Strategic plan and its related Programme of Work for the Protocol.

In addition, there is a need to continue working on other important issues, including compliance and capacity-building, and common approaches to Risk Assessment and Risk Management guided by the work of the Ad hoc Technical Expert Group.

Distinguished delegates,

Real and tangible progress has been made by Parties in an area of environmental sustainability that is often fraught with polarized views and strong, sometimes contradictory positions.

Multilateralism is about squaring circles, of taking the seemingly difficult and irreconcilable and turning this into areas of common and mutual benefit-ones that rise above the narrow difference that divide into the strengths that can unite.

One of these areas is capacity-building and the strengthening of the operationalisation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

Indeed the real impact of the Protocol will only be felt when all countries have the necessary human and institutional capacities. This requires continued efforts and support from everyone here.

Funding is among these issues. This shortfall between finance and the ambition of countries to meet the full provisions of the Protocol needs addressing.

UNEP, with several years of experience in this area, stands ready to share its unique expertise in support of those governments committed to raising the investment bar in order to advance biosafety capacity-building.

Distinguished delegates,

UNEP has facilitated the development of international technical guidelines for safety in biotechnology since 1995. Capacity-building was one of UNEP's central preoccupations for implementing the Protocol.

I believe UNEP has risen to this challenge. Since 2000 - UNEP, together with UNDP, and the World Bank - with funding from GEF, have assisted countries meet their obligations while implementing National Biosafety Frameworks (NBFs).

Support too in terms of participation in the Biosafety Clearing House (BCH). In this regard, UNEP is currently implementing a portfolio consisting of three types of activities:

    1. Assisting up to 130 countries to prepare their draft National

    Biosafety Frameworks;

    2. Assisting 42 eligible countries on the implementation of National Biosafety Frameworks; and

    3. Assisted 139 eligible countries to access and benefit from the Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH).

Currently, UNEP, with funding from GEF will implement the second phase of the clearing house in 50 countries.

Honourable delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

The Cartagena Protocol can quite rightly point to many achievements in its first decade. But, in common with many multilateral and international agreements, it remains a work in progress with its full potential for bringing sustainability into the economies of the world, yet to be realized.

In a globe struggling with multiple challenges-from climate change and loss of biodiversity to collapsing fisheries and chemical pollution-countries urgently need to demonstrate leadership.

I am sure that leadership and that determination to make - and to practically demonstrate - a difference will guide your discussions and navigate an outcome which will significantly advance the international response to the biosafety agenda.

UNEP stands ready to continue to assist in evolving this Protocol to meet its full potential.

Thank you very much.

The Cartagena Protocol is designed to protect biological diversity from the risks posed by genetically modified organisms



Further Resources

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety


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