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Here are some more personal reflections about the last COP-MOP6 in India, October 2012, as related to Article 26 and socioeconomic considerations and biosafety.

–    Application of Article 26 is voluntary – countries are in essence free to do what they want to do or not do. Commentators in different venues have said that this article is in essence a “reaffirmation of national sovereignty.” Obviously countries can decide to apply or not apply Article 26.

–     Countries have quite distinct capacities and degrees of experience with socioeconomic assessments, positions and overall biosafety status.

–    Based on  my experience in several countries, country’s positions with regard to socioeconomics vary significantly. Four potential positions include:

  • No socioeconomics  required or even wanted– risk assessment only in biosafety realm
  • No clue on what to do
  • Yes to socioeconomics but do not know or are unclear on how to proceed
  • Yes to socioeconomics and know how to proceed

–          Any exercise that seeks development of “conceptual clarity” about socioeconomics, still left with the fact that there will be significant variability across countries and regions with regard to issues of importance and their relative priority.

  • This state of affairs necessarily forces such exercise to seek compilation of all socioeconomic issues at the national and regional.
  • Surely one could re-group issues based in general category to facilitate analysis, but general categories at the same time may not say much to countries in terms of guidance for implementation
  • Implementation of measures will still be done at the national level, thus questioning the value of conducting such an effort at the Protocol level.

Perhaps the best approach would be to conduct a needs assessment in those countries who want socioeconomic issues in their biosafety processes in order to identify issues, priorities, human and financial capacities, legal and regulatory hurdles, and then try to group such needs in order to draft a capacity building/strengthening response, using the extensive resources that are available in the public sector, but which would need additional resources for coordination and implementation at the local, national and regional levels.

The best approach may not be the most politically viable solution which seems to require extensive efforts at the international level to avoid “dominance by one expert”. The current approach chose by the Parties is a bit unfortunate especially now that there are so many financial shortcomings. These resources could be devoted to effective capacity building/strengthening efforts rather than one more global diagnostic  effort, with a quite unclear successful outcome.

I will eventually  contribute to the best of my abilities to the ongoing effort at the Protocol level, but I am quite skeptical about the outcome based on the established process to deal with socioeconomics at the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. We will, in all probabilities, end up were we should have started and focused our efforts, supporting national policy development and implementation efforts.

Jose Falck- Zepeda