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BIOSAFETY: ENB Vol. 09 No. 109 (BSWG-6, Cartagena, Colombia)

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                    WRITTEN AND EDITED BY:

                Changbo Bai <>
              Stas Burgiel <>
             Chad Carpenter LL.M. <>
            Joanna Depledge <>
               Leila Mead <> 
        Lavanya Rajamani LL.M. <>

                     DIGITAL CONTENT BY:

                Andrei Henry <>
            Pamela Chasek, Ph.D. <>

                       Managing Editor
        Langston James Goree VI "Kimo" <>
Vol. 09 No. 109
Sunday, 14 February 1999

Daily coverage of the Sixth Meeting of the Open-ended Ad Hoc 
Working Group on Biosafety from Cartagena, Colombia can be found 


14-19 FEBRUARY 1999

The Sixth Session of the Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group on 
Biosafety (BSWG-6) will be held from Sunday, 14 February to 
Friday, 19 February 1999 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. The 
first extraordinary meeting of the Conference of the Parties 
(COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity will be held 
from 22-23 February 1999. Regional and inter-regional meetings 
were held from 12-13 February 1999. Working from a draft 
negotiating text prepared by the Secretariat, delegates will 
meet in two sub-working groups and two contact groups with a 
view to finalizing a protocol for adoption by the COP.


The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), negotiated under 
UNEP's auspices, was adopted on 22 May 1992 and entered into 
force on 29 December 1993. As of August 1998, there are 174 
Parties to the Convention. Article 19.3 of the CBD provides for 
Parties to consider the need for and modalities of a protocol 
setting out procedures in the field of the safe transfer, 
handling and use of LMOs that may have an adverse effect on 
biodiversity and its components. 

COP-1: The first Conference of the Parties (COP-1) to the CBD, 
held in Nassau, the Bahamas, from 28 November - 9 December 1994, 
established an Open-ended Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Biosafety, 
which met in Madrid from 24-28 July 1995. According to this 
meeting's report (UNEP/CBD/COP.2/7), most delegations favored 
development of an international framework on biosafety under the 
CBD. Elements favored unanimously for such a framework included: 
all activities related to living modified organisms (LMOs) that 
may have adverse effects on biodiversity; transboundary movement 
of LMOs; release of LMOs in centers of origin/genetic diversity; 
mechanisms for risk assessment and management; procedures for 
advance informed agreement (AIA); facilitated information 
exchange; capacity-building and implementation; and definition 
of terms. Elements with partial support included: socio-economic 
considerations; liability and compensation; and financial 

COP-2: At COP-2 in Jakarta, Indonesia, in November 1995, 
delegates considered the need for and modalities of a protocol 
on biosafety. Amidst debate over the protocol's scope, the COP 
adopted compromise language (Decision II/ 5) calling for "a 
negotiation process to develop in the field of the safe 
transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms, a 
protocol on biosafety, specifically focusing on transboundary 
movement of any LMO that may have an adverse effect on 
biological diversity." COP-2 also established an Open-ended Ad 
Hoc Working Group on Biosafety (BSWG) to elaborate the need for 
and modalities of a protocol based on elements from the Madrid 
report. Other terms of reference for the BSWG state that it 
shall: elaborate key terms and concepts; consider AIA 
procedures; identify relevant categories of LMOs; and develop a 
protocol that takes into account the precautionary principle and 
requires that Parties establish national measures. 

BSWG-1: At its first meeting, held in Aarhus, Denmark, from 22-
26 July 1996, the BSWG elected Veit Koester (Denmark) as its 
Chair and began the elaboration of an international protocol on 
biosafety. Although the meeting produced few written results, it 
functioned as a forum for defining issues and articulating 
positions characteristic of the pre-negotiation process. 
Governments listed elements for a future protocol and outlined 
the information required to guide their future work. 

COP-3: At COP-3, delegates adopted Decisions III/5 (additional  
guidelines to financial mechanisms) and III/20 (biosafety  
issues). In so doing, the COP affirmed its support for a two- 
track approach through  which the promotion of the application 
of  the UNEP Guidelines could contribute to the development and 
implementation of a protocol on biosafety, without prejudicing  
the development of such a protocol.

BSWG-2: Delegates to BSWG-2, held from 12-16 May 1997 in 
Montreal, discussed a range of issues, including: objectives; 
AIA; notification procedures for transfers of LMOs; competent 
authorities/focal points; information-sharing and a clearing-
house mechanism; capacity-building; public participation and 
awareness; risk assessment and management; unintentional 
transboundary movement; handling, transportation, packaging and 
transit requirements; and monitoring and compliance. BSWG-2 
convened a contact group to consider definitions of key terms 
and directed the Secretariat to compile an alphabetical list of 
terms requiring definition, as submitted by countries, for 
consideration at BSWG-3. 

BSWG-3: The third BSWG session met in Montreal from 13-17 
October 1997. Delegates produced a consolidated draft text to 
serve as the basis for negotiation of a biosafety protocol. The 
meeting established two Sub-Working Groups to address the core 
articles of the protocol, as well as a contact group on 
institutional matters and final clauses. It also extended the 
mandate of the existing contact group on definitions to address 
annexes. Delegates addressed outstanding issues in Plenary, 
including: socio-economic considerations; liability and 
compensation; illegal traffic; non-discrimination; trade with 
non-Parties; as well as objectives, general obligations, title 
and preamble for the protocol. 

BSWG-4: At the opening of BSWG-4, which met in Montreal from 5-
13 February 1998, Chair Koester underscored that the BSWG was 
entering the negotiation phase and that participants must 
attempt to reduce, through negotiated consensus, the number of 
options under each article. BSWG-4 followed the structure 
adopted at BSWG-3, using two open-ended Sub-Working Groups to 
address the core articles of the protocol and two Contact Groups 
on definitions and annexes and on institutional matters and 
final clauses. Delegates began consideration of several articles 
that had only received preliminary discussion at BSWG-3, 
including: principles/objectives, general obligations, non-
discrimination, socio-economic considerations, and liability and 
compensation. Delegates also continued work on other issues 
previously addressed, including: matters relating to AIA, risk 
assessment and management, minimum national standards, emergency 
measures and capacity-building. 

COP-4: The Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-
4) to the CBD took place from 4-15 May 1998 in Bratislava, 
Slovakia. In Decision IV/3, "Issues related to biosafety," the 
COP provided for two more meetings to finalize the biosafety 
protocol, the first to take place in August 1998 and the second 
in early 1999, followed by an extraordinary meeting of the COP 
to adopt the protocol. The decision also: determined the 
composition of the BSWG Bureau and that it should remain in 
office under the chairmanship of Koester until the adoption of 
the protocol; established the agenda for the Extraordinary COP; 
and set a deadline of 1 July 1998 for government submissions of 
comments on provisions in the protocol. 

BSWG-5: BSWG-5 met from 17-28 August 1998 in Montreal, Canada. 
Delegates consolidated options for 45 articles in the revised 
consolidated draft to 40 articles in the conclusions of the Sub-
Working and Contact Groups. Delegates thus achieved the 
objective BSWG Chair Koester set out at the beginning of the 
meeting: consolidation of the text into a single option for each 
article. Thirteen articles remain entirely bracketed, however, 
indicating that delegates still have not agreed on the elements 
of the protocol, let alone what the articles' contents shall be. 
Many commented that the BSWG has not yet begun negotiating and 
this session was a further exercise in text consolidation. 
Polarized positions continued to emerge during discussions over 
whether the protocol's scope included "products thereof," 
whether the protocol would address questions of liability and 
redress, and if the protocol would facilitate information 
exchange for trade in living modified organisms or reflect a 
more precautionary approach. Nevertheless, the issues to be 
negotiated were clarified and this should facilitate delegates' 
work for BSWG-6.

BSWG EXTENDED BUREAU: The Extended Bureau of the BSWG met from 
21-22 October 1998 in Montreal to facilitate the organization of 
work for BSWG-6 and the Extraordinary COP. In considering the 
heavy workload on delegations in finalizing the draft protocol, 
the Extended Bureau reached a number of conclusions regarding 
the structure of the meeting. They concluded that many of the 
draft Articles could be considered as clusters where elements of 
Articles affected other related Articles. They requested the 
Secretariat to analyze the draft negotiating text and to develop 
a table of clusters of related Articles. The resulting document 
(UNEP/CBD/BSWG/6/3) contains a table that identifies primary 
Articles for each heading and related Articles where discussion 
of some elements of the primary Articles could affect discussion 
or resolution of an element in the related Articles. 


Many delegates could be seen in the corridors of the Cartagena 
Convention Centre headed for regional meetings and busily 
preparing for the week ahead. Several opted for an optimistic 
outlook on whether they could agree on a protocol within the 
week , but varied on how strong such a protocol would be. Some 
saw debates on "products thereof" and liability as areas ripe 
for movement from past positions. The stakes for a successful 
protocol are high institutionally, as indicated by the expected 
attendance of the UNEP Executive Director throughout the week. 
Eleven ministers, with a strong African representation, are 
expected so far for the Extraordinary COP.


Plenary: Opening plenary is scheduled for 3:00 pm on Sunday, 14 
February. BSWG Chair Koester, Minister Mayr of Colombia, UNEP 
Executive Director Toepfer and CBD Executive Secretary Zedan 
will address the delegates. Statements from regional groups and 
nominations for the Legal-Linguistic Group are also expected.

This issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin  
<> is written and edited by Changbo Bai 
<>, Stas Burgiel <>, 
Chad Carpenter LL.M. <>, Joanna Depledge 
<>, Leila Mead <> 
and Lavanya Rajamani LL.M. <>. The 
Editor is Pamela Chasek, Ph.D. <> and the 
Managing Editor is Langston James "Kimo" Goree VI 
<>. The WWW Content is designed by Andrei 
Henry <>. The Sustaining Donors of the 
Bulletin are the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 
the Government of Canada (through CIDA), the United States 
(through USAID) and the Swiss Agency for Environment, 
Forests and Landscape. General Support for the Bulletin 
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Ministry of Environment (BMU) and the German Federal 
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Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Community (DG-
XI), the Ministries of Environment and Foreign Affairs of 
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