Using biodiversity equitably and sustainably

Project description

Title: Promotion of economic potentials of biodiversity in an equitable and sustainable way for the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in Central America (access and benefit-sharing, ABS)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Central America
Lead executing agency: General Secretariat of the Central American Integration System (SG-SICA) with the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD)
Overall term: 2014 to 2019

Access and benefit-sharing. The search for plant-based substances is important for the pharmaceuticals industry. © GIZ


Although Central America accounts for only around 0.5 per cent of the world’s total land mass, the region is home to more than seven per cent of the world’s biodiversity. These natural resources are severely threatened by climate change and rapid population growth. Launched in 1992, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) aims to secure access to genetic resources while ensuring the balanced and equitable sharing of any benefits derived from their use (access and benefit-sharing, ABS). In 2010, the majority of the signatories to the CBD approved an international environmental agreement to this end, the Nagoya Protocol. The Protocol attempts to balance the interests of the countries of origin of the genetic resources – usually developing countries or emerging economies – with those that use the genetic resources – mostly industrialised countries. It came into force in October 2014 and has now been ratified by a total of 100 states, including Germany.

The Protocol also takes into account the traditional knowledge that indigenous and local communities usually have and that plays a particularly important role in the region. It is often women who hold this traditional knowledge. In order to implement ABS and the Nagoya Protocol effectively and efficiently, conditions need to be established, and uncertainties regarding opportunities and risks need to be clarified.

Genetic resources provide the basis for a large number of commercial and scientific products, for example. This includes applications in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, horticulture, seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, food and drinks. It is a pressing issue in Central America: governments in the region want to prevent the illegal use of these resources by foreign researchers and companies, known as biopiracy. A number of civil society organisations and indigenous communities are also protesting against the notion of placing an economic value on their livelihoods.


The member states of the Central American Integration System (SICA) implement initial measures to promote the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the sustainable use of genetic resources and the traditional knowledge associated with them.

ake El Salvador as an example: access and benefit-sharing contributes to rural development. © GIZ


The project is setting up training courses, information events and specialist meetings throughout the region and in the SICA member states. These events provide an opportunity for policy-makers and representatives of law enforcement, civil society and the private sector in particular to acquire expertise and to learn about the opportunities and risks involved in accessing and using natural genetic resources. The project is developing and improving strategies and general legal conditions that will serve as a guide for SICA member states and enable them to benefit from their genetic resources to a greater extent.

The project is assisting several countries in the region in initiating processes aimed at improving the national political, strategic and legal frameworks for implementing the Nagoya Protocol. It also provides support for national dialogue on the issue, sharing positive international experience and proposals for implementing the processes.

Working with the local people at community and province level, the project presents examples of how countries can use biodiversity products or those derived from genetic resources to their greater economic and social advantage. The results are submitted to the relevant officials in the local and national governments and linked to the business community. This will create incentives that will contribute to the protection and sustainable use of biological resources.


Up to September 2017, 958 people (including 444 women) in ministries, law enforcement authorities and other institutions were given training in partnership with organisations such as the Secretariat of the CBD and the Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network. The general conditions for ABS were improved in new legislation (in countries such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama and the Dominican Republic) and now ensure greater clarity for users. At regional level, work was begun by the Regional Committee ABS Central America and Dominican Republic, which includes official representatives of the eight member states; the committee presented the region’s potential at the 13th Conference of the Parties to the CBD in Mexico, for instance. Finally, the first ABS project designed to serve as an example at local level was started in Guatemala to preserve traditional knowledge and indigenous crops.