Pic: Kenyan experts on biological and genetic resources and their associated traditional knowledge pose for a picture after the technical meeting
UNDP-Kenya, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Council of Governors (CoG) Secretariat, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the Kenyan Wildlife Service organized an expert meeting at the Tafaria Castle and Countryside hotel from 22-26 October 2019, to unravel how to unlock the country´s business potential arising from the use of its genetic resources(GR) and associated traditional knowledge(TK). The meeting was sponsored by the UNDP-GEF Global ABS Project under UNDP-Kenya Chapter and had the participation of various key stakeholders ranging from traditional knowledge (TK) holders, University and Intellectual Property (IP) managers, resource providers, county governments, regulators and policy makers. The key purpose of the meeting was to share experiences and lessons learned both at the global and national level, that would inform and guide the country towards developing systems for effective protection, management and commodification of the country’s TK associated with genetic resources.
The use of terms, specifically traditional knowledge and local knowledge, were extensively discussed, including the ongoing debates for Post 2020 strategy for biodiversity, impact of Digital Sequence Information (DSI) on TK, multi-lateral benefit sharing systems, WIPO TK process, CITES and the road from CoP14 Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt to CoP15 in Kunming in China.
The main outcome from the expert meeting was a revelation that management of TK in Kenya is under various legal instruments under different institutions. Regardless of wide range exploitation of Kenya’s TK associated with genetic resources, it was reported that there were no permits or ABS permits granted based on TK. Out of the various institutional IP policies that were operational in the country, there were only few that included TK compliance measures. Some of these measures on TK and genetic resources are separate, but no regulations or guidelines providing for procedures for access and benefit sharing exist.
Given the significance of TK associated to genetic resources, the main recommendation from the expert workshop was the need to urgently put in place measures for protection, preservation and unlocking the potential for Kenya´s TK.
Kenya´s stand on the implementation of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) mechanisms
Kenya is party to various international instruments dealing with traditional knowledge associated to genetic resources. These include the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit sharing, Cartagena Protocol, WIPO treaties, the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), among others.
The international instruments previously indicated have been recognized under the country’s supreme law, the constitution and other domestic measures, including legislations, regulations and policies. Even though Kenya does not hold a substantive ABS law, the country has approved the ABS regulation of 2006, encompassing access and benefit sharing principles as stated in the Nagoya Protocol. In this regard, access permits in Kenya are subject to Prior Informed Consent (PIC) and Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT) between resource providers and users. Additionally, the country is in the process of developing the first online permitting system and reviewing its ABS domestic legislation to conform to the constitution and Nagoya Protocol provisions.
Currently, the government has established a Task Force to develop regulations within 90 days to operationalize TK and Cultural Expressions. The participants explored this opportunity and proposed accompanying ABS regulations and guidelines as some of the outputs within the proposed period. The workshop proposed a 7-member team to work closely with the National TK and Cultural Expression Task Force. In addition, a communication is to be released through the CoG to all the 47 Counties on the on-going process to develop regulations under TK and Cultural Expressions, generating awareness and establishing a network platform for TK holders and guidelines for the development of PIC and MAT.
These processes will be supported by the UNDP-GEF Global ABS funds and the Government of Kenya within the 2019/2020 financial year.
By Kabaka Watai (OGW), Kenya Wildlife Service
& Geoffrey Omedo, Portfolio Analyst UNDP