Located in Indochinese peninsula, Việt Nam is known for its species richness and ranked 16th in the world for genetic diversity. To date, Việt Nam has identified more than 51.400 species, including 7.500 species/strains of microorganisms; 20.000 plant species; 10,900 terrestrial animals; 2.000 species of invertebrates and freshwater fish; over 11.000 species of marine organism. The genetic resource plays an important role in the country's socio-economic development.
The conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources (GR) will contribute to the development of many economic sectors, especially agriculture, forestry and fisheries, pharmaceuticals, environmental protection and sustainable development of the country. However, in recent years, in context of globalization, population growth and requirements of economic development, Vietnamese GRs are being gradually lost. Recognizing the importance of biodiversity in general and the great value of genetic resources in particular, over the past time, Việt Nam has joined international treaties and issued legal framework on conservation and sustainable use of GRs.
The benefit sharing mechanism from the use of genetic resources will contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity
The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity
The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the CBD (CBD COP10) on October 29, 2010 in Nagoya, Japan. The adoption of the Protocol is considered a success of CBD COP10, which is one of the international legal instruments that contribute to preventing the illegal use and infringement of national biological resources.
The Nagoya Protocol for the first time regulates some basic issues to ensure the implementation of access to GR and the benefit sharing from their utilization (ABS) such as: definitions of goals and terms, scope and relationship with other international instruments, key principles and requirements on fair and equitable benefit sharing in accessing to GR, traditional knowledge, mechanisms for implementation including multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism and an ABS information exchange mechanism, awareness raising, capacity building and technology transfer on ABS.
As of March 2020, more than 120 countries have signed the Nagoya Protocol. Việt Nam ratified the Protocol in 2014 and is the 31st Party of the Protocol. Participation in the Nagoya Protocol shows the determination of the Việt Nam’s Government in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity resources. In addition, joining the Nagoya Protocol creates favorable conditions for Việt Nam in a number of activities such as creating a solid legal basis for protecting the rights and fair benefit of GRs’ and TK’s Provider; contribute to fulfilling international obligations to which Việt Nam is a member, especially the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Rio Declaration on Sustainable Development; create opportunities for Việt Nam to approach international donors in supporting capacity building on this issue; raise awareness on GR management, promote the sustainable utilization of GR, traditional knowledge associated to GR, contribute to improving the livelihood of the community and biodiversity conservation.
Policies and legal framework on accessing to GRs and benefit sharing in Việt Nam
The contents of ABS were first defined in the Law on Biodiversity (LB) 2008 from Article 55 to Article 61. At that time, the Nagoya Protocol was not approved, therefore these regulations were built in the spirit of the CBD to which Việt Nam has been a member since 1994. Basing on that, accessors are obligated to share benefits to the State, providers and other relevant stakeholders as prescribed. However, the provisions on ABS in the LB are only basic framework regulations, requiring detailed guidance to be practically implemented.
In order to guide the contents of ABS in the LB and fulfill Vietnamese obligations as a member country of the Nagoya Protocol, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) has presided over and coordinated with the relevant ministries in elaborating and submitting to the Government for promulgation the Decree No. 59/2017/ND-CP dated May 12, 2017 on management of GR and access and benefit sharing from their utilization. The Decree has taken effect from July 1, 2017 and replaced the Provisions of Article 18, Article 19 and Article 20 on ABS in Decree No. 65/2010/ND-CP of June 11, 2010 of the Government on detailing and guiding the implementation of a number of articles of the LB. The Decree No. 59/2017/ND-CP includes following main provisions:
- Organizations and inviduals who are required to register and apply for a License to access GR, including: Vietnamese organizations and individuals wishing to access GRs for research for commercial purposes and development of commercial products; foreign organizations and individuals wishing to access GR on Vietnamese territory for any purpose; Vietnamese organizations and individuals wishing to bring GR abroad, except for cases of bringing GRs abroad for study or research purposes for non-commercial purposes.
- Procedure of registration and application for a License to access GR includes 5 steps: Register to access GR with national competent authority; Negotiate and sign the Contract with the Provider; Request the communal People's Committee to certify the contract; Submit application for a License to access GR to a national competent authority; Provide additional information and documents; Complete application when required. Processing time varies from applications for commercial to non-commercial purposes are, respectively, 90 days and 30 days.
The Decree also stipulates a simplified procedure for granting permit to transfer GR abroad for non-commercial study and research which applied for Vietnamese students, graduate students, scientific and technological organizations. Accordingly, the processing time for the application is 15 days. This Provision aims to create favorable conditions for promoting domestic scientific studying on GR and complies with the content of Article 8 of the Nagoya Protocol.
- Benefit sharing from GR’s utilization, the Decree stipulates sharing benefits from using GR in both monetary and non-monetary forms. Monetary benefits include: Fee for sampling of GR; royalties; franchise fee; Lump sum or milestone payments as agreed; Other monetary benefits arising during utilization of GR. Non-monetary benefits include: Sharing of research results; Rights to be involved in collaboration on the research, development and production of commercial products; Rights to have access to scientific and technical information related to the genetic resources; Technology transfer to Providers of genetic resources; Training and capacity building for Providers in research and development of genetic resources; Joint intellectual property rights corresponding to the percentage of contributions to innovative results based on access to genetic resources; Other non-monetary benefits.
The benefit-sharing mechanism will help stakeholders promote research to develop and apply results from utilization of GR, thereby helping to conserve and sustainably use of biodiversity.
- Informing and reporting: the Decree stipulates the mechanism of writing report on the results of the implementation of accessing to GR and benefit sharing to the national competent authority who has granted the License every 2 years, as required by the License and an unscheduled report upon request by national competent authority. At least 3 months after the end of a program of study or research, a student, a graduate student, or a Vietnamese science and technology organization shall report on the result of the study or research to the national competent authority who has allowed the transfer of GR overseas.
The issuance of Decree No. 59/2017/ND-CP marks Việt Nam as one of the first Parties of the Nagoya Protocol in the region to establish a relatively adequate legal framework for ABS. This is an important document to regulate practical activities on access to GR in Việt Nam. In order to support the evaluation and issuance of a License to access GR, on September 11, 2019, the MONRE issued Circular No. 15/2019/TT-BTNMT regulating the organization and operation of the Appraisal Committee of Application for licenses to access GR for commercial research and development of commercial products.
In parallel with the process of developing and promulgating Decree No. 59/2017/ND-CP, the MONRE also submitted to the Prime Minister to issue Decision No. 1141/QD-TTg on June 27, 2016, approving the Scheme of strengthening capacity on management of access to GR and equitable and fair sharing of benefits arising from utilization of GR in 2016 - 2025. The scheme identified specific tasks and solutions to strengthen the capacity of relevant agencies, ensuring that by 2025, the organizational system, management and technical tools on access to GR and benefit sharing from utilization of GR, traditional knowledge associated with GR are completed and operated effectively.
Implementation of Access and benefit sharing on utilization of GR in Việt Nam
Establishment of ABS authorities
Decree No. 59/2017/ND-CP stipulates the national focal point to implement the Nagoya Protocol and national competent authorities to grant, extend and withdraw licenses to access GR:
- National focal point for the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol: The MONRE is assigned by the Government in accordance with Article 5 of Decree No. 59/2017/ND-CP as the national focal point with following responsibilities: Implementing unified management and monitoring of activities on the granting, renewal and withdrawal of licenses for access to genetic resources; Acting as a focal point for liaising, providing information and coordinating information exchange with the Secretariat of the CBD via the Access and Benefit-sharing Clearing-House in accordance with the Nagoya Protocol; leading the development of a national report on the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in Việt Nam; proposing and implementing decisions of the Conference of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol in accordance with Government’s assignment; coordinating and organizing the implementation of national obligations to the Nagoya Protocol; Coordinating with other countries in implementing measures to comply with the Nagoya Protocol applied to the use of Vietnamese genetic resources in foreign countries; Organizing the implementation of bilateral and multilateral international cooperation for access to genetic resources and benefit sharing.
- National competent authorities to grant, extend and withdraw licenses to access GR: The MONRE and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) are assigned these task by the Government in accordance with Article 6 of Decree No. 59/2017/ND-CP. In which, the MARD grants, extends and withdraws licenses to access GR for plant varieties, livestock breeds, aquatic breeds and forestry varieties; The MONRE issues, extends and revokes the License to access GR for the remaining cases.
Carry out capacity building activities, raising awareness on ABS
As the national focal point for the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol and the implementation of the Prime Minister's Decision No. 1141/QD-TTg, over the past time, the MONRE has coordinated with ministries, sectors and national and international organizations to carrying out capacity building and awareness raising activities on GR conservation and ABS in Việt Nam:
- Develop and disseminate documents guiding the implementation of Vietnam's regulations on ABS such as: Document guiding the implementation of Decree No. 59/2017/ND-CP, document "FAQ on ABS", materials on ABS models, leaflets on ABS for different target groups.
- Organize training courses and workshops to strengthen the capacity for access and benefit sharing management, raising awareness on the importance of the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources.
- Conduct surveys and work with conservation facilities (research institutes, universities), management boards of protected areas on access and collect GR at the facilities and instructs them to apply relevant existing legal provisions in the area of access and benefit sharing.
- Providing guidance on activities to access GR and benefit sharing in Việt Nam: as a national focal point, MONRE has received requesting documents from domestic and foreign units and organizations on guiding the implementation of regulations on access and benefit sharing in Việt Nam. The majority of requesting for guiding to access GR which are research cooperation activities between universities, domestic research institutions and foreign partners. Purpose of access includes both commercial and non-commercial purpose with clear benefit-sharing terms. The MONRE has guided the organizations to comply with Vietnam's regulations on this issue, as well as in accordance with the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol.
Evaluation and issuance of licensing decisions related to GR access
After the Decree No. 59/2017/ND-CP takes effect, the MONRE and the MARD (national competent authorities grant, extend and revoke licenses to access GR) have received and appraised dossiers of application for licenses to access GR and register to transfer GR abroad, specifically:
- MONRE has received, appraised and issued 1 License to access GR for non-commercial research and more than 40 Decisions to allow transfer GR abroad for study and research for non-commercial purposes. Currently, MONRE is continuing to appraise 3 applications for licenses to access GR for commercial research and development of commercial products.
- The MARD has received and appraised 3 applications for licenses to access to GR for commercial research, development of commercial products and 3 applications for transfer GR abroad for study and research for non-commercial purposes.
Piloting public-private model on accessing GR and sharing benefits from utilization of genetic resources
Within the framework of the project “Capacity building for the ratification and implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on GR access and benefit sharing in Việt Nam” funded by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Agency in collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources and Environment of Lào Cai Province, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Lào Cai Province, the People's Committee of Tả Phìn Commune (Sa Pa Town, Lào Cai Province) have implemented the integrated model public-private partnership on GR access and benefit sharing from utilization of GR. This model aims to create a mechanism to support local community to participate with relevant partners who are the private sector and scientists in the process of conservation GR and at the same time getting benefit from the agreement to access GR in the area.
Since being the member of the Nagoya Protocol, Việt Nam has fulfilled its obligations as a Party of the Protocol, urgently developed and issued policies and regulations on managing access to GR and benefit sharing as well as putting ABS policy into practice. However, ABS is a relatively new issue for central as well as local agencies and GR Providers (Management Boards of Protected Areas, research units and private enterprises and communities) therefore, ABS management still faces many difficulties and challenges to put legal regulations into practice. So, there is need of active participation of the authorities and the community's cooperation in implementing regulations on conservation of GR and sustainable use of biodiversity. The good implementation of the ABS mechanism will promote economic development, support poverty reduction, improve the living standards of the community, make an important contribution to the conservation of biodiversity in general and genetic resources in particular.
Hoàng Thị Thanh Nhàn, Trần Trọng Anh Tuấn and Nguyễn Bá Tú