Access and Benefit Sharing Consultations in Samoa

The Ministry through the Division of Environment and Conservation (DEC) had concluded with its consultation programs within communities around Samoa for the past 3 weeks in regards to “Access and Benefit Sharing”. This is derived from Samoa’s agreement on the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity (UNCBD); where we agreed to pursue the 3 key goals of CBD which are: to conserve our biodiversity, to sustainably use the components of biodiversity, and to fairly and equitably share the benefits of the genetic resources accessed from our biodiversity. The Ministry had already started it’s work on pushing communities in conserving and sustainably use our biodiversity resources. However, not all are aware on the importance and the value in biodiversity.
Access and Benefit Sharing refers to the way genetic resources are accessed, and how its benefits are shared amongst the resource owners. In simple terms, how are the benefits from the users (who uses the resources) shared amongst the resource providers?
Providers of resource can refer to government or communities or societies who have primary access to resources. Users of resources can refer to anyone who do not have primary access to resources but wishes to use the resources for their own benefit. For example: researchers, universities and companies.
These consultations are set up to inform communities on how the access and benefits sharing process works. This is how it works – For a user to use resources from providers; the national authority (government/community leaders) are to provide a Prior Informed Consent (PIC) to allow the user to access a resource through the provider. When this PIC is provided, the user and provider has to set out Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT) to ensure that the benefit of the resources used by user is fairly shared onto the providers. These conditions are required by the UNCBD.
Communities around Samoa have been a victim to unfair benefit sharing where users from foreign countries who requested access to our local genetic resources (through District representatives and Chiefs) had not shared its fair benefits to our people.
It is important that the communities are informed that if a user is to approach communities in regards to resource access, it is always best to report to the Ministry for appropriate actions to be put in place. In this way, communities will be given not only a partial share but a long term sustainable benefit share from resources used.
The consultations was taken place to raise awareness of communities on their roles and responsibilities as well as the benefits they’re entitled to when it comes to sharing our genetic resources to foreign countries.
We acknowledge the involvement of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Program (SPREP) in assisting the Ministry on the consultations program throughout the past 3 weeks.