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Country experiences - inputs needed [#908]
Hello participants,

The online conference opened a few days ago - time to get started! My name is John Komen, and I'm involved in the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS).

The topic of this session follows nicely from the previous online conference, covering biosafety capacity development.

As a first step on this, more complex subject, I would welcome hearing experiences from various countries, specifically focusing on 1 or more of this session's guiding questions:

(i) To what extent have existing development plans and programmes, such as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, considered biosafety issues?
(ii) What experience has been gained in integrating biosafety into national development plans and programmes and what have been some of the success factors and challenges?
(iii) What are the main obstacles and challenges to integrating biosafety into national development plans and how have they been, or could they be, addressed?

Thanks in advance for your contributions!
posted on 2009-01-22 13:56 UTC by Mr. John Komen, Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS)
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RE: Country experiences - inputs needed [#913]
Dear colleagues!
My name is Andreas Heissenberger and I work for the biosafety department of the Federal Environment Agency of Austria.
Some of you might wonder, why I'm posting here, if the main topic is the integration of biosafety into national strategies such as the PRSP. But I think the problem of "national strategies" is not only linked to the PRPS and developing plans of developing countries.
My organisation is active in capacity building for biosafety for many years and though we are a rich country it was not always easy to get funds for these activities. The main reason for that is that biosafety is not included into our national strategy on development cooperation and policy. The Austrian development cooperation focuses on special regions and mainly on structural aid, like building up infrastructure, ensure water supply, etc.
My experience, as working in an "implementing" agency is that it is very difficult to get national funds for capacity building activities in biosafety, simply because it is not a priority in the national development policy. I also believe that this is not a problem only in my country.

We are in negotiations with the relevant institutions and authorities in order to make them aware of the problem and try to get more attention for environmental issues in development cooperation. Biosafety is just one of them.

So in conclusion: It is not only up to the developing countries to adapt their national strategies to include biosafety, also donor countries should besides many other important issues focus a little more on environmental issues (as it is laid down in MDG 7) and include biosafety into THEIR strategies. If they don't it will be rather difficult to get funds for long term, sustainable projects.

Best regards!
posted on 2009-01-29 08:22 UTC by Dr. Andreas Heissenberger, Austria
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RE: Country experiences - inputs needed [#916]
I agreed with you and thank for your interest and contibution to this subject so important for all us.
In fact we are now on the process of rigionalisation and harmonisation of most of ours policies and streategies followed by actions plans at 17 ECOWAS country as far as for the 8 WAEMU countries.And the environmental sector is one of the chosen among the most urgent.

My country belong to both subregionals organisations and even that that we are very pooar on respect of the economical and financial ressouces, specialy after National Ressetion, we are forced to follow all regionals approches and Principles, as subsidiarity and solidarities among the two organizations.
Since 2005 both of these sub regionals comissions are in all members countries for these purposis.
Once for WAEMU the priority for the environmental policy go to the following sectors:
Watter supplayer ,management and sanitation;
Costal erea management and protetion related to erotion and pollution;
The third priority go to the Biosafety and it relation to food security and agrobuisness technology impruvement.
(edited on 2009-01-29 16:23 UTC by )
posted on 2009-01-29 16:20 UTC by
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RE: Country experiences - inputs needed [#915]
My name is Ann Kingiri from Kenya.
I agree with Andreas. There are challenges to be faced in integrating biosafety into the national strategies. The problem may be, biosafety is not considered as "major" compared to other priorities, e.g. food security.  This may be understandable from a developing country context and a lot need to be done in term of creating awareness, first at policy makers’ level and then the broader public.

Responding to Komen with regards to countries experiences;
From Kenyan context, significant milestones have been made with the approval of National Biotechnology Policy in 2006 and the recently approved Biosafety Bill. But this is not perceived to be the end because most of the “blind spots” can only be learnt during actual implementation of the relevant policies and legislation. From a closer and critical perspective, it can be said that the two pieces of legislation may have been re-aligned to the broader poverty reduction initiatives since they recognise the role of biotech in addressing the objectives of the MDGs, but not the vice versa. A lot need to be done towards integrating biosafety into the poverty reduction initiatives. But I argue that a lot can be achieved if biosafety is to be perceived from a “benefit perspective” rather than “less important” if it is to be integrated into the broader initiatives.  

From the Kenyan experience, it was an uphill task to reach where we are now. Collaboration is key for those who are planning to put up similar policies. However one thing that can be learnt from Kenya case is one;  “taking along all stakeholders” in order to safeguard against a possible stalemate; and two; having the capacity to move the process forward and three; having the political will and support.  I am sure the Kenyan stakeholders involved can contribute more to this debate.
posted on 2009-01-29 16:09 UTC by Ms. Ann Kingiri, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS)
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RE: Country experiences - inputs needed [#918]
Country experience – Czech Republic
Name: Milena Roudna, Czech Republic, currently National Project Coordinator, UNEP/GEF Biosafety Implementation Project – Implementing Agency Ministry of the Environment
Dear Colleagues,
Allow me to return to the questions raised by J. Komen.
Integration of biosafety principles, and more generally environmental issues into national strategies and policy is not an easy task, especially in countries with economy in transition (which is our recent experience) and developing countries. Only gradually it was achieved to integrate these principles into the main corresponding national documents, which in the Czech Republic represent: State Environmental Policy (current for the period 2004-2010), Report on the Environment (annual),  Strategy on Sustainable Development (updating started in May 2008), and some more specific documents, such as State Programme on Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection (adopted by Government in 1998), Strategy on Biodiversity Conservation (adopted in May 2005), Strategy on Food Safety (adopted in December 2004), Action Plan on Health and the Environment. No special Strategy on Biosafety exists, but its principles are included in the above mentioned documents, generally in thematically related chapters. As to public awareness and education, State Programme on Environmental Education and Awareness was adopted by Government in 2000, and its Action Plan is periodically updated (every 3 years). So far, biosafety issues have not been too much reflected in environmental education programmes or plans, but contacts were established e.g. with the existing network of Environmental Education Centres and some schools within the UNEP/GEF Project (presentations, poster exhibitions, publication dissemination) with the aim to enhance awareness especially among teachers and through them among children and general public.
Main obstacles
Cooperation with other sectors, especially economic ones:
• To reach understanding and tolerance with environmental principals and willingness to reflect them in sectoral policies and programmes.
• Willingness to share financial sources.
Cooperation with and integration of various stakeholders into common actions.
Advantage/Positive aspects
Existing international environmental conventions and protocols and obligation of each Party to implement them.
Accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union and consequently transposition and implementation of the EU legislation.
posted on 2009-01-30 10:55 UTC by Ph.D. Milena Roudna, Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic
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RE: Country experiences - inputs needed [#919]
In the case of Cuba, integration of biosafety aspects into a national policies and strategies is not an easy task either. Although there is an Action Plan specifically for Biosafety, which is integrated into the National Biodiversity strategy, there are other sectoral strategies, such as public health, agriculture and fisheries in which biosafety issues are not well reflected. These national strategies do not conceive this matter as a system, but just they contain some isolated points regarding biosafety. This results in the allocation of financial resources in which Biosafety takes the worst part. It is true that we have to deal with a lot of difficulties, which are mainly consequences of the particular situation of Cuba concerning its socio-economic framework and within it, the Biosafety framework. We can mention here as a main problem, the particular economical conditions in Cuba marked by an economical blockade we have been facing for 50 years. This situation places Cuba in a different position in relation to other countries, because we were compelled to look for other initiatives to try to mitigate its effects in all branches of the economy. Nevertheless there are some obstacles that are not connected with the blockade, among them, we can mention the fallowing:

1) Primacy of scientific and economic criteria over safety issues.
2) Unawareness on safety culture issues.
3) Existence of some state regulatory bodies which are strongly involved in Biosafety activities so their competences can be overlapped.
posted on 2009-02-02 16:37 UTC by Ms. Lenia Arce Hernández, Cuba
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RE: Country experiences - inputs needed [#920]
Thanks for all the interesting and relevant inputs so far on this important topic. The difficulties of integrating biosafety into national development plans are common to most countries, irrespective of geographic location. Cuba is perhaps an exception with even more challenges because of its "unique" situation. As a UNEP/GEF Task Manager responsible for assisting countries to implement their National Biosafety Framework, I think the element of integrating biosafety into national development plans/strategy was mostly absent in the earlier project design. This is partly because GEF, UNEP and the 8 demonstration project countries were in a "learning phase". Some countries were able to address this gap later as the project progressed. The main focus of most countries has been to address the sustainability of biosafety beyond project life through the development of national policy/strategic action plan for biotechnology and biosafety, complemented with a regulatory regime to provide the legal basis for the establishment of National Biosafety Bodies. This is a modest start and should not be under-estimated. The integration of biosafety into national development plans has been carried out mainly via education, viz. the development of higher secondary and tertiary education curricula on biosafety and biotechnology. This is a laudable long-term investment which will yield results in the years to come.

The new Biosafety Implementation projects which are now being developed (in Asia) have all addressed the sustainability issue as well as the incorporation of biosafety into national development priorities, via UNDAF and CCA processes. In order to truly integrate biosafety into national development plans it is also necessary to share information with other colleagues working in other 'focal areas' (in the same or other Implementing Agencies) in the countries where biosafety implementation is being carried out or project being designed, so that they can see the synergy and cost effectiveness of this strategic approach.

Ultimately, increasing the awareness of national policy makers on the importance of merging biosafety into national development plans with concomitant change in donor policy and Implementing Agencies attitude will result in the desired positive impact.
posted on 2009-02-03 03:03 UTC by Dr Fee Chon Low-Chong, UNEP, UNEP-GEF
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RE: Country experiences - inputs needed [#924]
Name: Milena Roudna, Czech Republic, National Project Coordinator, UNEP/GEF Biosafety Implementation Project – Implementing Agency Ministry of the Environment
In response to Dr Fee Chon Low-Chong contribution
Biosafety Implementation Project can really be helpful to the implementing countries in integration of biosafety issues into national strategic documents.
Experience from projects implementation and outcomes of different recent studies (focused to environmental issues in general and efficiency of the environmental mainstreaming) resulted in some recommendations how to improve this process and can be summarized as follows:
• Improved inter-sectoral and inter-institutional cooperation.
• Simplification of environmental legislation (in some cases).
• Implementation of the strategic goals, corresponding legislation etc. and better control of application of the given principals in the decision- making processes.
• Education and decision-makers and public awareness raising
(As underlined by Fee Chon this is very important but a long-term process and investment).
posted on 2009-02-05 08:11 UTC by Ph.D. Milena Roudna, Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic
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RE: Country experiences - inputs needed [#921]
Thanks John for the guidelines questions. Talking about the Moldova’s experience I would mention that it takes some long way to get consensus between the different governmental bodies and stakeholders regarding a Biosafety Action Plan for the period of 2009-2015,   as a policy document. Finally the paper was prepared, consulted and agreed (2009), and involves different actors to implement the National Biosafety Framework.  It was an achievement for Moldova that The National Strategy and Action Plan for Biodiversity conservation, (2001) stipulates the Biosafety as a national priority and requested to elaborate an adequate regulatory system and develop laboratory capacities for GMO testing. 

At the same time a series of national development strategies and programs and also sectorial strategies that relevant to Biosafety field, as agriculture, health care, education, intellectual property rights, and others do not considered the Biosafety concerns. I would mention the following relevant national political documents as The National Strategy for the development for the period of 2008-2011, (2007),  The Strategy for Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction (2004-2006), (2004), The National Action Plan Moldova–EU, 2005, The Concept of the Environmental Policy of the Republic of Moldova, (2001),   The National Concept for natural farming, production and distribution of environmentally clean and non-GMO food (2000), The National Strategy of the sustainable development of the agro-industrial complex in the Republic of Moldova (2008-2015), (2008), The Strategy for the development of the health system for the period of 2008-2017, (2008), The National Strategy „Education for everybody” 2004-2015, (2004), The National Program for environmental security for the period of 2007-2015, (2007), The Strategy of the Sustainable development of the forestry sector for the period of 2003-2020, (2001), et al.

During the last period it was made several attempts to integrate the Biosafety concerns into the development and sectorial policies, but a series of obstacles and constrains did not allow meeting a success in this consideration. We are convinced that the mainstreaming of the biosafety into the sectorial strategically view would create a better understanding of the biosafety issues, would get synergy and getting solutions with common efforts, save the human resources and money.

Main obstacles and challenges to integrating biosafety into national development plans:
1. Poor public awareness:
- Public awareness and education; Work with NGOs and civil society for their better information and  understanding and tolerance;
2. Decision makers’ not sufficient aware of the Biosafety concerns:
- Awareness and information of decision makers from different sectors to getting consensus and willingness to integrate biosafety into sectorial policies;
3. Funds not available:
- Getting understanding of  the needs to allocate money for the biosafety concerns within the sectors;
4. Poor inter-sectorial collaboration and cooperation:
- Organizing different common actions that involves different sectors, as risk assessment/management, monitoring over GMOs, inspection and supervising etc;
- Training and workshops;
- Exchange of information;  
5. Methodologic support  regarding implementation of the strategies and policies at the sectorial level needed
-       Aaccess to the biotechnology methodologies and methods;
-       Regional advisers;
-       Training and workshops;
-       Curricula development 
-       Best parctices and experience etc;
6. Synergy and regional cooperation would be helpful.

Angela Lozan, Moldova
posted on 2009-02-03 15:45 UTC by Angela Lozan
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RE: Country experiences - inputs needed [#923]
I do not dare to say there are no problems, but in general Biosafety is well arranged in the Netherlands. However policies and legislation are continuously being improved to meet new obligations, concerns and expectations.

In the Netherlands, Biosafety is implemented under the scope of a much broader legislation concerning Biotechnology, which is mostly based on international legislation and in particular on European guidelines and decrees. In addition, organizations dealing with LMOs need to comply with legislations concerning other relevant activities. All applicable legislations and requirements are published on Internet. Currently the Ministry of Environment is busy with simplifying the legislation.

The Ministry of Environment is responsible for Biotechnology and for the implementation of the CBP, but has delegated the responsibility for different aspects of Biotechnology to other Ministries, so that they share the responsibility for some cross-cutting issues, such as concerning food and feed with the Ministry of Agriculture and the use of LMOs for medical purposes with the Ministry of Health. Shared responsibility helps integration of Biosafety in relevant policies and processes.

Another positive experience in the Netherlands is the regular Biotechnology trends analysis, conducted by three independent commissions and councils on request by the Ministries that share the responsibility for Biotechnology. Broad public participation through panels is an important element of the process. The study outlines the most important trends in Biotechnology for the coming years, including with regard to Biosafety, and provides recommendations to ministers on how to deal with them. The study is always followed by a political debate. The discussion contributes to integration of Biosafety in relevant policies and processes and to improvement of the Biosafety policies.
It could be worthy to conduct such a study on a more international level.
posted on 2009-02-04 18:14 UTC by Msc. BA. Lucy Naydenova, Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM)
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RE: Country experiences - inputs needed [#932]
Dear colleagues,

As was explained by Ms Fee Chon Low (#920) element of integrating biosafety into national development plans/strategy was mostly absent in the earlier phase of UNEP/GEF biosafety projects. Therefore, even those who were involved in those projects on regional level have limited information about that integration on country level.  Still, experiences regarding many issues that are important for mainstreaming (funding, cooperation between different government agencies, overlapping of activities, cooperation between different UN agencies, regional cooperation etc) were gained in those processes.

In my country, Serbia, biosafety was included in National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) and was present in discussions of GEF funding priorities. Since our country is not a big one Implementation project would utilize extremely large portion of available GEF resources for Serbia (and my regional experience points to the same problem). So, integration of biosafety issues in available within country activities often faces significant funding problems - issue that was already raised by Mr  Andreas Heissenberger (#913) and Ms Angela Lozan (#921). I therefore strongly support notion given by Ms Angela Lozan (#921) that synergy and regional cooperation would be very helpful and I think that regional projects should be available in GEF framework in order to overcome that obstacle.

From my regional experience (West Balkans, Europe, Central Asia) good cooperation between different government agencies that are relevant for biosafety issues (usually ministries responsible for environment, agriculture and health issues) is crucial for successful mainstreaming, as positive examples like Moldova had shown. Lack of successful cooperation is very big challenge for successful mainstreaming and in my opinion and experience is the main cause of activities overlapping. In the case of development plans and programmes, it is even more important since number of government bodies involved is larger.

Cooperation of different UN agencies and bodies (SCBD, UNEP, FAO, UNDP) is also very important in this respect. From my experience that cooperation is very good on global and regional levels where those agencies tend to “act as one”, but more sharing of information and synergy can be very helpful on country level, too. That issue needs further discussion and can involve faster sharing of information regarding planned activities, identified stakeholders etc.

Of course, our main focus must be bisafety as defined in Cartagena Protocol as was stated by Ms Ann Kingiri (#914) But from my experience bisafety as defined in Cartagena Protocol is on country level usually integrated with other issues in country legislation and development plans – for example, laws usually cover broader issues such as GM products (not only LMOs ), conditions for contained use etc. I think that it is important to have all important issues covered but we have to be prepared that biosafety will not be standalone issue, but integrated on various levels, depending on country in question.

From the regional standpoint I want also to thank Ms Milena Roudna and  MsLucy Naydenova for their very informative inputs (#918, #924 #923) and sharing of experiences that can be utilized in our region and is important for other regions, too. Question of utilizing Roster of experts in context of integrating biosafety issues in development plans and programmes raised in #928 could be incorporated in SCBD ongoing activities regarding Roster of experts.

Looking forward for cooperating with all of you on this and other biosafety issues!
Sincerely yours
Aleksej Tarasjev
posted on 2009-02-14 08:22 UTC by Dr Aleksej Tarasjev, Serbia
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