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Projects from the Global Initiative

THE BIOTRADE INITIATIVE

Many developing countries are endowed with rich and diverse forest and marine biodiversity resources. These resources provide the basis for a wide range of products and services, such as nuts, fruits, perfumes, natural dyes, oils, medicinal plants, biochemical compounds, eco-tourism, watershed protection and carbon sequestration. Many of these products are used by local populations to make a living, while others have served as an important source of innovation for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology or cosmetic industries.

Countries rich in natural resources are losing their biodiversity at alarming rates. The search for short-term economic gains, population growth, and the poverty of local populations are at the root of this biodiversity loss. Well-known examples concern destruction of coral reefs and tropical forest, due to slash-and-burn practices, excessive commercial logging, and clearing of natural habitats for agriculture and urban expansion.

Sustainable use of biological resources generating tangible economic benefits for populations whose livelihood depends on biodiversity could support development and nature conservation. One of the ways to achieve this is to take advantage of the new investment and trade opportunities that are emerging for biodiversity-based products and services. Interest for these products is on the rise because of the emerging biotechnology industry, the search of industries for recyclable products, and shifts in consumer behaviour in developed and developing countries.

If developing countries are able to seize these opportunities, biodiversity could be turned into an engine for growth and sustainable development. Developing countries are therefore focusing on:

  • Developing legal and policy frameworks for the sustainable use of biodiversity,
  • Acquiring technical and entrepreneurial capabilities,
  • Obtaining market information and market access,
  • Developing biodiversity conservation schemes.

In most instances, a lack of capacity in several or all of these areas will result in the provision of low value-added products and services that only marginally benefit the country, biodiversity and local populations.

The BIOTRADE Initiative

The BIOTRADE Initiative was launched in 1996 with the objective of stimulating trade and investment in biological resources to further sustainable development, in line with the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity. These objectives are the conservation of biological diversity; sustainable use of its components; and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources.

BIOTRADE seeks to enhance the capability of developing countries to produce value-added products and services from biodiversity for both domestic and international markets. It is an integrated programme consisting of three complementary components: country programmes; policy development and trade facilitation; and Internet services.

BIOTRADE country programmes are at the heart of BIOTRADE. They identify opportunities and constraints for sustainable development of biodiversity resources in each country, focusing on bio-business development, bio-partnerships, and incentives for conservation, sustainable use, and benefit-sharing. Country programmes are managed by national focal points with experience in the area of sustainable development, such as the Humboldt Institute in Colombia and the National Environmental Council (CONAM) in Peru.

Partnerships

BIOTRADE collaborates closely with other UNCTAD programmes and integrates the private sector, government agencies, local and indigenous communities, and other relevant players in its work. To this end, UNCTAD organized the Partners for Development Conference in Lyon (France), in November 1998, during which bio-partnerships for sustainable development, commercialization and the bio-industry challenge were discussed.

BIOTRADE is developing concrete and innovative partnerships in support of the implementation of its programmes. A few examples of partnerships that have been established are:

  • Poverty and Environment in Amazonia (POEMA): UNCTAD and POEMA, a non-governmental organization, are developing the Bolsa Amazonia programme. The programme helps local communities seize bio-business opportunities for natural products of the Amazonian region by forging links with the private sector. Private organizations like Mercedes Benz, Henkel, the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) and the Amazon Bank (BASA), as well as public institutions, are involved in the project;
  • Bioamazonia: UNCTAD collaborates with the NGO Bioamazonia and A2R, a Brazilian Asset Management Company, in establishing the Amazon Biodiversity Permanent Fund, which is intended to finance biotechnology R&D activities of the Brazilian Programme of Molecular Ecology (PROBEM). PROBEM aims at developing bio-industries and promoting the sustainable use of biodiversity, while also improving the well-being of local populations;
  • International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD): UNCTAD and ICTSD have started a joint work programme. The programme aims at providing inputs for policy and institutional development on issues related to biodiversity and climate change that are relevant to the BIOTRADE country programmes.

Technical cooperation

In Colombia, a country programme has been started called "Biocomercio Sostentible". The programme is coordinated by the Humboldt Institute. With support from Colombia, Netherlands and Spain, a BIOTRADE seminar was held in Villa de Leyva, Colombia, in March 1999, to introduce and discuss the programme. Participants came from various segments of society. Prior to the workshop, a capacity-building seminar for local and indigenous communities was held in Bogota.

BIOTRADE, supported by Germany, Norway and Guinée Ecologie, a Guinean NGO, organized a workshop in Guinea in April 1999. The workshop, which was also attended by traditional healers, focused on the commercialization and sustainable use of medicinal plants.

The United Nations Foundation approved a project for development of BIOTRADE in the Amazonian Region for the period 2000-2002. The project is being implemented with the Governments of eight Amazonian countries and several BIOTRADE partners. The project aims at developing BIOTRADE programmes in the Amazonian regions of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. It also supports the implementation of the Bolsa Amazonia programme in the Amazonian countries, as well as the development of an investment fund for research and development in biotechnology in Brazil.

The BIOTRADE programme also benefits from contributions from the Governments of France, Netherlands, and Norway, as well as from the Andean Development Corporation (CAF), for the development of activities in other parts of the world.

BIOTRADE main components (circles):

BIOTRADE country programmes

  • Country assessments
  • Training and capacity-building
  • Institutional development
  • Identification of market opportunities
  • Bio-partnerships and bio-business development
  • Public Education and Awareness
  • Pilot projects

Policy development and trade facilitation

  • Incentives for biodiversity conservation
  • Intellectual property rights and traditional knowledge
  • Access to genetic and biological resources
  • Benefit-sharing mechanism
  • Finance and investment
  • Market information and trade facilitation
  • Bio-business development

Internet services

  • BIOTRADE reports and databases
  • Updates on country activities
  • Discussion forums and electronic workshops
  • Sources of information
  • Experts and organizations

List of partner and collaborating organizations:

General coordination:

BIOTRADE Initiative, DITC/UNCTAD
Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephones: (4122) 9175676, 9175620, 9175607, Fax (4122) 9170044
Email: biotrade@unctad.org

For more information please visit our web-site www.biotrade.org

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme