In order to implement constructive initiatives, put forward by the President of Turkmenistan with the aim to promote environmental diplomacy and strengthen the international legal framework in this area, during a government meeting on August 27, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rashid Meredov come up with the idea of our country to join the Nagoya Protocol to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

The aim of the Nagoya Protocol that entered into force in 2014 is to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. The document has been ratified by 124 states and the European Union.

President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov approved this proposal and underlined that the state policy of neutral Turkmenistan prioritized ecological well-being and environment. This is a principled and responsible position, which our country strictly follows in the formation of national development plans and in the implementation of its foreign policy.

The Convention has three main goals including: 1) the conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity); 2) the sustainable use of its components; and 3) the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.

What preceded the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol?

To further advance the implementation of the third objective of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention’s Conference of the Parties mandated its Working Group to elaborate and negotiate an international regime on access to genetic resources and benefit sharing.

After six years of negotiation, 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 was adopted at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties on 29 October 2010, in Nagoya, Japan and entered into force on 12 October 2014.

The Protocol has been ratified by 125 parties, which includes 124 states and the European Union. Most of the countries provide genetic resources (countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, etc.). Among the countries of the Central Asia region are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan.

What are genetic resources? How are they used?

Genetic resources can be plants, animals or parts thereof, such as seeds, spores as well as yeast cells, viruses and bacteria, genetic material of actual or potential value.

Genetic resources can be used in the development of products such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and biofuel. A genetic resource can also be used in basic research in, for example, ecology and biomedicine.

Before the Nagoya Protocol entered into force, unique species of animals and plants (which, for example, Turkmenistan and other countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America are rich in) were often the targets of biopiracy - the commercial exploitation or monopolization of biological or genetic material without compensating the indigenous peoples or countries from which the material or relevant knowledge is obtained.

Why is the Nagoya Protocol important? Tools and mechanisms to assist implementation

The Nagoya Protocol will create greater legal certainty and transparency for both providers and users of genetic resources.

By helping to ensure benefit-sharing, the Nagoya Protocol creates incentives to conserve and sustainably use genetic resources, and therefore enhances the contribution of biodiversity to development and human well-being.

Users of genetic resources

According to the Nagoya Protocol, the users of genetic resources are:

• enterprises and organizations, working in the sphere of pharmacology and cosmetology, as well as agricultural sector;

• scientific research institutes and organizations, seedbanks, plant and animal banks, collections of microorganisms, botanical gardens;

• collectors of wild plants with valuable pharmaceutical properties, and owners of wild animals with valuable economic properties

The Nagoya Protocol provides member states with access to financial resources and scientific and technological advances for the implementation of activities for the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources.

What genetic resources does Turkmenistan have?

The biological diversity of Turkmenistan includes at least 20,000 species, including: more than 7,000 plant species, of which about 3,200 species of higher plants; about 13,000 species of animals, of which 777 vertebrates and about 12,000 invertebrates species.

Turkmenistan is the country of origin of many wild relatives of cultivated plant species: cereals, vegetables, melons and gourds, fruit, etc. They are widely used in plant growing, fruit growing, medicine. Wild relatives represent a valuable source for the cultivation of modern varieties and a reliable genetic bank of the future.

More than 2,000 species of medicinal flora are described in the multivolume work by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov "Medicinal plants of Turkmenistan".

What prospects does the accession to the Nagoya Protocol open up for Turkmenistan?

The signing of the Nagoya Protocol will facilitate:

• conservation of national genetic resources, capacity building in this area;

• reaping the benefit from providing access to the use of genetic resources. Benefits can be tangible (such as royalties) and intangible (sharing of research results or technology transfer);

• conservation of biological diversity and the development of legal mechanisms that will determine the benefits associated with the use of genetic resources, will help to ensure national interests;

• implementation of the SDGs in the context of integrating economic, social and environmental aspects of development.