TRIPS vs CBD: Ethiopia report & declaration

by GRAIN | 15 Feb 1999
TITLE: Report and declaration from the national workshop "Have we valued our biodiversity?" held in Awassa (Ethiopia) on 3-5 February 1999 AUTHOR: Institute for Sustainable Development, Addis Abeba PUBLICATION: Submitted to BIO-IPR DATE: February 1999 SOURCE: ISD, contact details below.

Institute for Sustainable Development


Co-organized with the Biological Society of Ethiopia Awassa, 3-5 February 1999


The Institute for Sustainable Development and the Biological Society of Ethiopia have organized a two-day workshop under the title "Have we valued our biodiversity?" The workshop specially focused on the creation of awareness about biodiversity in general and the conflict between the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) of World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in particular.

Well over 130 countries have signed both treaties. Because the two agreements embody and promote conflicting objectives, systems of rights and obligations, many states are questioning which treaty takes precedence over the other.

In particular TRIPs imposes private intellectual property rights (IPRs) on the south's biodiversity while the CBD recognizes the collective rights of local communities to the same. Governments, scientists and many social sectors accept that our survival depends on the conservation and free availability of biodiversity, not on privatization.

Governments and civil society, therefor, must urgently confront the contradiction between TRIPs and the CBD.

It was in the above sprit that the workshop took place. Participants debated and critically looked at the presentations and documents handed to them and reached a consensus, which they drafted into the declaration at the end of this report.


1. Bring together representatives of scientific and technical institutions, government and NGOs from Ethiopia to facilitate information exchange on CBD and TRIPs.

2. Recognize and affirm in law the primacy of CBD over the WTO TRIPs Agreement in the area of biological resources and traditional knowledge systems.

3. Develop action points for future activities.

4. Develop working documents that can serve as material for similar activities, and also inform any Ethiopian debating and negotiating for the country's interest.


The workshop participants were: members of the Biological Society of Ethiopia (BSE), representatives of trade, planning and economy and agricultural bureaus from the nine (of the eleven) regional governments, high school teachers, key staff of the national parks, undergraduate and graduate students of Addis Ababa University, and NGOs. All together, 140 individuals participated in the workshop.

Resource people

1. Dr Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, General Manager of the Environmental Protection Authority and President of the Board, Institute for Sustainable Development.

2. Ato Regassa Feyissa, Conservation Expert, Institute for Biodiversity Conservation and Research 3. Dr Zemede Asfaw, Expert on Home Gardens, Biology Department, Addis Ababa University 4. Ms Sue Edwards, Director, Institute for Sustainable Development 5. Ato Taddese Seifu, WTO negotiator, Ministry of Trade and Industry 6. Ato Million Belay, Programme Coordinator, Institute for Sustainable Development


The workshop was a success on all counts. Out of the eleven regions in Ethiopia nine of them sent participants. Many of the prominent Ethiopian biologists participated actively. The papers presented were of high quality and the discussions that followed were also thorough. This is reflected in the declaration where key problems are identified and follow-up points agreed. Although it was not covered by the television, it got press and radio coverage and interviews with different personalities will be broadcast in future radio programmes.


3-5 February 1999 Awassa, Ethiopia

We realize that the main problems of the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in Ethiopia are the following:

1. The fact that there is conflict between the efforts to increase production and the conservation of biodiversity. 2. Lack of policy research and harmonization across sectoral policies. 3. Inadequacy of capacity of extension and other development agents and their inability to integrate with the communities they are meant to serve. 4. Lack of awareness, respect and legal recognition of the rights of local communities to their own knowledge, culture and practices. 5. Benefits accruing from biodiversity resources and indigenous knowledge and technologies not being shared with the community. 6. The absence of a sui generis legal system to counter the push for the patenting of living resources. 7. Low level of awareness in the society of the value and sense of ownership of and responsibility for the protection of biodiversity resources. 8. Lack of alternative sources of income that would help conserve biodiversity. 9. The uniformity of agricultural research and extension packages, and their lack of area and community specificity. 10. The inadequacy of impact assessments carried out before investments are made. 11. Lack of a detailed land use management system. 12. Inadequacy of national consultation prior to the ratification of international agreements on biodiversity. 13. The absence of integrated management and conservation agro-ecosystems with adjacent natural ecosystems during agricultural development.

The main solutions forwarded to overcome these problems are the following:

1. Integrate traditional and modern farming systems. 2. Policy research should be strengthened and policies integrated across sectors. 3. Build the capacity of and provide incentive for agricultural and other development agents so as to induce them to integrate with the communities they serve and the improvement of their knowledge of locality specific conditions and problems. 4. Prohibit patents on all life forms including microorganisms. 5. Awareness creation of the values and sustainable uses of biodiversity resources. 6. Work towards countries in the South creating and implementing their own sui generis legal systems for protecting the rights of their local and indigenous communities to their plant and animal genetic resources. 7. Ensure participation of communities at all levels of decision making. 8. Develop detailed land management strategies 9. Pass the necessary laws to integrate environmental protection with development planning. 10. Integrate agro-ecosystems and their surrounding natural ecosystems to ensure the conservation of crops, domestic animals and their wild relatives as well as the plants, animals and micro-organisms occurring in the wild. 11. Ensure that extension and research approaches are area and situation specific, and that decision-taking governing them is decentralized.

Institute for Sustainable Development PO Box 30231 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Fax:(251-1) 55 23 50 Email:sustain(at) sustainet(at)

Author: GRAIN