Main Issue

The development of compounds from a particular tree species in the Malaysian rainforest may lead to a treatment for certain types of cancer. But who owns the trees? And who has the right to benefit from its genetic properties?

Through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and its accompanying Nagoya Protocol, the international community seeks to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.

Governments need to ensure that there is an appropriate system in place to guarantee that the genetic resources of the species within their jurisdictions are properly accessed, and the benefits shared equitably. Users of these genetic resources include research institutes, universities and private companies in sectors like pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, agriculture, horticulture and biotechnology.

What We Do

The GEF builds capacity of governments and other stakeholders to determine the access to genetic resources, and to ensure that the benefits arising from their utilization, are shared in a fair and equitable manner (ABS, for short). The genetic resources are contained within all organisms (plants, animals, or microorganisms), and may be used for different purposes, including basic research and commercialization of products.

The GEF supports national and regional implementation of the Nagoya Protocol and, if still required, targeted capacity building to facilitate ratification and entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol. The successful implementation of ABS at the national level has the potential to make considerable contributions to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.


Since 2003, the GEF has invested more than US$60 million to build capacity of countries to implement activities in support of access and benefits sharing (ABS) from genetic resources. These funds have leveraged a further US$120 million from more than 100 countries.

Before the Nagoya Protocol was adopted, we helped 22 countries assess their capacity to implement ABS measures. Through national and regional projects, we also built the capacity of governments in 42 countries to meet their obligations under the convention, and to engage with stakeholders such as Indigenous Peoples.

With the protocol’s adoption in 2010, the GEF continued to invest in capacity building through multiple projects to accelerate ratification and to set up pilot agreements between providers and users of genetic resources. ­­­­­

The GEF project Development and production of natural dyes in the Chocó Region of Colombia for the food, cosmetics and personal care industries under the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol” facilitated the negotiation of a landmark access and benefit-sharing agreement between the users and providers of a genetic resource of the Genipa americana for the production of a blue colorant. In 2018, the Colombian biotechnological company that developed the invention will start sharing royalties with the resource providers. Benefits already shared by this company include improved livelihoods for local communities and the sustainable management of 750 ha of rainforest.

Looking Ahead

Under GEF-7, the GEF will support the following core activities to comply with the provisions of the protocol:

  1. Stocktaking and assessment. The GEF supports gap analysis of ABS provisions in existing policies, laws and regulations, stakeholder identification, user rights and intellectual property rights, and assessments of institutional capacity including research organizations.
  2. Development and implementation of a strategy and action plan for the implementation of ABS measures (e.g. policy, legal and regulatory frameworks governing ABS, National Focal Point, Competent National Authority, Institutional agreements, administrative procedures for Prior Informed Consent (PIC) and Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT), monitoring of use of genetic resources, compliance with legislation and cooperation on trans-boundary issues).
  3. Development (or revision) of national measures to implement and enforce the Protocol (e.g. the legislative, administrative or policy measures on access and benefit-sharing).
  4. Building capacity among stakeholders (including Indigenous and local communities, especially women) to negotiate between providers and users of genetic resources. This may include institutional capacity building to carry out research and development (R&D) to add value to their own genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources. 

The GEF will also enhance national implementation of the Nagoya Protocol through regional collaboration. Regional collaboration helps build capacity of countries to add value to their own genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources and avoid duplication of regulatory mechanisms, while encouraging intra-regional collaboration. Regional collaboration can also address the financial and human resource constraints faced by many countries.