National Workshops on Strategic Communication for Effective Implementation of ABS Mechanisms

12 Jul, 2019

India, being a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) enacted Biological Diversity Act, 2002 to “provide for conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources…”. As per the Act, State Biodiversity Boards (SBB) are constituted in each Indian state and are tasked with “granting of approvals for commercial utilization or bio-survey and bio-utilization of any biological resource by Indians”, among others.

Although the concept of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) has been in place since the enactment of the Indian Biological Diversity Act, 2002, awareness about ABS and related issues is limited. Engagement with a range of stakeholders is necessary for effective implementation of ABS. A survey conducted by the ABS Partnership Project showed that the SBBs interact with about 11 stakeholders (see figure 1) – each having a specific role in ABS. Communicating the mandates of the Act to the variety of stakeholders involved requires a strategic approach.

The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) with GIZ organised 2 workshops, at Chennai (8-9 July) and New Delhi (11-12 July), for representatives of 23 State Biodiversity Boards of India to discuss a national communication strategy for the effective implementation of ABS mechanisms as per the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.

Discussions were based on stakeholder analysis and communication objectives (drafted in May 2018) from the National Workshop for developing Communication Strategy. Regulators from SBBs were introduced to the concept of strategic communication and the process of drafting communication objectives. This was done by analysing the stakeholder’s current Knowledge (K), Attitude (A) and Practice (P) associated with ABS process and PAK required to fulfil their respective roles in ABS. SBBs were also invited to discuss the challenges they faced in the communicating ABS and the Biological Diversity Act and posit solutions to realise the full potential of ABS in their states.

At the end of the workshops, SBBs were also invited to draft own state-wise action plans for communication strategies for various stakeholders. Participant feedback indicated their grasp on a new dimension of communicating ABS principles to develop stakeholder-specific communication strategies. Around 80% of the participants were interested in conducting trainings on communication strategies for their own staff at their respective SBBs and said that they would implement stakeholder-specific strategies for communication in their states.

The workshops were attended by Mr T. Rabikumar, Former Secretary, National Biodiversity Authority; Dr Biswajit Dhar, Professor, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU, New Delhi; Dr T. Narendran, Technical Officer (IPR), National Biodiversity Authority; Dr K. Raghuram, Technical Officer (ABS), National Biodiversity Authority and Dr Konrad Uebelhoer, Director, Indo-German Biodiversity Programme, GIZ.

The two workshops saw the participation of 23 SBBs from all over India and were moderated by Ms Kathrin Heidbrink and Mr Suhel al-Janabi from the ABS Capacity Development initiative, Germany.