Activities and Achievements (since 2017)

Fields of intervention

  • Support in developing and implementing ABS-related policies and regulatory frameworks
  • Promote the negotiation of ABS agreements and respective capacity development
  • Identification and analysis of ABS-relevant biotrade value chains
  • Production and targeted dissemination of educational materials and awareness raising
  • Facilitate the engagement of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs)

Regional activities

A first training workshop on ABS contracts was conducted in partnership with SPREP in August 2014.  The second training was conducted in August 2018, again in partnership with SPREP, and legal experts from FNI and Australia. Focus was set on the negotiation of mutually agreed terms and the importance of specific clauses to make ABS contracts effective and functional. The workshop was very well attended with 31 participants from 9 Pacific Island Countries and 4 regional organizations.

As a follow up to the trainings, upon request the ABS Initiative is supporting the analysis of draft ABS contracts with Vanuatu, the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Fiji, and the Solomon Islands.

Regional workshops serve to build capacities for the national implementation of the Nagoya Protocol and ABS through experience exchange among country representatives and stakeholders, and inputs by technical experts on selected topics. All regional workshops have been organized in close partnership with the ABS team of SPREP and, as appropriate, with others such as the SCBD, the Eskitis Institute of the Griffith University in Brisbane or IUCN Oceania.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic physical meetings have been replaced at the regional level with virtual meeting formats. A series of ABS webinars allowed experience exchange on national implementation challenges to continue, as well as the provision of specific technical inputs about topics such as digital sequence information.

The ABS Regional Technical Cooperation is a systematic coordination of technical support and facilitation of assistance from SPREP for the Pacific Island Countries. The workshops and meetings have been supported by the ABS Initiative. Click on the links below for recordings of previous webinars within this webinar series:  

The fourth Pacific Webinar on Prior Informed Consent (PIC) and Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT) took place on 13 July 2021. SPREP organised the webinar jointly with UNSW Sydney, the Global ABS Project, and the ABS Capacity Development Initiative. 

“Patent mapping” or “patent landscaping” is a research methodology used to identify academic and commercial research and development on genetic resources and their derivatives, such as (essential) oils or specific molecules from medicinal plants, DNA sequencing and isolation of microbial or animal genes or biochemicals. The results highlight the extent and scope of patenting of such resources and emphasize the relevance of functioning ABS systems to ensure fair and equitable benefit-sharing with the custodians and providers of the genetic resources.

Preliminary mapping activities have been conducted for Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Samoa and Polynesia to determine which sectors are using GR and TK, and from which countries, and to detect if any benefit-sharing is noted in the patents. Preliminary data has been reported and discussed with Pacific Island country governments during national workshops in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, and at the regional ABS workshop in October 2019. An initial report by UNSW can be downloaded here.

Patents are a potential way of monitoring ABS activities and in future could be checked against permits and information at the ABS Clearing-house of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

National consultations and achievements

Since 2012, the ABS Initiative has supported the national consultation, ratification and implementation processes in a number of Pacific Island Countries, among them the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Palau, Samoa and Vanuatu.

The Joint Steering Committee agreed in 2017 that the ABS Initiative will focus its support to national processes to the Melanesian countries, while SPREP focuses on the Polynesian and Melanesian Island Countries and Territories. With the shift towards virtual meetings induced by the COVID-19, this work sharing method has been relaxed. As national workshops are possible in many of the Pacific Island Countries the SPREP and the ABS Initiative are jointly participating remotely as international experts in such national workshops, e.g. for Palau (2019), Samoa (2020), and Tonga and Tuvalu (2021).

A national consultation visit took place in May 2018. Meetings were held with the Conservation and Environmental Protection Authority (CEPA), the National Science and Technology Office and the University of PNG. As a follow-up a MoU between CEPA and the ABS Initiative was signed in  December 2018 and the development of a proposal to the ABS Initiative for supporting the ratification and implementation process in PNG through a national consultant was initiated. Due to administrative hurdles the necessary financing agreement between GIZ and CEPA could not yet be finalized. In consequence,  planned country visits could not take place before the COVID-19 pandemic prevented international travel.

Following a successful preliminary workshop in mid-2018, a national consultation and workshop was undertaken in July 2019 together with the ABS Legal Officer of SPREP. A national ABS awareness-raising and capacity-building workshop in Honiara involved provincial outreach officers, representatives of relevant government institutions and other stakeholders. Advice was provided about the ABS permitting process, the environmental/biodiversity and other research permit process and the need for amendment of ABS-relevant provisions in the Protected Areas Act to become Nagoya Protocol compliant. Ratification happened on 24 October 2019.

The Bislama/Pidgin English ‘ABS Simply Explained’ video was shown to provincial officers and will be disseminated in the provinces. In addition, educational materials were commissioned, including two posters being translated into the local language – Pidgin (see below).

Further support will be provided as soon as travel is possible again, including potential provincial-level awareness raising activities or workshops.

With a view to support the revision of the existing ABS regulations, the ABS Initiative is funding a national consultant to assist the DEPC.

For more details on Vanuatu activities and achievements, see the Vanuatu country page

Cook Islands

Cook Islands developed a draft ABS policy under its UNDP-GEF ABS project. To support this process and raise further awareness, a national workshop was held in Rarotonga in December 2018. SPREP introduced drafting instructions for ABS legislation in this workshop. In addition, the ABS Initiative has identified interested communities from some islands in the development of community protocols that would assist with the implementation of the TK Act. An awareness-raising meeting was also held in Aitutaki with the Mayor and Island Council and traditional healers networks, including women’s networks.

The national ABS Policy is due for a systematic review as soon as the consolidation of environmental policy at the National Environment Service has been finalized.


Two August 108 und October 2019 country visits were used to consult with stakeholders and regulators about support needs. The Department of Environment has been progressing consultations and work on a draft ABS policy. The Ministry of iTaukei Affairs (Indigenous affairs) is seeking advice on their PIC process for engaging with local communities on ABS-relevant issues.

Researchers at the Fiji National University (FNU) and the regional University of the South Pacific (USP) are aware of the international ABS regime and the PIC procedure in Fiji. However, engaging in appropriate contractual provisions in their research collaborations with foreign universities is still a challenge.

In addition to those countries supported with national processes through in-country visits, the ABS Initiative has also provided expert input for the drafting of ABS policies and legislation for other countries in the region and through workshops, such as Samoa, Tonga (ratified on 3 October 2019) and Palau (acceded on 11 September 2018) in 2018-2019.

More about national ABS-related policies and regulatory frameworks and other elements needed for successful ABS implementation here.

Other activities

Educational Materials and Awareness-Raising

The ‘ABS simply explained’ film was translated and dubbed into Bislama and two posters were developed for use at the provincial level and community level in Vanuatu. The film has also now been shared with PNG and Solomon Islands where it has been useful for national and provincial level governments – the local languages are similar to Bislama. ABS posters have now also been commissioned in Solomon Islands in 2019.

A/Prof. Robinson’s book Biodiversity, Access and Benefit-Sharing has also been sent to a number of national focal points (Samoa and Vanuatu) and other stakeholders in the region in 2018.

ABS-relevant Biotrade Value Chains and Support for ABS Agreement Making

In the inception phase we have identified some ABS relevant value chains in Vanuatu, and potentially in other countries. In March 2018 some preliminary analysis was undertaken on nangai (Canarium indicum) and tamanu (Canophyllum inophyllum) in Vanuatu, which are being collected and processed for export by local companies (Tebacor Island Products and Nuts N Oils Malekula). These are being sold to the US company Concentrated Aloe Company which has enquired about the ABS process and agreement-making, which we were supporting in late 2018-early 2019. It has been identified in early 2019 that there is currently a supply bottleneck in Malekula by an intermediary company that has signed exclusive agreements with foreign partners. This is inhibiting our capacity to pursue ABS agreements. Vanuatu has requested A/Prof Robinson to pursue some of the companies involved in purchasing tamanu and nangai from Malekula in 2020.

Other value chains of interest include noni (Morinda citrifolia), Hibiscus tiliaceus (used by CIMTECH in Cook Islands) and kava, which have featured in articles by A/Prof Robinson and in the patent landscaping report.

The University of the South Pacific Institute of Applied Sciences (USP IAS) also has a number of MOUs with foreign researchers and there is some interest of our contact Katy Soapi in the improvement and refinement of contracts and/or development of model MAT to ensure benefit-sharing, compliance and enforcement. This will continue in subsequent years, notably with a workshop for ‘users’ including USP in February 2020, alongside a government workshop for Fiji.

More information on the interlinkage between ABS, BioTrade and sustainable value chains here.

Engagement of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities

There has been considerable engagement of IPLCS and NGOs in and alongside national workshops in 2018-19. In addition, there have been directed consultations with communities in Vanuatu (Malekula and Santo), Cook Islands (Aitutaki, Mangaia and Rarotonga) jointly between the ABS Initiative and the Australian Research Council (ARC)-UNSW grant in relation to ABS, TK protection, use of custom and community procedures or protocols.

Protocols have started being developed in Aitutaki and in Mangaia in Cook Islands, in 2 communities in Tanna and 1 community protocol (for 3 communities) in Aneityum in Vanuatu. Additional trips will present draft protocols to each of these communities and refine them according to community needs and aspirations. The development of biocultural community protocols has been a slow, but important process which we have been working with government to have reflected under ABS and TK legislation in those 2 countries. The potential of developing Protocols has also been raised by other governments such as Samoa and PNG.

More information on the ABS-relevant stakeholder groups here.