Information note on the First meeting of the Interim Committee for the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture 9-11 Oct

October 31, 2002

Brussels, 30 Oct 2002

Full text of Document 13384/02

I. INTRODUCTION

1. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (hereinafter "the Treaty") was adopted on 3 November 2001 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) at its 31st Ministerial Conference, after negotiations which lasted seven years.

2. As laid down when the Treaty was adopted 1 the FAO's Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture met for the first time in Rome from 9 to 11 October 2002 as the Interim Committee for the Treaty 2.

3. At that first meeting of the Interim Committee, on the initiative of the Danish Presidency, the Member States of the European Union and the Commission in its capacity as the European Community's representative to the FAO held several on-the-spot co-ordination meetings at which seven joint statements were drawn up.

Four of those statements 3 were submitted to the Interim Committee by Denmark's representative and the three other statements ­ supported by all the countries of Europe 4 ­ were submitted by Portugal's representative in his capacity as chairman of the FAO European Region 5. The Interim Committee repeated a number of the points of view expressed in those statements in its final report 6.

II. OUTCOME OF THE PROCEEDINGS

4. Discussions at the plenary session of the Interim Committee concentrated on three main questions:

(A) Creation of an "Open-ended Working Group"

5. On the basis of working documents drawn up by its secretariat the Interim Committee decided to set up a working party the composition of which would not be limited (the "Open-ended Working Group") to examine the following matters:
­ the rules of procedure of the future governing body;
­ the financial rules of the future governing body; ­ procedures to promote the application of the Treaty.

The Working Group will report to the next meeting of the Interim Committee. In addition, it has been agreed that countries' contributions to the Working Group's proceedings will be accessible on the FAO's website.

6. In order to be able to participate fully in the Working Group's proceedings, developing countries and countries in transition have asked for funds to cover their representatives' travelling and accommodation expenses. As the Treaty's budget makes no provision for such expenditure, the Interim Committee has appealed to the Treaty's donor countries to provide the necessary funds within the framework of the Interim Committee's 2003-2004 budget.

(B) Creation of a working party of legal experts

7. The Interim Committee drew up the terms of reference of the "Expert Group" charged with framing recommendations concerning the standard material transfer agreement referred to in Article 12(4) of the Treaty 7.

The drafting of the terms of reference was preceded by two preliminary questions: the number of meetings the Expert Group would hold and its composition. The Interim Committee endorsed the European Community's view, that the Expert Group ought to meet once only, in order to limit its operating costs (see point 8 of Appendix D to the final report).

8. The number of experts and their allocation to different FAO regions were discussed at length at the plenary session. The Community generally agreed with the FAO secretariat's original proposal 8 and wanted a small expert group of about twenty-eight persons. The compromise finally adopted 9, however, provides for more than twice that number. Apart from experts and advisers from FAO regions the Expert Group will also include three experts from the CGIAR 10, the WIPO 11 and the UPOV 12.

9. Finally, the programme for the proceedings of the Expert Group was drawn up. The regions must appoint their experts before the end of 2002. Then the Expert Group will meet in the first half of 2003 and will report on its proceedings at the next meeting of the Interim Committee, even if it has not been able to reach conclusions on all points.

(C) The Treaty's programme and its 2003-2004 budget

10. The Treaty's programme and its consolidated 2003-2004 budget are set out in Appendix E to the final report. At present Treaty activities are financed by a budget independent of that of the FAO. The Interim Committee would like the Treaty to have a regular heading in the FAO budget and it asked the secretariat to convey that request to the FAO Council.

The financial director of the FAO, however, said that since the Treaty was covered by Article XIV of the FAO's Constitution it should normally mobilise the funds it needed itself. He also said that over the last eight years the FAO's general budget had been reduced by 15% in real terms and the FAO had many other budget priorities.

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Full text of Document 13384/02

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