Benefit Sharing: Reframing India’s Policy

FNI Report 1/2017. Lysaker, FNI, 2017, 31 p.

Benefit sharing is part of the larger concept of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) nested within such international agreements as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the 2010 Nagoya Protocol (NP) and the 2001 International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). Benefit sharing establishes legal mechanisms to ensure that those who access genetic resources do so only with prior permission and on mutually agreed terms. India has been a frontrunner in the move for effective benefit-sharing agreements at the international level, and was also among the first countries to frame legislation on benefit sharing. However, domestic implementation has remained weak: few benefit-sharing arrangements with local communities have been concluded, and although the focus has been on revenue generation, very little actual revenue has accrued as a result of these agreements. The distribution of real benefits to communities under benefit sharing in India remains unclear, as do the developmental effects on local communities. This study examines India’s policy on benefit sharing, seeking to explain the difficulties in implementation. At the domestic level, the lack of a clearly defined objective has been a major reason for weak implementation. At the international level, the existence of a regime complex has affected decision-making and policy strategies. Poor implementation of benefit sharing in India emerges as the result of domestic factors combined with international regime complexity.