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General comments on the draft report on the independent evaluation of the capacity-building Action Plan [#2959]
Dear Participants,

Welcome to the the first discussion group under the "Online Forum on Strategic Approaches to Capacity-building in Biosafety and the Comprehensive Review of the Capacity-Building Action Plan."

Under this thread, you are invited, first of all, to provide general comments on the draft report on the independent evaluation of the capacity-building Action Plan prepared by a Consultant. The report can be downloaded from the web page of this discussion group.

For specific proposed textual changes, you are encouraged to download the MS Word version of the draft report and use the "Track changes" function under the "Tools" tab to make the suggested changes directly to the text. You may also use the "Add comment" function under the "Insert" or "Review" tab to make general comments or to explain the rationale behind your suggested changes. After incorporating the proposed changes in the draft, Click the "Reply" button and then upload the tracked document by clicking the "Choose file" button at the bottom of this message box.

The CBD Secretariat wishes to thank you for your participation in this discussion group. We wish you fruitful discussions!
(edited on 2012-02-08 18:54 UTC by Mr. Erie Tamale)
posted on 2012-02-08 02:59 UTC by Mr. Erie Tamale, UNEP/SCBD/Biosafety
RE: General comments on the draft report on the independent evaluation of the capacity-building Action Plan [#3001]
Hello everyone,

My name is John Komen, and I'm involved in a number of biosafety capacity building activities, including those under the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS).

First of all, I feel this conference is very relevant, and I would like to thank our colleagues at the CBD Secretariat for organizing.

Regarding the draft report on the independent evaluation:  I like the report very much as it concisely captures the findings from previous reviews, such as those commissioned by UNEP and UNU-IAS in recent years, coupled with perspectives from stakeholder interviews. Recommendations in the report point to some concrete areas for action.

My own general recommendation would be to give first priority to starting a consultative process for new directions regarding capacity-building for biosafety (now recommendation #7 of 8 total, page 34). This would help inform recommendation #1 – developing a results-based Action Plan, and recommendation #2 – developing a more elaborate reference tool. The action plan and reference tool must be based on practical experiences, and not developed in a top-down fashion. The consultative process should be an instrument for Parties who have successfully developed their own national action plans and strategies, and who have established functional national biosafety frameworks, to share insights and experiences regarding indicators of success, actions that need prioritizing, and those for which funding and technical assistance is essential.

Thanks for your attention and I’m looking forward to the discussions in this group.
posted on 2012-02-24 09:11 UTC by Mr. John Komen, Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS)
RE: General comments on the draft report on the independent evaluation of the capacity-building Action Plan [#3010]
Dear All,

My name is Piet van der Meer. Over the last 25 years I have been involved in numerous biosafety capacity building activities in well over 50 countries, including the UNEP-GEF demonstration implementation projects mentioned in the evaluation report.

Worldwide there have been and still are many biosafety capacity building projects that collectively have probably spent more than two hundred million USD and that often seem to proliferate in various directions. 

I therefore very much welcome initiatives that aim to bring some coordination and rationalisation in all this, such as the Coordination Meetings organised by the Secretariat, the Capacity Building Action Plan, and the initiative to evaluate the Action Plan.

I join John Komen in welcoming these online debates that offer an opportunity to provide input for everyone interested.  Yet, at the same time I note that this online debate is not yet flooded with input, to put it mildly. This is similar to the experience with various online debates on other topics under the Cartagena Protocol.

Most of us – me included - seem to be able to find time in a very late stage time to read the documents, with the result that there is not a real debate.

I therefore decided to follow John Komen’s  good example to start with some general observations.

First, the evaluation report is easy to read. My compliments to the author. 

Second, the report is very lengthy, which may be one of the reasons why people haven’t reacted yet.
I believe that online debates would benefit tremendously if documents, whether prepared by the Secretariat or by consultants, would be much, much shorter, and if the actual online debates are to main findings and recommendations. 

Third, the report needs to be screened to ensure that the language remains neutral.
For example, the Executive Summary starts – and thereby sets a certain tone – with the sentence “With the growing use living modified organisms (LMOs) ........., the concerns for biosafety ............ have increased”. Linking the growing use of GM crops worldwide to a claim that concerns about safety have increased, gives the incorrect impression that the growing use of GM crops has resulted in indications of adverse effects, which consequently resulted in growing concerns.  I advise to delete this and similar sentences.

Fourth, the report needs to be screened to ensure that the terminology is as much as possible the same as, or in any case consistent with, the language of the Protocol. For example, the second sentence of the Executive Summary summarises the objective of the CPB with “to protect biological diversity from potential adverse effects that may be posed by living modified organisms .......”. Given the long debates we have had to define the objective of the CBD  to include “... conservation and sustainable use...” I advise to stick to that language.

Fifth, since this is an evaluation of the Action Plan, I would be most interested to know to what extent and how the Action made a difference in capacity building activities globally. I find difficult to extract that kind of information from the report.  For next steps with the Action plan it will be important to know where and how the Action Plan made  a difference, and where it did not (or cannot).

Sixth, and linked to the previous comment, I support John Komen’s suggestion regarding the consultative process

Finally, some small editorial points
• For next rounds of online debates, please add line nrs
• Some pieces of text appear almost identical twice in the text  (see for example page iv, the para starting with “The current Action Plan...”.

Best regards

Piet van der Meer
posted on 2012-02-26 14:16 UTC by Mr. Piet van der Meer, Ghent University, Free University of Brussels, Belgium, PRRI
RE: General comments on the draft report on the independent evaluation of the capacity-building Action Plan [#3027]
Dear All!
My name is Andreas Heissenberger. I work for the Environment Agency Austria and have been involved in several capacity building activities in the past years. I also participate to the coordination meetings and the Liaison Group.

First I want to join John and Piet in saying that this report is quite comprehensive and easy to read. It provides a good overview on the work done and the results of the survey and the interviews. However, as Piet also pointed out, it is a bit lengthy and contains a lot of background information, which might not be directly linked to the evaluation itself. I also recommend some editing/proofreading especially concerning the graphs which are hardly readable in the printouts.

Some general comments to the approach and the report:
1)  I wonder how the selection of interviewees has been made.  I understand that the list represents a number of the most important stakeholders involved in capacity building activities, but it is not clear to me why not a single interview has been conducted with Party representatives. I'm a little concerned about this, as there is a strong bias towards the interviews compared to the survey in the report, at least if you look at the references/footnotes in the report.
2) Some of the statements in the report and also some recommendations seem to be based on one single opinion of one interviewee. One example is the effectiveness of the coordination meetings (page 21, footnote 37), which is reflected in recommendation #4. If this is really based on one interview it reflects a personal opinion and I wonder if this is a strong enough basis for a recommendation to SCBD and the Parties.
3) On the other hand I find some of the recommendations do very well reflect the current situation and the needs for further development of capacity building activities and approaches, e.g. the link to the strategic plan, the sustainability measures, and the need for regional cooperation.
4) I guess the recommendation to develop a "framework" document needs more discussion. This needs to be seen in light of the alignment of the Action Plan with the Strategic plan which, in my opinion should be given priority.

Looking forward to the discussions on this document and topic.
Best regards
Andreas Heissenberger
posted on 2012-03-01 14:57 UTC by Dr. Andreas Heissenberger, Austria
RE: General comments on the draft report on the independent evaluation of the capacity-building Action Plan [#3029]
Thanks for the message - saw it a couple of days ago. will repond by today
posted on 2012-03-02 02:05 UTC by Mr. Ramatha Letchumanan, Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment
RE: General comments on the draft report on the independent evaluation of the capacity-building Action Plan [#3030]
I suggest some clustering under general findings and lesson learned to make it more clear when reading the executive summary. It can be applied to the main report as well
posted on 2012-03-02 03:17 UTC by Mr. Ramatha Letchumanan, Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment
RE: General comments on the draft report on the independent evaluation of the capacity-building Action Plan [#3031]
I suggest in the recommendations under the executive summary a table of 2 columns prepared. The second column should the recommendations and the 1st columns should be a brief description of the problems for which a recommendation is given. This will make the evaluation of the recommendations better.

This can be applied to the main report ad well
posted on 2012-03-02 03:25 UTC by Mr. Ramatha Letchumanan, Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment
RE: General comments on the draft report on the independent evaluation of the capacity-building Action Plan [#3034]
The main objective of the Updated Action Plan is to facilitate and support the development and strengthening of capacities for the effective implementation of the Biosafety Protocol at the national, subregional, regional and global levels in a timely manner. The Action Plan aim is to provide a general strategic framework to guide and facilitate the identification of country needs, priorities, actions and mechanisms of implementation and funding of capacity-building activities at national, regional and international levels.

Taking that in account and from the work compiled in the independent report, it can be deducted that most capacity building recipients have requested to have a capacity building framework and a more detailed document describing the implementation process of the capacity building. We support this idea if it is going to enhance the implementation effectiveness and also it will help with the processes/steps for implementation of the Capacity Building activities and well as capacity independence, but this should be done under the Strategic Plan framework..

Also, it is important to prioritize the capacity building activities, therefore we suggest to do so accordingly to the operational objectives of the Strategic Plan focal area 2 but also taking in to account the limited amount of resources. In this aspect, we consider of high interest to provide of some training modules as suggested in the independent report since it will provide to Parties to create their on capacity at the same time that partly reduces the funding dependence for capacity development.

Also, it is highly importance that the capacity building activities respond to well identified needs of a Party and once an activity has been conducted, an assessment of the results has to be done in order to assess the capacity put in place which should feed the Action Plan and therefore it would be possible to identify the positive experiences. This should be done by using the set of indicators for the capacity building monitoring. Therefore, we agree with the main recommendations of the independent study.

On the other hand, the suggestions about improving the Coordination mechanism for the Action Plan and the Roster of experts need to be studied more carefully.

On the report itself, some proof reading should be done before the final draft is published since some paragraphs are twice etc. Also, we consider ambiguous some sources mentioned in the footprints since they provided only information on the Author but not the documents where the information was obtained. Finally, we share Andreas´ opinion that some recommendations and conclusions have been suggested on the single reflections of one interviewee according to our understanding.

Antonio Fdez. y G. de Vinuesa
National Focal Point Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety - Spain
Ministy of Agriculture, Food and Environment
posted on 2012-03-02 13:14 UTC by Dr. Esther Esteban Rodrigo, Spain
RE: General comments on the draft report on the independent evaluation of the capacity-building Action Plan [#3057]
Dear Colleges,

My name is Jan Husby and I am working for the Norwegian GenØk – Centre for Biosafety. I have been working with biosafety capacity building for many years. I am also an active participant in the Coordination meetings and the Liaison group of the secretariat.

I will join the others in congratulating the secretariat for initiating the online discussion and the evaluation report of the Action plan.

I find the evaluation report comprehensive and thorough and therefore a very good basis for discussion. In other words most of the central issues have been raised, but I agree with Piet van der Meer, that it is long and could have been compressed and shorten. I also agree with him in that the text should use the “terminology” of the protocol when relevant. I will therefore in addition to what Piet suggested, also include the rest of the sentence “conservation and sustainable use …, taking also into account risk to human health…” when such phrases are used. I will although disagree with Piet in regard of his interpretation of the linkages between the sentence on increased growing LMO’s and increased concern about safety. There is of course an increased concern with increased growing and marketing, not at least due to increased export, import and usage of LMO’s. This concern has it’s rationale in a complex and comprehensive list of issues, in which some are directly related to lack of capacity to manage the obligations of the Cartagena protocol by many Parties, and therefore an issue for capacity building and the action plan. We are all also aware of that there are many scientific publications questioning the safety of LMO’s in agriculture and on the market, and therefore implicit raises rational and reasoned safety questions and concerns.

I agree with all the points, from 1-4 that Andreas Heissenberger mentioned in his comments and I also agree with John Komen regarding reference tools  avoiding a top-down process, and that a new action plan, if initiated, should consider practical experiences where learning from those countries that have manage to implement effective NBF’s and biosafety management systems will be important. In this regard it will also be important to learn from those countries, institutes and organisations that actually have conducted successful capacity building activities.

Some concern I have, which is covered within the evaluation report, but could have been even further stressed in the recommendation, is lack of funding and priority for capacity building, something which is threatening an effective implementation of the protocol and the NBF in many countries. The changes within the GEF system, as described within the report, has lead to a negative development in regard of biosafety becoming a priority from authorities and governments, not at least due to all the environmental concerns world wide that are facing parties and thereby competing for the small resources. Parties could through the evaluation report therefore be made even more aware of their own responsibilities and obligations in regard of implementing and operating the protocol they have ratified, including the capacity building challenges. The same is the situation for donor parties and organisations. Although a world with “economic instability” at the moment, it is important that the report stress further the need for funding biosafety capacity building from donor countries and organisations. As mention by others, and also in the evaluation report, the action plan should be seen in light of the new strategic plan and how this is planned to be implemented by the parties in the future.

Capacity building for implementing and operating the Cartagena protocol is a complex and difficult task, not at least due to the fact that many countries, and often neighbouring countries, are at different stages in developing NBF and implementing them. My experience is that there are huge differences in capacities, including economic and human recourses, but also huge differences in development stages, especially in regard of biosafety management and relevant scientific educated people and priorities from governments. These complexities, although of course with many similarities in its nature between countries, will in my view also make any new or revised action plan complex and therefore necessarily comprehensive. This understanding has to a certain level also been reflected in the evaluation report, but could have been made clearer.

All the best

Jan Husby

GenØk – Centre for Biosafety,
Science Park, P.B. 6418,
N-9294 Tromsø, Norway
posted on 2012-03-07 08:51 UTC by Mr Jan Husby, GenØk - Centre for Biosafety
RE: General comments on the draft report on the independent evaluation of the capacity-building Action Plan [#3068]
My name is Hartmut Meyer, I work as a biosafety consultant for the German Organisation for International Cooperation (GIZ). After reading the previous comments, I cannot really add new issues.

I can support the points 1-4 made by Andreas, I also have doubts, if the outcome of the limited numbers of interviews should be the basis for recommendations for MOP-6. We certainly need to discuss on this during the next coordination meeting.

John's remarks on a possible way forward are very helpful! What we need to discuss is what we can suggest to make a new action plan a "living" document that is used in real activities. It would be extremely useful if we could work on recommendations for processes like the workshops on NBSAPs, which seem to trigger some discussion on biodiversity strategies and plan in the CBD member states.

Until now, governments at MOP always hesitated to develop processes and activities within the CPB to create and implement capacity building strategies. But with the dwindling GEF and bilateral support for biosafety activities this attitude might change ...

With my best regards,
posted on 2012-03-08 13:53 UTC by Dr. Hartmut Meyer, Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
RE: General comments on the draft report on the independent evaluation of the capacity-building Action Plan [#3083]
Milena Roudna, former UNEP/GEF Project Coordinator, adviser to the Ministry of the Environment, Czech Republic
Firstly, reading comments expressed to this issue, I am pleased to find that we come to very similar recommendations.
In general, the Report is a valuable background for further process of the Action Plan amendment.
I agree with Piet van der Meer and others as to terminology used (necesity to be consistent with other basic biosafety documents, esp. CPB), as well as that the Report can be shorter. Some general information (if needed at all) are repeated in the text, moreover some data need to be updated (number of CPB Parties, statistics regarding GM crop cultivation etc.) or changed.
On p. 22 where activities of inmternational organizations are mentioned, I recommend to add FAO training workshops (e.g. those organized for CEE countries) - see FAO Biosafety Resource Book, 2011.
The text needs editorial corrections. E.g. (as already mentioned), some paragraphs are repeated 2 or 3 times (but in one case numbers of the references differ).
Some conclusions reflect well the situation. E.g. in the part Design of the Action Plan, important steps at national level represent integration of biosafety in existing system and recommendation to create link between 5 main NBF components and the Strategic Plan.
I hope on the possibility for further discussion of the Report in more details during which also editorial changes can be made.
posted on 2012-03-09 07:20 UTC by Ph.D. Milena Roudna, Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic