The Regional Biosafety Project commence in November of 2012 and was designed to assist countries in the Caribbean sub-region in meeting their legal obligations under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB). The Cartagena Protocol is a legally binding agreement under the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), and sets out the guidelines for dealing with the transboundary movement of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
The current project is being carried out under the Lead Executing Agency, which is The University of the West Indies (UWI) with funding provided by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The implementing agency for this project is the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
In its present form, the Regional Biosafety Project was designed as a follow-on activity from the “Development of National Biosafety Frameworks Project”, which started in June 2001, and also sought to help countries comply with their requirements under the Cartagena Protocol. The countries currently involved in this project also participated in the development project, and have completed draft versions of their National Biosafety Frameworks (NBFs). They include:
- Antigua & Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- Commonwealth of Dominica
- St. Kitts & Nevis
- St. Lucia
- St. Vincent & the Grenadines
- Trinidad & Tobago
The NBFs can vary from one country to the next, but generally contain the following common components, namely: (i) a Government policy on biosafety; (ii) a regulatory regime for biosafety; (iii) a system to handle notifications or requests for authorisations; (iv) systems for enforcement and monitoring for environmental effects; and (v) approaches for public information and public participation.
The primary purpose of this implementation project, which has both regional and national components, is to therefore assist participating countries strengthen their NBFs. It also seeks to:
- move countries towards more harmonised biosafety systems that make use of existing national and regional capacities
- create new capacities where needed and ensure their financial sustainability
- take advantage of economies of scale and regional support mechanisms
- fit with the regional objectives of establishing a Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME)
- be in keeping with CARICOM’s initiative of promoting biotechnology and biosafety as a regional strategy
At the national level, project outputs are expected in 5 key areas, namely:
- Administrative system for national biosafety
- Capacity building
- Information management system (i.e. National Biosafety Clearing House)
- Public education and outreach
The achievement of these outputs is supported by the Regional Project Office located on the St. Augustine Campus of the UWI.