What is Fair and Equitable Benefit-sharing?

Abstract
“Fair and equitable benefit-sharing” is one of the objectives of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. In essence, benefit-sharing holds that countries, farmers, and indigenous communities that grant access to their plant genetic resources and/or traditional knowledge should share in the benefits that users derive from these resources. But what exactly is understood by “fair” and “equitable” in this context? Neither term is defined in the international treaties. A complicating factor, furthermore, is that different motivations and perspectives exist with respect to the notion of benefit-sharing itself. This paper looks at six different approaches to benefit-sharing that can be extracted from the current debates on “Access and Benefit-Sharing.” These approaches form the basis of a philosophical reflection in which the different connotations of “fair and equitable” are considered, by analyzing the main principles of justice involved. Finally, the various principles are brought together in order to draw some conclusions as to how a fair and equitable benefit-sharing mechanism might best be realized. This results in several recommendations for policymakers
Keywords Access and benefit-sharing  Commutative justice  Distributive justice  Plant genetic resources  Traditional knowledge
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