We train key stakeholders in how to make the best use of the Cartagena Protocol’s Biosafety Clearing House to exchange information on the safe use of modern biotechnology

The BCH III Project: UNEP-GEF project for 'Sustainable Capacity-Building for Effective Participation in the BCH'

Utilization of BCH mechanism and implementation of the Cartagena Protocol

The BCH III project helps Parties of the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety – for the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms, LMOs – on the utilization of the protocol’s dedicated website, called the Biosafety Clearing House (BCH). The BCH is a mechanism established in Article 20 of the Cartagena Protocol to facilitate exchange of scientific, technical, environmental and legal information on LMOs and to assist Parties in complying with their obligations under the protocol. Hosted and managed by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), the BCH website is free and accessible to all users, including governments and risks assessors, civil society, scientists and academics, and industry. Most of the information in the BCH is published and updated by governments. The BCH III project provided significant support to the SCDB for the migration of the BCH to a new platform compatible with the ABS Clearing-House.

Capacity-building and effective participation in the BCH by 76 developing countries

This UNEP-GEF global capacity-building project began in 2016 and aims at assisting 76 developing countries and economies in transition (76 out of 173 Parties to the Cartagena Protocol). The total cost of the project is USD 13.6 million: It is financed by a GEF grant of USD 4.7 million, co-financed by countries participating in the project and implemented by UNEP. Its specific goal is “to provide support to eligible parties for GEF to build and sustain individual and institutional capacities for effective participation in the BCH in line with COP/MOP Decisions, specifically BS VI/5 para 2f”. BCH III follows two previous projects on the implementation of the BCH - BCH I and BCH II - also implemented by UNEP but targeting different countries.

Implementation at the national, regional and global levels

With a focus on effective participation in the BCH and stakeholder inclusiveness, the project is structured around the following four components:

  • Component 1: National BCH Institutional Capacity Development including Effective and Inclusive Participation, Production and Sharing of Information
  • Component 2: National Sustainability of Biosafety Clearing House Mechanisms through the Establishment of Effective National Procedures
  • Component 3: Regional Networking, Experience and Knowledge Sharing
  • Component 4: Global Sustainability of BCH and other Multilateral Environmental Agreements’ sharing Mechanisms through the Regional Advisors System.

National capacity-building workshops to find and register information in the BCH 

The BCH III project’s most important activities consist of national training workshops on the utilization of the Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH), organized in coordination with participating countries. Workshops are facilitated by a network of seventeen biosafety expert consultants, the BCH III Regional Advisors, with the help of a dedicated interactive Moodle platform, the BCH III Virtual Learning Environment. While these were initially in-person workshops, new online and hybrid training formats were developed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

National workshops have the following objectives:

  • Objective 1: Improve national competence on using the Biosafety Clearing House for registering information as required by the Cartagena Protocol and subsequence COP-MOP decisions and for searching for information to support the process of decision making on LMOs and products thereof,
  • Objective 2: Identify and establish National procedures and operational linkages to gather information to be put on the BCH in line with NBFs implementation and BCH sustainability and training plan, and
  • Objective 3: Identify center of excellence that could support the BCH training and capacity building activities after the end of the BCH III project.

At the regional level, the project conducted workshops to train National Focal Points (NFPs) in Asia, Africa, Pacific, Caribbean, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America. These regional workshops focused on developing regional Biosafety Clearing House strategies and building regional cooperation and exchange of information and experiences. NFPs were also trained during the COP/MOP 13 and COP/MOP 14, respectively held in Mexico in 2016 and in Egypt in 20218.

Increased knowledge on biosafety, improved utilization of the BCH, establishment of national BCH procedures

As of March 2022, a total of 93 national workshops, 7 regional workshops, and 2 global training workshops during CBD COP/MOP have been delivered by the BCH III project. Nearly 2,000 participants attended 93 national workshops. National workshops have had a direct impact by increasing by 30% national stakeholder awareness and knowledge on biosafety and the BCH (comparison before and after workshops). They have helped countries to establish national procedures and responsibilities, register national records in the BCH central portal, establish national BCH portals, identify regional biosafety centers for excellence and even strengthened national policies and framework. The BCH III project is currently leading a global biosafety and BCH communication campaign, in partnership with SCBD.

Finalizing national and regional workshop activities, training the biosafety expert consultants

As the project is in its final stage – end date is planned for 31st December 2022 – 23 national workshops are planned while an additional two to three regional workshops must be organized. A one-day training of National Focal Points should also be held during COP15, in Kunming, China. In addition, BCH III Regional Advisors (biosafety expert consultants) will received a second training, even more important after the launch of the new BCH website in December 2021. This will be done in coordination with the SCBD. Finally, new e-courses are being developed, as well as communication video on success stories and lessons learnt from the BCH III project.  

→ To know more about the project, check the project’s GEF webpage, UNEP Open Data webpage and resources from the BCH communication campaign.

→ You can also learn more about the BCH Regional Advisers | UNEP - UN Environment Programme and the BCH III Project's Training Materials: The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)