Second Phase – Fourth meeting of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Farmers’ Rights

The second phase of the fourth meeting of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Farmers’ Rights of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) has officially started on Monday 23rd August, with a daily agenda of debates ending on 27th August.

The IPC is taking part in this important virtual meeting through the participation of experts from IPC member organisations. This will be an important week, in which the IPC Working Group on Agrobiodiversity will support experts from farmers’ organisations and civil society in discussing options that countries could adopt for the implementation of farmers’ rights at the national level. About 60 participants, including co-chairs, secretariat, observers and experts, have virtually gathered to reconvene and resume the work started in the first phase of the AHTEG in May 2021. The experts represent 30 countries, as well as farmer’s organisations and three stakeholders groups – namely, CSO, UPOV and ISF.

During this week-long meeting, debates will center on descriptions and titles of the Options paper that the Group is working on since May. Overall, the process keeps facing difficulties in moving on and, despite its slow progress, the co-chairs seem to push it forward.

In the opening session of Monday 23rd August, the IPC expert on farmers’ rights Michelle Andriamahazo (Ministry of Agriculture of Madagascar) opened with a statement highlighting deep apprehension about the consequences of the pandemic and the numerous obstacles posed to be able to take part in such an important meeting. She continues by stating that “for the structural reasons of global inequities that we are aware of, such as the absence of a stable internet connection in many places, it has not been possible to follow up assiduously, communications coming from the Secretariat, and this has also happened with the request for submissions”.

Andriamahazo expresses collective concern “about the huge workload proposed for these days. There are many issues that are fundamental to the effective realisation of farmers’ rights and the time available to us already seems insufficient. Considering that the outcome of this Group of Experts is to be decided at the next Governing Body, I fear that the document we will finalise may not fully reflect the group’s expert contributions.”

On Wednesday 25th August, Andriamahazo opened with a statement highlighting how “the agenda of the meeting that was sent to us was not followed from the beginning: the agenda stated that this meeting should open by discussing the introductory part of the text”. Furthermore, she adds that “constant jumping around from one item on the agenda to another are severely undermining our preparation and participation as experts as we are finding it very disorienting, particularly since it was never made clear to us that this would be the methodology of this meeting.”

Finally, Andriamahazo concludes with a critical question for all participants: “When are we going to tackle this introductory part which is the basis of our work on Categories, Options and Inventory?”

On Thursday 26th August, IPC expert David Otieno (La Via Campesina, Kenya) expressed concern regarding another issue: the results of the meeting. “On Wednesday, we were informed that we, the experts, will not be able to see the final document resulting from this process until it is submitted to the Governing Body scheduled for next year.”

The IPC Secretariat is concerned about what participants will take from these meetings, as most debated elements are not able to achieve consensus. Constant points of concern and divergence relate to property rights, effective defense of farmer’s rights, and legal advice.