Governance of Genetic Resources

Governance of Genetic Resources

A Guide to Navigating the Complex Global Landscape

Catherine Rhodes

Governance of Genetic Resources maps out a landscape of the international governance of genetic resources. It shows what governance efforts currently exist, what is missing, which areas are problematic, and outlines what the international community should be aiming for in regard to its future development and implementation.

Chapter 4: Actors

Catherine Rhodes

Subjects: development studies, law and development, environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, intellectual property law, law and development, public international law


This chapter introduces some of the main actors involved in the international governance of genetic resources. There is not space to give extensive coverage to all of the actors; the main focus is on the international organizations that are playing an active role in the development and operation of genetic resources governance. Chapter 5 covers the main international rules, and Chapter 6 identifies and outlines some trends and emerging initiatives. In international governance states are the main and most important actors. While other actors have gained importance and can influence the content and direction of governance efforts, states – particularly powerful states – are the ultimate decision-makers. It is generally their responsibility to implement any rules that are established, and their participation and actions are required for various regulatory provisions and other governance methods to succeed. States, of course, have varying interests and levels of economic power, political power and influence. Generally in negotiations they will be nominally equal (by virtue of the principle of sovereign equality that is enshrined in the UN Charter), and can act in their own interests. However, it is generally the case that major powers have greater influence in negotiations, both because they can effectively apply pressure to persuade others of their case, and because they can often afford to have more representatives within the forums working on the issues. States also tend to form groups within international governance processes and negotiations. These are generally based around shared interests, economic characteristics or geographic proximity.

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