The Evolution of Benefit Sharing: Linking Biodiversity and Community Livelihoods

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Abstract

This article traces the evolution of the use of the legal concept of benefit sharing in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with a view to highlighting its contribution to indigenous and local communities' livelihoods. To this end, the article proposes a distinction between inter-State benefit sharing (as identified in the third CBD objective and as usually linked to access to genetic resources) and notably lesser known State-to-community benefit sharing (in relation to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity). The article highlights the different legal connotations of the two dimensions of this legal concept, while supporting an integrated interpretation of the CBD. It points to a wide array of benefit-sharing-related tools under the CBD that can be used to support indigenous and local communities' livelihoods in pursuing the convention's three objectives. The article also identifies other international processes – in the areas of intellectual property, health and climate change – in which these conceptual developments may have a significant influence.

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