African Union Development Agency – NEPAD, in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, the Centre National des Études Stratégiques et de Sécurité (CNESS) and the Parliament organised a technical seminar to discuss the biosafety bill provisions on 30 September, 2019, in Niamey. This workshop follows previous meetings organized by CNESS and the Ministry of Environment with the support of AUDA-NEPAD to sensitize stakeholders on biosafety issues.
50 participants attended the seminar including members of the Parliament Select Committee for Rural Development and Environment. The opening ceremony was chaired by Honourable Iro Sani, First Vice-President of the National Assembly.
In his opening remarks, Hon. Iro Sani highlighted the importance of this meeting as it will “open discussions on the biosafety principles and their relevance for a country like Niger.” He added that “the Parliament will pay special attention to the outcomes of the meeting, hoping that they will serve as a basis for constructive discussions on the biosafety bill during the parliamentary session coming soon.”
Dr Moussa Savadogo, AUDA-NEPAD Principal Programme Officer, on behalf of the Head of AUDA-NEPAD West Africa Regional Office, recalled that Niger is party to the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety and he congratulated the country for its active participation in the international negotiations that led to the adoption of protocol and in the subsequent meetings. He further stated that AUDA-NEPAD highly appreciates the efforts made so far by Niger Ministry of Environment and the whole Government to table to the Parliament such a draft biosafety bill that is modern and well balanced.” He stressed that the adoption of the biosafety bill has been long awaited and now needed to allow the country comply with its obligations vis-a-vis the international agreement on Biosafety.
During the meeting, Participants got insight on the global and regional context that must shape the Niger biosafety bill, especially the status of the biosafety governance at the global and regional levels, and the progress made so far, globally, to ensure effective applications of modern biotechnology tools to improve agricultural productivity and food systems as well as in the health sector. They were also provided detailed information on the ongoing process led by the CNESS to develop a national biosafety / biosecurity strategy as well as the detailed steps followed by the Ministry of Environment to develop the current biosafety bill.
During discussions, participants raised a few concerns pertaining to the availability of resources needed for an effective implementation of the biosafety law once it is adopted, especially challenges associated with human capital, material and financial resources. They were assured that the biosafety policy being finalized through CNESS will take good care of the concerns raised.
Parliamentarians expressed their high appreciation for the opportunity given to them to improve their understanding of the biosafety / biotechnology landscape, and they commended the Ministry of Environment, CNESS and AUDA-NEPAD for the quality of the information shared with them and the relevance of the bill that has been prepared.
Participants’ views on the meeting
Hon. Maman Rabiou Maina, Chairman of the Parliament Select Committee for Rural Development and Environment.
‘We have been well informed about the bill that is important for the protection of biodiversity in Niger. This meeting has equipped us with good knowledge and will facilitate the examination of the bill by the Parliament until its adoption by the plenary of the National Assembly. Niger is among the countries that have become aware of climate change and steps are being taken to ensure the protection of the environment in the country. ”
Hon. Souleymane Hamed, Member of Parliament Select Committee for Rural Development and Environment.
“Our impressions on this meeting are positive given the interest that all participants have shown in this biosafety bill. We have been very impressed by the content of the bill and we have noticed that all the members here are adhering to it. The biosafety law will solve a number of issues. Countries bordering Niger already have such a law and if we do not take measures we risk the consequences of our inaction. We can say that this bill is really timely.”