Date: 01 Aug 2012

The Nagoya–Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety: An analysis and implementation challenges

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The Nagoya–Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress was finally adopted on 15 October 2010 at Nagoya, Japan. It was negotiated pursuant to a mandate established by the First Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties in 2004 under an enabling provision in the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol. The Supplementary Protocol seeks to deal with damage to biodiversity as well as ‘associated’ traditional material or personal damage. It delineates two pathways to dealing with such damage: the administrative approach that empowers a competent authority to deal with the matter administratively, without initial recourse to courts; and a civil liability approach that requires litigants to seek private law remedies through national legal systems. However, while the Supplementary Protocol has elaborate and comprehensive provisions implementing the administrative approach, it incorporates only a single article on civil liability which does little more than exhort parties to continue to apply their existing domestic law on the subject or establish rules to deal specifically with the matter. This was not the outcome anticipated when the negotiations started. It was the expectation, primarily of developing countries then, that the prospective protocol would deal essentially with civil liability and set out substantive and procedural rules on liability and redress. This article traces how and why all this came to pass. It also analyses the provisions, and the implications, relating to the administrative approach and the single enabling article on civil liability. It deals also with the challenges in implementing the administrative approach, novel to most countries. Finally, it examines the prospect for the emergence in the future of a more elaborate international civil liability regime.