Article 19. Competent national authorities and national focal points
1. Each Party shall designate one national focal point to be responsible on its behalf for liaison with the Secretariat. Each Party shall also designate one or more competent national authorities, which shall be responsible for performing the administrative functions required by this Protocol and which shall be authorized to act on its behalf with respect to those functions. A Party may designate a single entity to fulfil the functions of both focal point and competent national authority.
2. Each Party shall, no later than the date of entry into force of this Protocol for it, notify the Secretariat of the names and addresses of its focal point and its competent national authority or authorities. Where a Party designates more than one competent national authority, it shall convey to the Secretariat, with its notification thereof, relevant information on the respective responsibilities of those authorities. Where applicable, such information shall, at a minimum, specify which competent authority is responsible for which type of living modified organism. Each Party shall forthwith notify the Secretariat of any changes in the designation of its national focal point or in the name and address or responsibilities of its competent national authority or authorities.
3. The Secretariat shall forthwith inform the Parties of the notifications it receives under paragraph 2 above, and shall also make such information available through the Biosafety Clearing-House.
524. Article 19 requires Parties to designate national institutions to perform functions relating to the Protocol. Each Party must designate one national focal point for the Protocol and one or more competent national authorities. The national focal point is the primary contact point between a Party and the Secretariat of the Protocol. The competent national authority (or authorities) is responsible for exercising the administrative functions required by the Protocol (for example, under the AIA procedure), and must be authorized by a Party to act on its behalf in relation to these functions.
525. The national focal point is the primary contact point between a Party and the Secretariat to the Protocol (see commentary on Article 31). This will be the national institution that receives, for example:
notifications of meetings relating to the Protocol and requests to designate delegates;
invitations to submit views on matters under discussion in international negotiations relating to the Protocol.
526. In order to facilitate the work of the ICCP, Parties to the CBD were asked to designate focal points for the ICCP in Decision EM-I/3. The national institution which fulfils this function may continue to do so after the entry into force of the Protocol, but this is not necessarily the case. In any event, a separate notification of the national focal point for the Protocol should be made to the Secretariat not later than the entry into force of the Protocol for a Party.
527. Parties to the CBD have already designated national focal points for the CBD. The focal point for the Protocol may be, but does not have to be, the same institution. Similarly, the focal point may be the same institution as the competent national authority (see below).
528. The Secretariat will place a list of national focal points on the Biosafety Clearing- House.
529. The functions of the competent national authority are quite different to those of the national focal point. The competent national authority (or authorities) is responsible for exercising the administrative functions required by the Protocol, and must be authorized by a Party to act on its behalf in relation to these functions. In effect, the functions of the competent national authority are spelled out in the AIA and other provisions of the Protocol. The competent national authority will:
receive notification of proposed transboundary movement of a LMO that falls within the scope of the AIA procedure (Article 8);
acknowledge receipt of the notification (Article 9);
communicate the decision of the Party of import to the notifier and the Biosafety Clearing-House (with reasons where required) (Article 10(3));
respond to requests by the Party of export or notifier to review decisions (Article 12); and
consult with the notifier, where necessary, on treatment of confidential information (Article 21).
530. The functions of the competent national authority suggest that the designated institution should be the institution which, at the domestic level, has the authority to make decisions about imports of LMOs. The designation of the competent authority at the national level may differ according to the nature of the LMO in question or its intended use. Thus, for example, in some countries the Fisheries Ministry may be responsible for imports of transgenic fish; the Ministry of Agriculture for imports of genetically modified crops or seeds; or the Ministry of Environment or some other Ministry or agency may be responsible for all LMO imports. The Protocol recognizes this, and allows Parties to designate more than one competent national authority if they wish to do so. If a Party chooses to designate more than one competent national authority, it must inform the Secretariat which authority is responsible for dealing with the different types of LMOs. The Secretariat will make this information available to all Parties, including through the Biosafety Clearing- House. Thus a notifier should be able to find out which national authority it should approach in the Party of import to notify a proposed transboundary movement of a LMO for intentional introduction into the environment.
531. While the competent national authority (or authorities) is responsible for carrying out administrative functions under the Protocol vis-à-vis other Parties, the decision-making process under a Party's national biosafety framework for reaching a decision on the proposed import of a LMO is likely to involve a wide range of national authorities. The national biosafety framework should set out the domestic level procedure, including any necessary consultations, by which any decision on a proposed import will be taken.
532. The competent national authority (or authorities) must be notified to the Secretariat at the time the Protocol enters into force for a Party (see Article 37), so that it can begin to exercise functions straight away.
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