International institutions and their interplay are emerging as a major agenda item for research and policy. As governments enter into an ever increasing number of international agreements, so questions of issue, jurisdiction and membership overlap emerge. Of particular interest to practitioners and analysts is how this mélange of institutions at the international level intersects and interrelates to influence and affect the content, operations, performance and effectiveness of a specific institution, as well as the functioning of the overall global governance context.
UNU-IAS aims to advance both the conceptual and applied understanding of institutional interplay. In this regard the SDG Programme is looking at the issue of biotechnology, biosafety and trade. Few issues have caused as much controversy and created as much uncertainty as the rapid advances made in biotechnology and questions of their consequent impact on environment and society.
Although biotechnology is not a new issue, understanding how genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can impact on the environment, human health, and even culture is only just beginning to be fully appreciated. A number of institutions at the international level are involved directly and indirectly in the regulations on the transboundary movement of GMOs. On the trade side these include the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement and the Codex Alimentarius . On the environment side this refers mainly to Cartegena Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity concluded in 2000. UNU-IAS is currently engaged in a research project that considers the interplay among these institutions related to biosafety to advance our conceptual and practical understanding of institutional interplay.
UNU-IAS also undertakes training for policy-makers and actively promotes dialogue among relevant stakeholders on biotechnology and trade. In this regard, UNU-IAS, along with several partners, organized a workshop on Trade, Biotechnology and Sustainable Development in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2004, and a High Level Dialogue on ‘Perspectives on Trade, Biotechnology and Sustainable Development’ , in conjunction with the Asia-Europe Foundation in Kuala Lumpur in 2004.