Fair and Equitable Benefit-sharing in International Law

By Elisa Morgera

“Fair and equitable benefit-sharing is a diffuse legal phenomenon in international law. The continued proliferation of benefit-sharing clauses can be explained by their appeal as an optimistic frame in addressing sustainability and equity concerns related to bio-based innovation, the use of natural resources, environmental protection, and knowledge creation. In principle, fair and equitable benefit-sharing serves to recognize, encourage, and incentivise sustainable human relationships with the environment by focusing on equity issues arising from the most intractable challenges of our time, such as loss of biodiversity, climate change, poverty, and global epidemics. Empirical evidence, however, indicates that, in practice, benefit-sharing rarely achieves its fairness and equity objectives, and ends up entrenching or worsening inequitable relationships with little to no benefit for the environment…”