The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed at the Rio Earth summit in 1992 established three main objectives: conservation, sustainable use of resources, and access and benefit sharing. In common with most multilateral agreements signed by states, the CBD brokered a compromise among competing interests. Notwithstanding international agreement on the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, the issue of access and benefit-sharing (ABS) remained controversial for almost two decades. The Nagoya Protocol to the CBD on “Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilization,” adopted in 2010, was a significant milestone in ensuring progress to achieve the goal of access and benefit-sharing. The Nagoya Protocol provides renewed emphasis on fair and equitable sharing of benefits as a central component of biodiversity strategies; it strengthens biodiversity governance by establishing a stronger legal framework; and it enhances the institutionalization of the biodiversity regime. Thus, both in its own right as an instrument of governance and as an element of global biodiversity governance, the Nagoya Protocol is worthy of study.

Global Governance of Genetic Resources is an important contribution to understanding the Nagoya Protocol. It enhances understanding of global ABS governance in the wake of the Protocol, and also successfully links discussion of ABS governance with wider debates on global environmental governance. The intellectual coherence of the project is established through the articulation of an analytical framework constructed around the concepts of architecture and agency. Oberthür and Rosendal define architecture as the “cogovernance of issue areas in international affairs by various institutions” (p.9). They further distinguish between internal and external dimensions. The internal dimension of governance architecture is concerned with the policy instruments and mode of governance, whereas the external dimension of governance refers to the broader constellation of institutions and mechanisms and the interaction among these institutions in a specific issue-area. Agency in this context refers to the role of different actors, i.e., their interests, preferences, ideas, interactions, and influence. This framework is used in the construction of the volume, which is implicitly structured in terms of a focus on agency (chapters 3–7) and architecture (chapters 9–12). The overall analytical framework provides structure for the book, but neither the chapters discussing the role of actors nor those exploring the architecture of global governance are written to a common template.

The five chapters on agency explore the activities of selected actors. Individual chapters focus on state-based coalitions, non-state actors, the European Union, Switzerland, and the African Union. These case studies provide a useful survey of actor interests, negotiating strategies, and the importance of institutional venue. For example, while it is well known that the ABS negotiations reflect the opposing interests of developing and developed countries, the chapter by Lisa Wallbott, Franziska Wolff, and Justyna Pożarowska shows that a simple dichotomy between providers of genetic resources (developing countries) and user countries (developed countries) cannot fully capture the complex dynamics of the negotiating process. And a chapter by Sebastian Oberthür and Florian Rabitz provides a succinct summary of the EU’s successful pursuit of its own interests in an issue area that lacks US leadership.

The chapters on the interior design and external dimension of the Nagoya Protocol explore difficulties inherent in the construction of biodiversity governance and provide insights into the slow progress of implementing the CBD principles prior to the adoption of the Protocol. Balancing the interests of provider countries and user countries is a complex process. A workable ABS system has to create regulatory standards that balance domestic governance of genetic resources with access to those resources by users. Three chapters examine the external dimension of global ABS governance and show that although rhetorically ABS is at the heart of international biodiversity governance, it is part of a wider institutional complex. The discussion of the interior design of global governance architecture is the most interesting aspect of this section of the book. Both Franziska Wolff in her examination of economic instruments and Morten Walløe Tvedt in his discussion of the legal basis of an ABS system demonstrate the importance of approaches used in governance systems. Wolff examines the evolution of a market-based governance approach for ABS governance in the context of three other instruments (the international Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (GR), the Clean Development Mechanism, and REDD+) for biodiversity and ecosystem services at the global level. Her analysis reveals the importance of the institutional design of economic mechanisms and the limited effectiveness of the instruments analyzed. Tvedt concludes soberly that “without implementation into national legislation, the Protocol cannot be expected to alter the behavior of GR users” (p.176).

The sections on agency and architecture both bring together carefully developed case studies that explore the central themes of the book in a coherent manner. One shortcoming of the book’s approach is the limited attention to the role of private actors. Given the potential impact of the Nagoya Protocol on the ways the implementation of access and benefit-sharing principles affect the supply chain, greater attention could have been given to corporate interests and strategies. Furthermore, the paradox of the diversification and differentiation among developing countries is best explained through examining the changing role of the G77 as a negotiating bloc. In other words, an historical approach to the G77 as a coalition of developing countries would yield greater insights into the behavior of developing countries. Patterns of global inequality in relation to control over genetic resources will continue to shape the interests of developing countries in the immediate future. Changing negotiating tactics does not indicate either changes in interests or shared ideas.

On the whole this volume is successful in meeting its three central objectives: to provide an analytical summary of global ABS governance post-Nagoya; to link discussion of ABS governance with wider debates on global environmental governance; and to provide an accessible introduction to a technical subject. It is a welcome addition to the continuing debates on global environmental governance. The Nagoya Protocol is likely to come into effect in 2015. This book provides a useful introduction to the Nagoya Protocol and a thoughtful starting point for an analysis of the evolution of ABS governance in the future.