October has been a busy month for the whole organization planning for the Donors’ Council meeting 3 November and the Executive Board’s meeting 5 – 7 November. We are looking forward to both important events.
For the Science Team, October was the Annual Genebanks Meeting – this year in Arusha. Several of the team were there for the duration, and of course the whole team was involved in preparations beforehand. This is a key event for us, and a lot of work both on the technical and logistics side: we are talking about five full days of discussions involving 43 people. We are now working on the formal report, but if you want a brief summary, you can read Luigi’s impressionistic account on our website.
We made important progress on the CRP and crop communities work in Arusha. Janny van Beem, our new Quality Management System (QMS) specialist, has started setting up work schedules for developing QMS with several CG genebank managers. We hope to have grant agreements for five Recommendation Action Plans signed before end of the year: AfricaRice, CIAT, IITA, IRRI, ILRI.
Also, the Online Reporting Tool for the international genebanks has been further developed, in particular on the financial side: it can now produce summary financial reports, for example.
Under the Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) project, we have now received the green light from Norway to use unspent funds from Phase 1 on a major communications push, including the development of a new communications strategy and revamp of the project website. Furthermore, an agreement with Vietnam has been concluded that will target the collecting of crop wild relatives in this important diversity hotspot in South-East Asia. The CWR project has also seen this month the official conclusion of a grant agreement with the University of Birmingham, under which a landmark online inventory of crop wild relatives has been produced.
A somewhat overwhelming 57 partners have signed the DivSeek expression of interest as of October 31. The DivSeek White Paper was produced and distributed. Preparations for a first DivSeek partners assembly and technical meeting, to take place on 9 January in San Diego, are now well under way. A draft charter for DivSeek has been developed and is under review. Furthermore, a meeting to discuss the governance structure and hosting arrangement for the DivSeek secretariat among the four key partners (Crop Trust, Treaty secretariat, CGIAR Consortium Office and Global Plant Council) is underway.
In the Partnership area we met with government representatives of Austria, the Czech Republic, Japan, Korea, and Thailand, and we had meetings at the European Commission in Brussels, including the EU Expert Group on Plant Genetic Resources. These discussions serve in particular to illustrate the role of the Crop Trust vis-à-vis funding the CGIAR genebanks, including how the Endowment Fund is expected to assume funding the full cost of routinie operations of the CGIAR genebank by 2017, when the current Genebank CRP of the CGIAR expires.
Our main outreach with the private sector was in the UK. We held our first presentation in London with selected Family Offices that represent large private investors. We consider this to be the beginning of a promising relationship with these offices and have already received requests for follow-up discussions. We are currently exploring establishing a tax-effective giving mechanism for private individuals in the UK.
In October we hosted a delegation from China at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. We also spent time at the Seed Vault with our website developer to create an interactive experience on the Vault for our new website launching in January 2015 (see the blog of the trip here.)
We visited Turin, Italy to meet with Slow Food at the Salone del Gusto/Terra Madre. Here we held meetings with Slow Food USA, Slow Food Germany, Slow Food UK, and the International Ark of Taste Commission. We are beginning to discuss partnerships with Slow Food and Ark of Taste and foresee a joint fundraising dinner and possible shipments to Svalbard in the future.
On the Communications front, we welcomed journalists from Japan and the USA to the Vault. It is good to see that seed deposits continue to generate strong coverage from media outlets around the world. For the media, the importance of safeguarding crop diversity is becoming an issue of interest. For example, an OpEd penned by Michael Koch on the importance of Crop Diversity was published in a Korean Newspaper in conjunction with the CBP COP conference there in October.
In support of the Crop Wild Relatives project, we completed a new video on the Uganda training event that took place earlier this year, and met with our partners at Kew to discuss the upcoming launch of the Crop Wild Relatives project Newsletter. We have also begun negotiations with an external consultant who will support our Crop Wild Relatives project and GeneSys II communications efforts.
Locally in Bonn, we participated at the UN Day, and we thank our UN colleagues for inviting us to this annual event. We have also provided communications support to the upcoming Informational Event in Dubai in early November.
All the best from all of us in Bonn,