Academics Criticise Handling Of Cultural Diversity, Traditional Knowledge At International Level
IP Watch, 7 March 2013

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: At a recent conference jointly organised by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID, Geneva) and the Museum of Art and History of Geneva, academics tackled the question of the preservation of culture – in its natural and cultural dimension – against the risks of globalisation. Panellists offered criticisms of the evolution of the international system for the protection of cultural diversity, with regard to traditional knowledge and rights of indigenous people. Many panellists addressed strong criticisms toward the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Riccardo Pavoni, a professor at the University of Sienna, Italy, described the Nagoya Protocol as a “masterpiece of erratic treaty drafting,” containing what he called “contradictory and inconsistent drafting”. Pavoni said Nagoya Protocol negotiators deliberately refrained from imposing a disclosure requirement for patentability. The requirement is therefore only optional for Parties to the Nagoya protocol, hence the continuing battle happening at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to introduce a mandatory disclosure requirement. Many other academics, while acknowledging that the Nagoya Protocol is not perfect, see in it a step forward as this text creates a system that links the user and supplier countries. On TK, Genevièvre Koubi, professor at the University of Paris VIII, denounced what she called the “commercial drift” of the concept of protection of diversity of cultures. She said that no UN organisations protect culture in itself, but rather the forms that culture takes. Koubi said that in every UN agency dealing with traditional knowledge – including WIPO – it is the economical aspect of culture that prevails and diversity is only understood in the market context. Culture is therefore only understood as a strategy for development. Read the article …

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