October 2008

IGC Consultations to Continue on Future Work Program

WIPO press release, 21 October 2008


GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Francis Gurry, and the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) Ambassador Rigoberto Gauto Vielman of Paraguay said they would pursue efforts in the coming weeks to bridge differences among member states on the way to move international negotiations forward. The IGC wrapped up its 13th meeting late in the evening of 17 October 2008 after attempts to hammer out compromise texts on the future work programme faltered. Despite intense negotiations, delegations were not able to agree on the working procedures required to deliver the concrete outcomes that many have called for from this Committee. The IGC’s mandate calls upon it to accelerate its work, and expectations remain strong that the Committee should produce a significant outcome by the time it is required to report back to the WIPO General Assembly in September 2009. The Chairman of the IGC said that in spite of differences on how to advance its work, last week’s session saw increasing acceptance of the need for a process that would move forward decisively from exchanges of views and experiences to a focused, negotiation process.  The Chairman indicated that he would pursue informal consultations with member states and observers, including representatives of indigenous and local communities taking part in the Committee’s work, in the period leading up to the next IGC session. The programme and budget adopted by WIPO member states foresees two full IGC sessions in 2009.


Effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities remains of vital interest both in relation to the procedural and the substantive legal aspects of the Committee’s work. The Committee continued to build mechanisms that are exceptional for an intergovernmental process to ensure indigenous peoples and local communities have an effective voice. An Indigenous Caucus and a capacity building workshop for Indigenous delegations were convened prior to the Committee session, and throughout the session, Indigenous delegations were provided with interpretation services and other logistical support, funded by WIPO with the logistical support of DoCIP (the Indigenous Peoples’ Centre for Documentation, Research and Information). 


The opening Committee session featured a panel discussion of indigenous representatives, chaired by Albert Deterville of the Indigenous People (Bethechilokono) of Saint Lucia Governing Council. The Committee accredited twelve additional observers, bringing to well over 200 the total number of observers specially accredited to the IGC, the majority representing indigenous peoples and local communities. The WIPO Voluntary Fund, established to support the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in the Committee’s work, supported an increasing number of community representatives and saw a sharp rise in applications for future support. In spite of these mechanisms, indigenous representatives voiced concerns about the informal consultations between member states aimed at bridging differences between delegations over future work, and the closing session saw a strong statement from the Indigenous Caucus calling for a central role in such consultations in the future. Read the press release …

Indigenous People Seek Recognition At WIPO Meeting On Their Rights
IP Watch, 24 October 2008


GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: Indigenous groups are looking for better representation at the United Nations body negotiating on issues related to the protection of their traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. Indigenous groups are normally classified as non-governmental observers and civil society groups in the IGC. The limits of the NGO status came clear on the morning of the last day of negotiations, during a plenary in which governmental regional group coordinators were given the floor to make statements on future work for the committee. The Indigenous Peoples Caucus, which represents the accredited indigenous observers at the WIPO IGC, wanted to make an intervention during this morning plenary session, but was unable to do so. Negotiations then moved to informal meetings (also excluding NGOs) that changed the course of the meeting. The caucus represents a majority of the world’s rights holders on traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions and “should have been given opportunity to make an intervention,” Deterville, who chaired the caucus at the IGC from 13 to 17 October, told Intellectual Property Watch. Deterville’s closing statement, given on behalf of the indigenous caucus, noted that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides them “the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights” and requires states to “consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned.” This, he said, did not happen. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples also asserts the right of indigenous people “maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional
cultural expressions” and obliges states to provide redress to indigenous people for “cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.” Read the article …

Certificates of Clarity of Confusion: the search for a practical, feasible and cost effective system for certifying compliance with PIC and MAT 

Brendan Tobin, Geoff Burton and José Carlos Fernandez-Ugalde, UNU-IAS, April 2008


Proposals have been made for a variety of certification systems to act as the basis for an international system of documentation to provide evidence of prior informed consent (PIC) and mutually agreed terms (MAT) relating to access and use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge. This study provides a comparative analysis of all four existing proposals and examines the challenges for development of a practical, feasible and cost effective certificate system. Download the report [pdf] …


Access to Genetic Resources in Africa: Analysing ABS policy development in four African countries 

UNEP/UNU-IAS, May 2008


This publication includes case studies on access to genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, and benefit-sharing (ABS) arrangements in four African countries, namely Botswana, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia. These studies exemplify the implementation of existing ABS arrangements and mechanisms in the context of the Bonn Guidelines adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at its sixth meeting, in April 2002. The report seeks to answer the following questions:The report provides a detailed view of the national policy climate relating to ABS in the four countries, based on research carried out by consultants in co-operation with national agencies, using questionnaires and workshops. Download the report [pdf] …


Indigenous Knowledge for Disaster Risk Reduction: Good Practices and Lessons Learned from Experiences in the Asia-Pacific Region 

UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Secretariat – Asia and Pacific, Kyoto University, European Union, July 2008


This publication aims to build awareness for indigenous knowledge as an effective tool for reducing risk from natural hazard-related disasters. By improving the understanding of indigenous knowledge and providing concrete examples of how it can be successfully used, this publication hopes to inspire all practitioners and policy makers to consider the knowledge held by local communities and act to integrate this wealth of knowledge into future disaster-related work. It presents a collection of 18 indigenous practices which were developed over time in the communities in the Asia-Pacific region from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Types of disasters include earthquake, cyclone (typhoon), drought, and slides, river bank erosion, tsunami and zud. The cases were chosen based on the following criteria: origin of the knowledge, its relative level of adaptation over time, its relationship to local skills and materials, its success in surviving or coping with disasters over time, and its applicability to other societies facing similar situations. Download the publication [pdf] …

Arctic indigenous languages – time for action

Arctic Indigenous Languages Symposium media release, 21 October 2008


TROMSØ, NORWAY: Meeting in Tromsø, Norway from 19-21 October at the first-ever Arctic Indigenous Languages Symposium, delegates unanimously supported a set of recommendations which urges and reminds states, international organisations and indigenous peoples’ organisations to meet their responsibilities to maintain the Arctic’s rich heritage of indigenous languages. The symposium was an initiative of the Arctic Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group and brought together indigenous peoples representing the council’s permanent participants from Canada, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the USA, together with representatives from the council’s member states. Lead organiser for the symposium was the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) working closely with the local host, the Saami Council, both of which are permanent participants, a status reserved for indigenous peoples’ organisations. Chair of the symposium Duane Smith, who is president of ICC Canada, described this meeting as a very significant opportunity for indigenous peoples in the Arctic to highlight the critical connection between culture and sustainable development. Download the press release [pdf] … Visit the symposium website …

Indigenous rangers, marine scientists team up to map seabed

ABC News, 25 October 2008


CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA: For the first time, traditional indigenous knowledge has been combined with the latest technology to map underwater habitats off north-east Arnhem Land. Indigenous sea rangers and Northern Territory marine scientists have this week been using an underwater video camera to map the seabed around Bremer Island off Nhulunbuy. The group’s lead scientist, Professor Karen Edyvane, says the information is crucial for managing fisheries, aquaculture and development – and the rangers have a lot to contribute. “Indigenous people, as we know, have had a long customary connection with coastal environment and marine environment and have a lot to offer,” she said. Read the article …

No Agreement for WIPO Committee on Traditional Knowledge and Folklore

IP Watch, 18 October 2008


GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: Held from 13-17 October 2008, in Geneva, Switzerland, the 13th session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ended with no agreement. The lack of an outcome from the week-long meeting signals deeper differences among WIPO membership over protection of these areas. Despite the encouragement of WIPO Director General Francis Gurry to move to concrete progress, two detailed analytical background papers from the secretariat, and a proposal from the African Group, positions remained largely unchanged for past IGC meetings. What stalled this week’s meeting was disagreement on two competing proposals on future work: one submitted by the African group early Monday morning 13 October and then revised following consultations with members, and one tabled by meeting Chair Rigoberto Gauto Vielman at midday on Friday. The Chair’s text adhered closely to a text circulated by France, which sources said was on behalf of the European Union, in informal sessions earlier on Friday. Key disagreements were over the composition of the proposed three intersessional working groups, timing of the sessions, and whether or not to make the three meetings concurrent. The three working groups would focus on issue areas: one on traditional knowledge, one on traditional cultural expressions, and one on genetic resources. Read the article … Read all IP Watch articles on the meeting … Download the original African proposal on future work [pdf] … Download the revised African proposal [pdf] … Download the French proposal [pdf, in French] … Download the Chair’s text [pdf] … Visit the meeting website …

International Conference on Rights, Forests and Climate Change

Organized by the Rainforest Foundation Norway and the Rights and Resources Initiative

15 October – 17 October 2008 (Oslo, Norway)


Unless based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and forest communities, efforts by rich countries to combat climate change by funding reductions in deforestation in developing countries will fail, and could even unleash a devastating wave of forest loss, cultural destruction and civil conflict, warned a leading group of forestry and development experts meeting in Oslo this week. Speaking at the meeting, Norway’s Minister of Environment and International Development Erik Solheim said efforts towards reduced emissions from deforestation in developing countries should be based on the rights of indigenous peoples to the forests they depend on for their livelihoods, and provide tangible benefits consistent with their essential role in sustainable forest management.


The Oslo Conference discussed the Four Foundations for Effective Investments in Climate


  • Recognize rights – establish an equitable legal and regulatory framework for land and resources;
  • prioritize payment to communities – ensure that benefits and payments prioritize indigenous and local communities, according to their potential role as forest stewards;
  • establish independent advisory and auditing processes to guide, monitor and audit investments and actions at national and global levels; and
  • monitor more than carbon to keep track of the status of forests, forest carbon, biodiversity and impacts on rights and livelihoods. Secure a role for indigenous peoples in monitoring of emissions, making full use of their knowledge of the state of forest ecosystems, something which could be particularly relevant to keep track of forest degradation.


During the first day of the conference, participants concluded that indigenous peoples and forest dwellers have often proven their capacity for sustainable forest management and successful adaptation with only minimal support from the state. Traditional knowledge systems and resource management practices are a valuable resource. That said, the winners who will benefit most from the “forest billions” flowing into climate change mitigation will be those with information and resources. Indigenous peoples and forest dwellers have neither, and will lose out.


Read the organizers’ press release [pdf] … Visit the Conference website … Read the summary of discussion addressing TK …

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