May 2011

UN launches global partnership to put indigenous rights into action
UNDP press release, 20 May 2011

NEW YORK, USA: Four UN agencies launched the first global initiative to put into action the rights enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The UN-Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership (UNIPP) aims to work through training and consultation with governments, organizations and representatives of indigenous peoples to boost their role in high-level decision-making and policy work. The partnership brings together the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and UNICEF, as well as governments, to work on areas such as conflict prevention around ancestral land and use of natural resources. Read the UNDP press release … Read the UNICEF press release … Read the UNIPP fact sheet …

Green Economy Needs Respect for Indigenous Rights
IPS, 21 May 2011

NEW YORK, USA: Nations may pay more than lip service to the idea of indigenous rights if they hope to seriously address problems like species loss and climate change, said delegates at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge has been widely acknowledged as vital to conservation and efforts to fight climate change. “Nature conservation is at the heart of the cultures and values of traditional societies,” said CBD Executive Secretary Ahmed Djoghlaf. Read the article … Visit the UNPFII-10 webpage …

Statement by Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, on the occasion of the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, 21 May 2011
CBD, 21 May 2011

MONTREAL, CANADA: In his statement, Djoghlaf highlights that “Cultural and biological diversity are closely intertwined. Indeed, the conservation and sustainable use of nature’s resources is at the heart of the cultures and values of indigenous peoples. For more than 300 million indigenous peoples, the Earth offers not only a livelihood, but it is also the foundation of their cultural and spiritual identities. And although they constitute a relatively small portion of the world’s population, indigenous peoples represent the largest portion of cultural diversity on earth. Because the Earth and its resources are inherited from the ancestors, and includes trans-generational obligations, for the world’s indigenous peoples, ‘Mother Earth’ is a sacred place.” He adds that indigenous knowledge, which is unique to a specific culture, has much to offer in terms of biodiversity and resource management. But the contribution of indigenous and local communities to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity goes far beyond their role as natural resource managers. Download the statement [pdf] …

New website shows how nature plus culture equals resilience
IIED press release, 18 May 2011

LONDON, UK: IIED and partners have just launched a new website on biocultural heritage. Biocultural heritage includes a wealth of biological resources – from genetic to landscape level – and long-standing traditions and practices for their sustainable use and adaptive management. It also describes the bundle of rights that support indigenous peoples and local communities – Traditional Resource Rights. The new website draws on research by IIED, research partners and indigenous and local communities in Peru, Panama, Kenya, India and China. It presents biocultural strategies and methodologies for horizontal networking amongst marginalized communities; and emerging biocultural legal and policy frameworks. It provides guidance and downloadable resources for grassroots organisations, researchers, practitioners and policymakers. Read the press release … Visit the website …

Participatory research and on-farm management of agricultural biodiversity in Europe
Michel Pimbert
IIED (May 2011) | ISBN 978-1-84369-809-8

Drawing on experience in Europe and the wider literature, this paper offers some critical reflections on how – and under what conditions – the EU might support the development of innovative participatory approaches for the management of agricultural biodiversity in Europe. Recommendations for the EU and its citizens are offered on how to address three challenges in particular: transforming knowledge and ways of knowing for the local adaptive management of agricultural biodiversity and resilience in the face of climate change and uncertainty; scaling up and institutionalizing participatory research and innovation in plant breeding, varietal selection, and agroecological research; and policy reversals for the participatory management of agricultural biodiversity. This EU-wide transformation is considered necessary, given that resilience, mitigation and adaptation to climate change directly depend on supporting innovative participatory approaches for managing agricultural biodiversity at the farm and landscape levels. Download the publication [pdf] …

WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore: Eighteenth Session
9-13 May 2011 (Geneva, Switzerland)

According to a WIPO press release, the session resulted – for the first time in the process – in a single negotiating text on each of the three items referred to in the IGC’s mandate: traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and genetic resources. Chaired by Ambassador Philip Owade (Kenya), the session followed two Intersessional Working Groups (IWGs) in February and March 2011 that had addressed traditional knowledge and genetic resources, respectively. On traditional knowledge, the IWG had developed a text of articles on the protection of traditional knowledge. The IGC accepted this text as the basis for negotiations and, after a lengthy plenary discussion on the text, broke into an informal, open-ended drafting group to reduce the number of options, especially where differences were largely a matter of drafting. The streamlined text developed by the drafting group was noted by the IGC and transmitted to its next meeting, scheduled for 18-22 July 2011. The text addresses questions such as a definition of traditional knowledge, beneficiaries of protection and the scope of rights to be granted in traditional knowledge and how they would be managed and enforced. 

The IWG on genetic resources had developed a draft text on objectives and principles on the relationship between intellectual property and genetic resources. The IGC accepted that text as a basis for its ongoing work, and an open-ended informal drafting group was established to refine and streamline the text, especially to reduce the number of options where these were largely a matter of drafting. The drafting group made progress in merging several options, and the modified objectives and principles were noted by the IGC and transmitted to its next session. The objectives and principles on intellectual property and genetic resources deal with conditions for access to and use of genetic resources, the prevention of erroneous patents, information systems to enable patent offices to make proper decisions in granting patents, the relationship between intellectual property and other relevant international agreements and processes, and the role of the intellectual property system in relation to genetic resources. These are complemented by certain options for future work, including a proposed mandatory disclosure requirement, defensive databases and intellectual property clauses in mutually agreed terms for access and equitable benefit-sharing.

Another open-ended informal drafting group was also established to further streamline the current text of articles on traditional cultural expressions. The modified text was noted by the IGC in plenary and transmitted to its next session.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya delivered a keynote speech at the panel on indigenous peoples’ collective rights on 9 May 2011, stressing that indigenous peoples’ demands to maintain control over their traditional knowledge and cultural expressions are grounded in widely applicable principles of fundamental human rights.

According to a report by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), IGC negotiations were marred by considerable disagreement over the negotiating process and the participation of indigenous peoples, as well as the proposed mandatory requirements for disclosure of origin of genetic resources in patent applications. Talks were also marked by anger from indigenous peoples’ groups, after proposals they made with backing fromVenezuelaand others were deleted from a working document during a Tuesday night meeting of an informal drafting group that had only been supposed to “clean text.” According to the WIPO press release, IGC Chair Owade met with the indigenous participants during the week to discuss their concerns regarding their status in the negotiations. He expressed his full appreciation for their concerns and encouraged indigenous participants and state representatives to interact more frequently.

According to ICTSD, the main focus of discussions on traditional knowledge rested on who “holds” traditional knowledge. For instance, Barbados, supported by other small island states andIndia, asked for “nations” to be added to the list of “holders,” explaining that their traditional knowledge was held by the whole nation which did not qualify as either “local community” or “indigenous peoples.” Iran, on the other hand, suggested including individuals and families, although it noted that the state should be a “place holder” where the original holder could not be identified.

The next session of the IGC is the last one before WIPO’s General Assembly, which will then decide on convening a diplomatic conference. It also remains to be decided whether any instrument produced would be legally binding or not. Read the WIPO press release … Read a post on Anaya’s keynote speech, including link to a summary of the speech …  Read the ICTSD article … Read IP Watch, 10 May 2011 … Read IP Watch, 12 May 2011 … Read IP Watch, 14 May 2011, including full text of indigenous peoples’ statement …

Digitizing Traditional Culture in Kenya
WIPO and United Nations Television (UNTV), May 2011

This short film tracks efforts by two young Maasai in Kenya in their quest to document valuable cultural expressions handed down by generations of Maasai elders. It also shows WIPO’s assistance to the Maasai community in protecting preserving and documenting their rich cultural heritage. View the video …

Indigenous peoples’ forum opens at UN with call to turn rights into reality
UN News Centre, 16 May 2011

NEW YORK, USA: More than 1,300 delegates are expected to participate in this year’s session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which is held from 16-27 May 2011, at the UN Headquarters in New York. This year, the Forum will focus on reviewing recommendations and their implementation related to economic and social development, the environment, and free, prior and informed consent. Opening the forum, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the General Assembly in September 2007, finally had the consensus support it deserved. “Now we need to make the declaration’s principles a reality,” he said, stressing that protecting and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples benefited everyone, and not only those groups. Read the news release … Visit the meeting webpage … Read the Secretary-General’s statement …

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