August 2011


A patent perspective on WAI 262
Matt Adams
International Law Office newsletter, 22 August 2011

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND: In this note, Matt Adams comments on part of the Waitangi Tribunal’s recently released WAI 262 report, regarding intellectual property in the genetic and biological resources of taonga species – that is, flora and fauna that are significant to the culture or identity of Maori tribes. The tribunal observed that Maori are obliged to act as kaitiaki (ie, cultural guardians) towards such species within their tribal areas. He notes that the tribunal recommended the establishment of a Maori advisory committee to advise the commissioner of patents on whether inventions are derived from Maori traditional knowledge or use taonga species; and creation of a mechanism to augment the commissioner’s expertise when dealing with applications that raise issues for Maori. The commissioner should have the power to refuse patents that unduly interfere with the relationships between kaitiaki and taonga. An ordre public clause would provide this power. Ordre public is also relevant to the consequences of failing to disclose use of traditional knowledge in the patenting process. Adams further notes that the tribunal recommended the establishment of a register of traditional knowledge: the act of kaitiaki registering their interest in taonga species will provide a clear statement to third parties of Maori interest, and is intended to give patent applicants fair warning of such interest and of the need to engage with kaitiaki. The register would also allow kaitiaki to record in summary form aspects of traditional knowledge that they consider might be used by patent applicants.

With regard to disclosure, the tribunal recommended the introduction of a legal requirement for patent applicants to disclose the source and the country of origin of genetic or biological material that contributes to an invention, and suggested that applicants should disclose whether Maori traditional knowledge or the genetic and biological resources of taonga species have contributed to the inventive activity that led to the patent application. Read the article [free subscription required] …

Regional workshop on biocultural community protocols
Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA), GIZ, Natural Justice and ETC Compas
8-9 August 2011 (Lima, Peru)

This workshop brought together a number of Latin American and other organizations to share their respective experiences or thoughts on biocultural community protocols. Participants included experts on genetic resources, traditional knowledge, intellectual property, sustainable development and ABS, among other issues, as well as indigenous peoples’ representatives. Presentations addressed issues related to: biocultural heritage; the international context with regard to biocultural protocols; and the role of biocultural protocols in the protection of genetic resources and traditional knowledge, and in the context of biotrade; while case studies focused on examples from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Read the Natural Justice post on the workshop … Read the SPDA release [in Spanish], including links to presentations [most of them in Spanish] …

Pastoralist’s digital network wins global learning award
The East African, 20 August 2011

NAIROBI, KENYA: The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), winner of the Gates Foundation’s 2011 Access to Learning Award, is working to connect people living in remote and arid regions of East Africa and promote information exchange – in particular, traditional knowledge that otherwise goes unrecorded, such as how to collect rainwater into earth dams for irrigation, how deep the dam should be, and how to channel water into the dam by digging furrows. “Our core business is to promote the sharing of information,” says ALIN regional director James Nguo. “We create a platform where people in Marsabit, Kenya, can communicate with those in Karamoja, Uganda and, for example, share ideas like how to make salt lick for your animals from your own ingredients if you find the salt lick in the shops is too expensive.” ALIN has set up 14 Maarifa Centres – community Internet access points and digital libraries that use solar panels to generate electricity and a satellite dish to connect to the Internet – across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Read the article … Read the ALIN release on the award … Read the Gates Foundation release …

Joto Afrika: The future of pastoralism in a changing climate
ALIN and IDS, Issue 007 (2011) | ISSN: 2075-5562

This issue of Joto Afrika provides case studies of local knowledge in action across Africa, and success stories from research to showcase various ways of climate adaptation by pastoralists. It also provides key messages and recommendation to key stakeholders. Articles include research summaries on adapting pastoralism to a changing climate, coping with drought in Niger, and using Mbororo herders’ traditional knowledge; and case studies on grazing management as an adaptation measure, and vulnerability in Ethiopia’s pastoral communities. Download the issue [pdf] …

Peru Looks to Traditional Adaptation Practices to Cope with Climate Disruption
Earth Island Journal blog, 17 August 2011

CALIFORNIA, USA: Adapting to a warmer world will require the best in modern science and engineering. It will also require us to draw on traditional sources of knowledge from rural communities and Indigenous Peoples, Emily Kirkland argues. Such is the case in Peru’s Piuraregion, where an NGO called Soluciones Practicas has worked to incorporate traditional indicators into seasonal weather predictions. Local people have always had their own ways to forecast the weather. Northerly winds in October and November, for instance, signify a dry year. Similarly, the flowering of the mango and huaranago trees can give clues about future rainfall months in advance. Soluciones Practicas combines these local indicators with official predictions from Peru’s weather agency. The resulting forecasts can be tailored to individual towns and watersheds, and are often more accurate than the official scientific projections, explained Alcides Vilela, who worked on the project. Read the post …

Inuit Knowledge Critical to Arctic Science
National Geographic News, 18 August 2011

AKUREYRI, ICELAND: In this video interview, Martin Lougheed, of the Inuit Quajisarvingat Knowledge Center, Ottawa, Canada, makes the case for blending Inuit traditional knowledge with Western science to help understand and find solutions to sweeping changes in the Arctic. Lougheed was interviewed at the Seventh International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS VII), held from 22-26 June 2011, in Akureyri, Iceland. Read the full story and see the video …

Climate Change is Affecting Traditional Knowledge
IPS, 16 August 2011

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA: In this article, Constanza Vieira interviews Colombian biologist Brigitte Baptiste, who argues that the traditional knowledge of nature developed since ancestral times by Colombia’s indigenous peoples is increasingly challenged by the unnatural effects of climate change, a phenomenon that is deeply troubling to the keepers of this knowledge. Currently the Director of Colombia’s Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute, Baptiste says that her observations are based on personal contacts with indigenous elders. Noting that the Colombian government has no policies that recognize or support traditional knowledge, she says that fortunately, problems are being discussed by the country’s sabedores, the traditional knowledge keepers. Read the interview …

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