February 2012

Biodiversity, Traditional Knowledge and Community Health: Strengthening the Linkages
Unnikrishnan P.M. and M.S. Suneetha
UNU-IAS, 23 February 2012

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN: In this article, which is based on a UNU-IAS policy report that will be launched in 2012, the authors examine the linkages between biodiversity, traditional knowledge and health. Noting that about 70% of pharmaceutical products developed over 25 years are still based on natural product development, while regions rich in resources, including biodiversity and related knowledge, are marked by lack of sufficient public health care, they highlight the renewed interest to strengthen the potential of traditional medicine and health practitioners to improve health care. They note that clearly the focus need to be on ensuring sustained availability of biological resources and sufficient access to good quality health care for all members of society. They outline a list of issues that deserve attention, including: building awareness among different stakeholder on conservation, access to health care, and the intricacies of traditional knowledge; recognizing the knowledge and practices of native healers or traditional health practitioners; and addressing unsustainable harvesting and exploitation of biological resources. A number of focused strategies are proposed, addressing, among others: assessment methods to inventorize resources and knowledge used in health care; knowledge validation, generation and use; capacity building for different stakeholders; cross learning between different knowledge systems; and development of mechanisms for protection of traditional resources and knowledge. Read the article …

WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, 20th session
14-22 February 2012 (Geneva, Switzerland)

Intellectual property and genetic resources was the subject of an eight-day negotiation at the WIPO IGC. On the basis of various written proposals and of plenary discussions, the IGC prepared and agreed to transmit a single, consolidated document to the next session of the WIPO General Assembly in October 2012. During the session, the Delegations of Canada, Japan, Norway, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America submitted a new proposal, namely a “Joint Recommendation on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge”. On observers’ participation, the Committee examined a draft study on ways in which the participation of observers, especially representatives of indigenous and local communities, could be enhanced, and: noted that representatives of observers could, at the Chair’s discretion and in accordance with the Committee’s Rules of Procedure, be included in any “Friends of Chair” groups and/or act as co-chairs of working and drafting groups; supported the organization of an indigenous expert workshop preceding an upcoming session of the Committee; strongly encouraged Member States to organize regional and national consultations involving representatives of indigenous and local communities; supported the development or improvement of various awareness-raising and communications tools by the WIPO Secretariat; and welcomed the continued cooperation of the WIPO Secretariat with relevant UN and other bodies. The Committee requested further information from the WIPO Secretariat on proposed changes to the accreditation and funding procedures for ILC representatives and proposed revisions to the format of Indigenous Panels which precede each session of the Committee. This additional information will be discussed at the next IGC session, which will be held from 16-20 April 2012 with focus on TK. It should be noted that a number of indigenous representatives left the session on 21 February, citing particularly their concerns regarding their reduced participation. They reconsidered their decision after meeting informally with the Chair, and rejoined the meeting on the following day.

According to ICTSD, deliberations were marked by strong differences over the scope of protection under an instrument on genetic resources. Developed countries proposed reference to “patents” rather than intellectual property rights in general, a position which was opposed by developing countries. Disagreements also persisted on a mandatory disclosure requirement. The proposal for a joint recommendation mentioned above, that proposes the creation of databases regarding genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge instead of a mandatory disclosure requirement, and that would serve as a non-binding instrument if adopted, was met with resistance by many developing countries. Visit the meeting’s website … Read a report by ICTSD Bridges Trade BioRes … Read a report by IP Watch …

International Mother Language Day, 21 February 2012
UNESCO, 21 February 2012

PARIS, FRANCE: International Mother Language Day has been celebrated every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. This year the theme of the International Mother Language day is “Mother tongue instruction and inclusive education”. In her message on the occasion, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova notes that linguistic diversity is a fragile heritage, since nearly half of the more than 6,000 languages spoken in the world could die out by the end of the century. UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger is the performance chart for this struggle. Each language also conveys cultural heritage, which is as important as biological diversity in nature. Cultural and biological diversity are closely linked, and some indigenous peoples’ languages carry knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem management. This linguistic potential is an asset for sustainable development, a message which UNESCO intends to highlight at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in June 2012, in Rio. Visit the webpage of the International Day … Download Bokova’s message [pdf] … Visit the webpage of the Interactive Atlas of Endangered Languages …

Climate Variability and Change in the Himalayas: Community perceptions and responses
M. Macchi, A.M. Gurung, B. Hoermann, D. Choudhary, ICIMOD, 2011 | ISBN: 978 92 9115 226 1

This study investigates the effects of climate and socioeconomic change on the livelihoods of mountain people in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan (HKH) region, causes of vulnerability, and the ways people cope with and adapt to change, with the overall aim of contributing to enhancing the resilience of vulnerable mountain communities. The case studies cover ICIMOD-conducted community-based vulnerability and adaptive capacity assessments in: Uttarakhand in northwestern India; Nepal; Eastern Bhutan; and North East India. The main aims were to: identify people’s perceptions of climate variability and change; identify underlying causes of vulnerability of mountain communities; assess existing coping and adaptation mechanisms and their sustainability in view of predicted future climate change; and formulate recommendations on how to improve individual and collective assets. An extensive participatory rural appraisal exercise was followed by field studies including focus group discussions at the community level and in-depth interviews at the household level. Special attention was paid to gender considerations and to the role of formal and informal institutions in the adaptation process. The findings demonstrate that climate and socioeconomic change are already affecting the livelihoods of mountain communities, and that the communities have developed a repertoire of response strategies to these changes. These responses, however, may not keep up with the fast pace of change the communities are facing. In order to increase the resilience of mountain communities, appropriate longer-term strategies that build on mountain communities’ traditional knowledge need to be developed, rather than focusing on short-term responses which may reinforce vulnerability in the longer term. Read the report …

Northern savannah burning to earn carbon credits
ABC News, 22 February 2012

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA: The Federal Government has embraced savannah burning as an approved methodology under the carbon farming initiative for generating carbon credits in Northern Australia. According to Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change Mark Dreyfus, this will lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the savannas of Australia’s tropical north, as well as to new employment and economic opportunities for Indigenous Australians and pastoralists. “It is a way for Indigenous people to use their own traditional fire practices to earn carbon credits and get an income stream,” he said. The savannah burning methodology was developed by the Government in close consultation with Indigenous groups and the CSIRO. Read the article …

FFP E-Newsletter February 2012
Forest Peoples Programme, 23 February 2012

LONDON, UK: In this newsletter, FFP celebrate the sterling achievement of the Wapichan people who after a ten year effort mapping and agreeing how to use their ancestral lands in south Guyana, have released a comprehensive plan to secure their people’s livelihoods and set aside 1.4 million hectares of forest for conservation. The Wapichan now look to the Government of Guyana to secure their area and so make these plans effective. The example contrasts startlingly with the case of the Kaeng Krachan National Park in Thailand where security forces have been torching Karen villages and burning their rice stores to expel them from their forests. This is an example of the old ‘Yellowstone Model’ of exclusionary conservation that seeks to create uninhabited wildernesses in indigenous peoples’ territories. Other articles address REDD-related developments, and the Bali Declaration on Human Rights and Agribusiness. Read the newsletter …

WIPO Members Work Through Differences in Genetic Resources Document
IP Watch, 19 February 2012

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: The WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) is meeting from 14-22 February 2012, focusing on genetic resources and with a mandate to find agreement on a single negotiating text. According to IP Watch, the process is constructive but a sharp divide remains on several topics, including: referring to intellectual property rights in general or only to patents; inclusion or not of derivatives of genetic resources, mirroring the difficulties in the negotiation of the CBD Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing; and mandatory disclosure of origin in patent applications. Read the article … Visit the meeting’s website …

Consultation on indigenous peoples’ participation in the United Nations
OHCHR, February 2012

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has invited indigenous peoples’ organizations, academics and civil society to provide their views on the ideal ways and means to promote participation at the UN of recognized indigenous peoples’ representatives on issues affecting them and on how such participation might be structured. In particular, OHCHR would welcome views on: existing accreditation procedures for NGOs which might be appropriately applied to the accreditation of indigenous peoples’ representatives to UN meetings; current practices to accredit indigenous peoples’ organizations to the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UNPFII and how such practices could be applied to other UN meetings; whether it is desirable for the General Assembly to adopt a decision setting out general procedures that would apply to indigenous peoples’ representatives’ participation at UN meetings, or whether separate decisions should be adopted by the Economic and Social Council and the Human Rights Council; and what would be the appropriate next steps in terms of considering this issue further within the UN. The consultation is organized in response to a request by the Human Rights Council for a detailed document on the ways and means of promoting participation at the UN of recognized indigenous peoples’ representatives on issues affecting them, and to facilitate the preparation of this document. Responses can be submitted electronically to the OHCHR at ccharters@ohchr.org by 9 April 2012. Read the announcement …

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