April 2013

“If we fail our environment, we fail to protect our human rights,” warn UN experts on Earth Day
OHCHR release, 22 April 2013

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: “We continue to fail to protect and conserve our environment in many respects, often with dire consequences for the enjoyment of human rights, despite great progress in some areas,” today warned a group of United Nations independent experts on the occasion of Earth Day 2013. “When our rivers are being depleted and polluted, the livelihoods of many vulnerable groups are put in jeopardy,” explained UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter, “including the ability for those groups to access sufficient and safe drinking water, grow food, and harvest from traditional fisheries.” “When mining and other extractive activities take place within indigenous territories without adequate environmental safeguards”, said UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, “a wide array of those communities’ human rights are usually violated or put at risk.” “These are but a few examples of the many challenges continuing to face the international community due to the deterioration of the environment,” the group of experts said. “Now it is time to take this occasion to recognize the fundamental link between a clean and healthy environment to the realization of a wide array of fundamental human rights,” they said. “It is also essential that the international community recognize the critical role that human rights law can play to ensure environmental protection.” Read the release …

UN experts urge World Bank to adopt human rights standards on the eve of key gathering in Washington
OHCHR release, 18 April 2013

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: The UN Special Rapporteurs on extreme poverty, indigenous peoples, right to food, and foreign debt called on the World Bank to adopt human rights standards during the review of its environmental and social safeguard policies which apply to project finance. The review offers an important opportunity for broadening the scope of the World Bank’s safeguard policies in key areas related to human rights such as disability, gender, labor, land tenure, and the rights of indigenous peoples. The first consultation period concluded on 21 April, and a first draft of the revised policies is expected to be released for public comment in the next few months. For the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya “this review is an opportunity for the World Bank to heed the call of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which provides that States, intergovernmental organizations, and UN specialized agencies, including the World Bank, shall promote respect for full application and realization of, its provisions.”“World Bank financed large-scale development projects often have an impact on land used by small-scale farmers, negatively affecting their right to food,” said the Special Rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter. In his view, “the updated safeguard policies must ensure that the voice of affected communities is more effectively heard, through inclusive and participatory impact assessments and through effective accountability mechanisms that provide effective remedies for any harm caused.” Read the release …

Protecting Traditional Knowledge: WIPO Members Back to the Drafting Table
IP Watch, 22 April 2013

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: The 24th session of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), held from 22-26 April 2013, is working on draft articles on the protection of traditional knowledge, in particular the provisions on the subject matter of protection, beneficiaries, scope of protection, and limitations and exceptions. Substantial work needs to be done on the draft text, and developing countries generally favor a legal binding instrument while developed countries would prefer a softer instrument. The meeting will also address a joint recommendation on genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge submitted by Canada, Japan, Norway, the Republic of Korea and the US, focusing on the prevention of erroneous patents, as well as a joint recommendation on the use of databases for the defensive protection of genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources, submitted by Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the US. IGC Vice-Chair Alexandra Grazioli from Switzerland presented the work plan on Monday, 22 April, with the week alternating closed-door informal drafting sessions and plenary sessions to report on progress.

An informal preparatory meeting convened last week by South Africa in Pretoria, aimed to explore basic issues, such as “what does the protection of IP means in WIPO generally,” or why the discussion on the protection of TK is taking place at WIPO and not in the Convention on Biological Diversity or other organisations. Participants also looked at issues such as whether IP protection is relevant to TK, and whether a conventional IP or a sui generis system is preferable for TK. Read the article … Visit the WIPO IGC 24 website … Download the draft articles on TK [pdf] …

Intellectual Property and Traditional Handicrafts
WIPO Background Brief no. 5, April 2013

This brief identifies practical, accessible and often community-based means of using the existing intellectual property system for the effective recognition, protection, management, marketing and commercialization of traditional handicrafts as cultural and economic assets. Download the brief [pdf] …

Intellectual Property and Traditional Medical Knowledge
WIPO Background Brief no. 6, April 2013

This brief focuses on IP protection of traditional medical knowledge; it does not deal with the associated genetic resources, which cannot be directly protected by intellectual property but are subject to access and benefit-sharing regulations. The brief presents legislative and practical options for protecting traditional medical knowledge through conventional IP rights, sui generis systems and documentation, as well as other options including customary laws and practices, and contractual agreements.  Download the brief [pdf] …

Exchange Workshop on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Between the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
5-6 April 2013 (Banjul, The Gambia)

Organized by the African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities (the Working Group) in collaboration with the International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), this workshop aimed at a sharing of experiences among the three regional human rights mechanisms and that of the UN system, and lay the  foundation for future regular and formalized  collaboration and cooperation among them. Participants discussed, among other issues, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and indigenous peoples in Africa with a particular focus on group rights and indigenous peoples’ rights; the African Commission and the implementation of the Endorois ruling; exemplary decisions of the Inter-American Commission and Court on indigenous peoples’ rights and their implementation; and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. It was agreed to enhance collaboration and partnership on, among other areas: sharing of best practices, data and knowledge; undertaking of joint activities targeted towards capacity enhancement, knowledge generation and awareness raising; synchronizing efforts to ensure compliance of states with international/regional human rights norms and standards relevant to the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples; enhancing the technical capacity of indigenous peoples and stakeholders in the three regions to ensure effective implementation of decisions/recommendations of regional and UN human rights mechanisms relevant to indigenous peoples; and development of a joint collaborative strategy for increasing implementation by states of the recommendations of regional and UN human rights mechanisms. Download the final communiqué [pdf] …

Rural Heritage as a Driving Force for Sustainable Development and Terirtorial Cohesion
Maguelonne Dejeant-Pons, MEPIELAN Centre e-bulletin, April 2013

STRASBOURG, FRANCE : In this article, Maguelonne Dejeant-Pons, Head of Division on Policy Development in the Council of Europe, provides an overview of the Pan-European Charter for the rural heritage: promoting sustainable spatial development: ‘Rural heritage as a factor of territorial cohesion’, adopted by the ministers responsible for spatial/regional planning of the member states of the Council of Europe. The Charter seeks to make rural heritage a real asset to its territory, a factor and a driving force for sustainable spatial development, and to play a decisive part in making rural areas more attractive and in the town-country balance. She notes that “Planners now assign a wider definition to heritage, which is considered to include all the tangible or intangible elements that demonstrate the particular relationship that a human community has established with a territory over time.” Read the article …

WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore: Twenty-fourth session
22-26 April 2013 (Geneva, Switzerland)

At its 24th session, the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will continue negotiations on an international instrument/instruments, on the basis of the draft articles on traditional knowledge. The theme of the panel of indigenous and local communities will be: “Indigenous Peoples’ Perspectives on “… the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over … traditional knowledge…” (Article 31, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). Visit the meeting’s website, including meeting documents …

The Role of Customary Law in Access and Benefit-Sharing and Traditional Knowledge Governance: Perspectives from Andean and Pacific Island Countries
Brendan Tobin
WIPO and UNU, April 2013

This paper examines the relationships between customary law, national and international regulation of TK and access to genetic resources and-benefit sharing (ABS), and human rights. It is based upon a desktop analysis of these issues and the deliberations and conclusions of a series of regional and sub-regional workshops held in Andean and South Pacific Island countries between 2003 and 2006. Section I provides an overview of issues relating to protection of TK and recognition of customary law. Section II addresses international recognition of customary law, focusing on the work of the CBD and the WIPO IGC. Section III examines the protection of rights of TK holders under international human rights law. Section IV reviews the status of customary law in Andean and Pacific Island countries. Section V provides an overview of the debates and conclusions of the various workshops. Section VI presents the conclusions of the study and proposals for future action. Download the paper [pdf] …

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