GENEVA – Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) embody significant innovation and creativity and contribute to the diversity and richness of the planet’s civilizations and cultures. They also contribute to the cultural identity, sustainable development and social cohesion of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and, globally, to the conservation of the environment, the promotion of food security and the advancement of public health.
The enhanced promotion, preservation and protection of TK and TCEs are called for by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, who seek greater control over if and how their TK and TCEs are accessed and used outside the traditional context.
Indigenous Peoples and local communities have, therefore, a direct stake in the negotiations underway at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) with the objective of reaching agreement on an international legal instrument or instruments which will ensure the effective protection of TK and TCEs. The negotiations also address the relationship between intellectual property and genetic resources, another issue of seminal interest and importance for Indigenous Peoples. The negotiations take place within the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (the IGC).
In this regard, this year’s theme for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, “Indigenous peoples building alliances: Honoring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements”, advocates for the need to respect and promote the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples. The United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) reflects a global understanding on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and it directly addresses intellectual property protection in its Article 31, which refers to Indigenous Peoples’ “right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions”.