UN intellectual property watchdog to assist work of indigenous representatives

27 April 2006

The head of the United Nations agency that protects ownership of intellectual property today welcomed the creation of a fund to boost the involvement of indigenous and other local communities in efforts to protect their cultural knowledge and arts from misuse in the world market.

“This mechanism meets a long-standing need to provide practical support for representatives of these communities to participate actively in the process of establishing international standards to prevent the misappropriation of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions,” Kamil Idris, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), said.

The fund was created at the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, which is meeting in Geneva from 24 to 28 April.

WIPO says its programme in this area was launched in 1998 with a series of consultations with indigenous and local communities in over 60 locations around the world, culminating in a report on the needs and expectations of holders of traditional knowledge.

Over 130 observers, the majority representing indigenous and local communities, have been accredited by the Intergovernmental Committee to participate in its work by relating their experiences and concerns regarding cultural and related genetic resources.

The fund makes such participation possible for communities that cannot otherwise raise the costs of sending a representative.

So far, the Swedish International Biodiversity Programme (‘SwedBio’) and the Government of France announced contributions of 500,000 Swedish Krona and 20,000 Euros, respectively, to the fund.