TOWARDS A BIODIVERSITY COMMUNITY RIGHTS REGIME

by GRAIN | 25 Oct 1995

October 1995

TOWARDS A BIODIVERSITY COMMUNITY RIGHTS REGIME

GRAIN

In a world increasingly moving towards privatisation and a free market system, pressure is growing for the commodification of the biological resources of the gene-rich South. One of the main tools used to privatise biological diversity is Northern-style intellectual property rights (IPRs), which disregard the traditional rights of indigenous and local communities over their resources and associated knowledge. Some of these issues are up for discussion at the next meeting of Convention on Biological Diversity, to be held this November in Indonesia. In this article we present a proposal for the establishment of a Local Community Rights Regime, to be incorporated both in the Biodiversity Convention and in the FAO Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources.

 

When abstract references are made to the world's poor, many conjure images of famine and lack of resources, often coupled with the belief those are the result of self-inflicted "backward" attitudes that resist "development". When progressive social actors -- such as peoples' organisations, NGOs, some university and government sectors -- refer to the poor they often mean those communities that have been stripped of their rights to knowledge and resources, with the resulting lose of lifestyles and livelihood means. In the current discussions on peoples' rights to biological and other resources, two distinct groups are arguing for recognition of their communal rights: indigenous peoples and local farming (fishing, hunting, pastoral) communities. While there is a clear overlap between the two groups (many indigenous people farm, and many farmers are indigenous peoples), there are also important differences, especially in relation to the legal recognition and rights indigenous peoples have already achieved. But first, let us consider the commonalities.

The use of the broad concept of "local communities" (including farmers and indigenous peoples) encompasses a large array of different organisational and cultural realities, yet there seems to be a consensus on some basic points of reference:

* Possession of, or access to, traditional knowledge on ecosystem management, even if that knowledge has been eroded;

* Special relationships with their environment that often include cultural, spiritual, social, economic, and technological elements;

* Collective attitudes towards the ownership, use, custodianship, stewardship, sharing, and enjoyment of resources, even if there are internal/external means of individual usufruct/possession;

* Long experience as nurturers of biological diversity as part of their life-sustaining knowledge and cultural cosmovision;

* A shared sense of community, acquired through historical bonds or circumstantial events.

Local farming communities

The majority of the world population depends, to some extent, on self-sufficiency for their food supply and health care. Most of the rural communities in the developing countries are farming communities with integrated production systems that provide not only food and medicinals, but a whole array of other resources, such as fuel, shelter, organic fertilisers and clothing. Large numbers of the urban poor in developing countries also practice some form of subsistence farming.

Despite the fact that agriculture has formed the backbone for economic development since it began, and that farmers represent the vast majority of the people in many countries, policies to support local farming communities and legislation to help them improve their livelihoods have often been minimal or entirely lacking. Local farming communities and their members have become subjects of national law, international commerce and policies developed in the cities. Distance from the urban power centres has accentuated their lack of political clout. In developing countries, the extraction of rural wealth is generally accompanied by reduced access to education and other basic social services. Seen against this background, the recent recognition of traditional local farming societies in international law as special and distinct communities is an important development.

The concept of Farmers' Rights, as introduced in the FAO's International Undertaking (IU) on Plant Genetic Resources in 1989 offers a recognition of farmers as nurturers ("conserving, improving, and making available...") of plant genetic resources (see Box). "Farming communities" are mentioned in the context of natural resource management. Although the original concept does not specifically give rights to farmers and their communities (Farmers' Rights are "vested in the International Community"), it is currently under renegotiation and there are many different interpretations of the meaning and scope of Farmers' Rights being discussed. This concept has great potential for future development, especially if it is expanded to include the rights of farming communities over their genetic resources, as has already been proposed by the Group of 77 (which includes the majority of the developing countries) .

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) refers to the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities and rights derived from their conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity (Article 8j, see Box). Although this clause is mediated by the reference "subject to national legislation", it is the first time an international convention has recognised such rights. The role of local communities was extensively analysed in a paper prepared by the CBD Interim Secretariat in 1994: "Indigenous and local communities have been developing, conserving and sustainably using the biological resources of their lands and territories for centuries...they are ultimately responsible for implementing any conservation policy on the ground." The recognition of the importance and rights of these communities will be subject of formal discussion among the Parties at COP-III in 1996.

Indigenous peoples

There are some key considerations which distinguish the fight for rights of indigenous peoples from that of farming communities. In general indigenous peoples have a longer tradition of self-organisation than the more heterogeneous local farming communities. They tend to have a clearer identity and have been working for a long time at national and international (UN) levels for formal recognition.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169, on Indigenous and Tribal and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, which was signed in 1989, upholds indigenous peoples' rights to control their own economic, social and cultural development. Article 13(1) establishes that governments "shall respect the special importance of the cultures and spiritual values of the peoples concerned, and their relationship with the lands and/or territories which they occupy or otherwise use, and in particular the collective aspects of this relationship."

Self-definition and self-determination have been widely accepted as the main criteria for identification of indigenous peoples. While self-determination has been recognised by the United Nations for nation-states, no international convention has positively affirmed that such a right applies to indigenous peoples. However, self-determination has been included in the draft Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, currently being developed by the UN Commission on Human Rights. This is important since this right offers great potential for the protection and control of traditional and communal knowledge and resources. The draft also specifically includes the rights of indigenous peoples over biodiversity: "Indigenous peoples also have the right to own, develop, control and use the lands and territories, including the total environment of the lands, air, water, coastal seas, sea-ice, flora and fauna and other resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used."

Towards a legal framework

Faced with similar problems in relation to their traditional resources, indigenous peoples and local farming communities would benefit from synergy in the face of the current privatisation challenges. Certain key elements are common to a rights regime for most local communities. Nevertheless, it is important that in extending the hard-fought for rights established by indigenous communities into the wider arena of local community rights, care be taken to avoid jeopardising their existing conquests. Synergy should lead to greater overall empowerment of all groups.

The first step to the development of a legal framework for the full articulation of local farming and indigenous communities rights related to biodiversity, must be their recognition as:

1) Stewards of knowledge (cultural, intellectual and scientific) and resources, with important roles in the conservation, use and management of genetic, biological and ecosystem resources.

2) Innovators in the arena of biodiversity. Their collective knowledge systems must be recognised as the result of timeless intelligent innovation, and their technology as the end product of the proven application of such knowledge.

3) Practitioners of traditionally sustainable production systems. This applies both to the continued development of such systems, and to the potential of such systems to contribute to the international sustainable development agenda.

Once a consensus is achieved on the special characteristics of local and indigenous communities, the next step is the articulation of rights for control over resources, both tangible and intangible. The recognition of rights over biodiversity at the local level has to lead to increased control over biodiversity management at that same level. Darrell Posey, of the Traditional Resources Rights (TRR) Programme, proposes that we are faced with a bundle of rights that can be utilised for protection, compensation, and conservation of knowledge and traditional resources central to the maintenance of indigenous peoples' identity. TRR unites a whole array of rights that already exist in international law and non-binding international agreements ('soft law') and existing practice, to strengthen the position of indigenous peoples (and we would argue local farming communities as well) before their national governments and the international community. Since many traditional communities have cosmovisions which challenge or oppose Northern reductionism paradigms, TRR helps to bridge basic conceptual differences between Northern property paradigms and other traditional ways of understanding ownership and belonging.

On the following pages, we identify three types of rights in the arena of biodiversity that would be applicable to both local farming communities and indigenous peoples, and could form the basis for a rights system that retains and/or returns control to the local level.

Heritage Rights

A special report of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on the cultural and intellectual property of indigenous peoples defines heritage as: "everything that belongs to the distinct identity of a people and which is theirs to share, if they wish, with other people. It includes all things which international law regards as the creative production of human thought and craftsmanship, such as songs, stories, scientific knowledge and artworks. It also includes inheritances from the past and from nature, such as human remains, the natural features of the landscape, and naturally occurring species of plants and animals with which a people has long been connected." (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/28, 28 July 1993)

Even though the concept of heritage has been mainly developed within the discussion on indigenous peoples' rights, there are important elements that could and should be extended to all culturally distinct groups, such as traditional farming communities. Heritage is not perceived as property, but in terms of community and individual responsibility: it is a bundle of relationships, rather than a bundle of economic rights. An "object" has no meaning outside the context of those relationships. For indigenous peoples (and for most traditional farming communities), there are no Northern-style distinctions between intellectual and cultural property, between art and science, between creative inspiration and logical analysis. As the ECOSOC report puts it: "...all products of the human mind and hearth [are regarded] as interrelated, and as flowing from the same source: the relationships between the people and their land, their kinship with other living creatures that share the land, and with the spirit world."

The loss of traditional knowledge and surrounding ecosystems is strongly linked to the destruction of local communities and the extinction of their cultures. Traditional knowledge and resources must therefore be protected in order to guarantee the right to cultural survival. The logical extension of the above concept of property based on heritage is that the protection of both cultural and intellectual components is essential and indivisible, and crucial for cultural and economic survival and development. Heritage Rights are rights to the ownership and control of knowledge and resources.

The concept of Heritage clearly extends to biodiversity and to farming communities, and is applicable in both the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the FAO International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources (IU). The IU initially defined plant genetic resources as the heritage of mankind, a concept which was later qualified to include the notion of national sovereignty. The Undertaking is now being re-negotiated to bring it in line with the CBD. We feel the IU should also include the notion of local heritage rights if the already accepted Farmers' Rights are to be taken seriously. Similarly, the CBD recognises the contribution and rights of local and indigenous communities, and when it comes to defining the implementation of its Article 8j, Heritage Rights should form one of its basic elements.

Territorial Rights

Tenurial rights for indigenous peoples have been recognised under international law in the 1989 ILO Convention 169: "The right of ownership, collective or individual, of the members of the population concerned over the lands which these population traditionally occupy shall be recognised." Territorial rights are further guaranteed in the draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, based on the distinctive and profound relationship with the total environment of lands, territories, and resources.

If indigenous peoples -- and, we would argue, most traditional local farming communities -- have a special inalienable relationship with the land, land tenure is indivisible from control over traditional knowledge and resources. The ECOSOC study quoted earlier takes this as a starting point: "The protection of cultural and intellectual property is connected fundamentally with the realisation of the territorial rights and self-determination of indigenous peoples."

In a report of the Commission on Food Security, the FAO states that "land tenure rights could lead to increased [food] production". Considerable literature and experiences support this statement. Land tenure would also lead to more sustainable ecosystem management and conservation. Unless local communities have long-term security over the land they work, they will not be able to invest in the long-term measures that are needed to conserve, maintain, and further develop agricultural biodiversity. Since traditional technology is locality specific, it can be argued that the right to the use and development of such technology should be tied to tenurial rights. This notion is not only relevant for indigenous peoples, but also for farming communities and for the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity at the local level.

Both the IU and the CBD offer ample opportunities to incorporate Territorial and Tenurial rights into their already agreed texts and principles. One of the guiding principles of both Farmers' Rights (in the IU) and the rights of local and indigenous communities (in the CBD) could very well be increased security over the land through the incorporation of Territorial and Tenurial rights.

Communal rights

One of the greatest drawbacks of Northern-style property rights is that they are individual and privately held. Seen from the perspective discussed above, heritage embodies a communal right, and territoriality stems from a collective relationship to the land. Both heritage and territoriality are inalienable, non-individual rights. Both of them are elements of communal rights which have been recognised for indigenous peoples by international law. We argue that such recognition must also be extended to local farming communities, especially as they relate to the management and conservation of biodiversity at the local level.

One of the basic foundations of communal rights is collective ownership. Collective ownership is not time-framed, but refer to past, present and future rights. It is accretional, informal, and includes cumulative innovations and knowledge over long periods of time.

Communal rights may serve to justify the sharing of benefits, but in addition they should be a tool to enhance control over resources and knowledge, and provide an incentive for their use and further development. The right to collective property should lead to a recognition of non-Northern collective intellectual property rights. If defined well, both Farmers' Rights (in the IU) and the rights of local and indigenous communities (in the CBD, Article 8j.) could be mechanisms for such rights as they relate to genetic resources and biodiversity. Communal rights would also be a step in the right direction for the definitions of sui generis rights as called for in the GATT/TRIPs agreement (Article 27.3), and also to meet the call for "adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights" in the CBD (Article 16.2).

There is not - and should not be - one linear and uniform rights system to cover all the issues at stake. It is important to retain the bundle of rights concept. Heritage, Territoriality and Communal Rights, are all part of the bundle. One important advantage of this approach is that it goes beyond the typical "technology/cash for biodiversity swap", which is dominating the minds of international negotiators. The rights regimes discussed here are also intended to provide increased control over biological resources by local and indigenous communities, to improve their livelihoods, and to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.

The pending international agenda

There are many different fora where the issue of rights over, and access to, biodiversity is being discussed. These fora operate at the international level (such as CBD, FAO and GATT), at the regional level (such as the Andean Pact and other free trade zones), and at the national level. Here we focus mainly on negotiations at the international level, especially FAO and CBD, but the issues are important at all three levels. The three main issue areas are:

1. National Sovereignty or Local Control?

Negotiations at the international level are carried out by governments on behalf of their people. This presents both problems and opportunities for implementing locally controlled rights regimes. One problem is that many governments agree to one thing at the international level, but do different back home. The opportunity is that international agreements have the potential to be used as tools to exert pressure at national and local levels in order to change policies and practices. In that sense, the fight for a community rights system at the international level is nothing more that the struggle to create space for those working for change at national and local levels.

International discussions on the legal status of biodiversity have taken some important turns over recent years. In the early 1980s, when developing countries took the discussion on plant genetic resources to the FAO, their strategy was to fight for free access to all genetic resources, including those held by the North and developed by private industry. In response, the IU incorporated the concept of all genetic resources being common heritage of mankind, freely available to all. The North immediately (and rightly) saw this as an attack on their IPR systems, and most industrialised countries formally put up objections to the IU. By the end of the 1980s, after a decade of further privatisation and strengthening of IPR systems in the North, the South had to conclude that the common heritage strategy had not worked. It then moved towards the position that genetic resources -- and biodiversity in general --are subject to national sovereignty. This concept was formally incorporated into the IU in 1991, and constitutes one of the basic premises of the CBD signed in 1992.

The concept of national sovereignty has been both applauded and criticised. In any case, there is a clear need to define the relationship between state rights and those of local communities, if states are to increasingly assume sovereignty over natural and biological resources, to avoid undermining the role -- and further disempowerment -- of those managing biodiversity at the local level. In the end, national legislation is needed that clearly defines the relationship between governments and local communities within their territory. Such legislation should guarantee effective communal rights, while at the same time meeting the obligations acquired through adherence to international conventions. In this context, a distinction should be made between rights of indigenous peoples to self determination, as already internationally recognised, and those of local farming communities in general. Indigenous peoples claim what was historically theirs as nations, while non-indigenous local farming communities must construe their rights before the state.

The justification for sovereign states multilaterally agreeing on measures to promote community rights is twofold. Both the CBD (in Article 8j) and in the IU (through Farmers' Rights) recognise that farmers and local and indigenous communities have rights to their biological diversity and associated knowledge, and that these rights need further definition and implementation. Both the CBD and the IU recognise that these communities play an important role in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and that this role should be protected and promoted; one way of doing so is to implement community rights over biodiversity.

International agreements could play an important role in setting minimum standards for national legislation on community rights. In 1994, the CBD Interim Secretariat listed a number of measures that governments may consider for the implementation of the CBD's obligations to local and indigenous communities under Article 8j. These recommendations include: State recognition of communal rights; State recognition of appropriately-defined forms of indigenous property rights, including the ability to control access to genetic resources within their territory and control over production and marketing; access to the formal legal system and to financial and technical resources; and the modification of "perverse" genetic resource and agricultural policies. These, and other measures that promote comprehensive community rights, could be further defined and incorporated -- as an agreed interpretation -- of both the CBD and the IU.

2. Access granted by whom, benefit sharing with whom?

Central to the international biodiversity discussion is the question of conditions to access to biological resources. The main problem with the discussions on access in both the CBD and the IU is that it comes in language clearly geared towards facilitating access to raw genetic resources and associated knowledge for northern industrial sectors -- the typical resources for technology/funding deal. Industrialised countries want guaranteed access to genetic resources and are ready to exchange it for money and technology.

Related to access, both the CBD and the IU (as is now being renegotiated) talk about sharing the benefits. In the CBD, the benefits are shared through "the mutually agreed terms" on which access is granted. In a renegotiated IU the benefits would ideally be shared through a multilateral framework which includes an expanded Farmers' Rights concept. However, when dealing with these matters, it must be borne in mind that international agreements are negotiated and signed by the "contracting parties" (the governments), with little references to local actors involved in biodiversity management.

In line with our argument for a bundle of community rights based on Heritage, Territoriality and Communality, the interpretation of the conditions to access should go much further. As has been made clear so far, for local communities access is a matter of control, including the right to say NO to any proposal for the collection or commercialisation of their biodiversity. This has important implications for the mutually agreed terms on which access is granted. It implies prior informed consent also from the local communities involved, the direct sharing of the benefits (financially or otherwise) with the same communities, and full participation of those communities in the definition of the mutually agreed terms and in the process of defining and implementing overall national policies related to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Perhaps most importantly, it also implies a direct challenge on the Northern IPR system as a way to share benefits, to the extent that it undermines traditional community practices and rights structures.

While they may seem a far cry from the current CBD and IU agreements, these interpretations are fully in line with the agreed texts. For example, in the CBD, although the Articles on access (15 and 16) do not specifically mention the role of local communities, other Articles do. Article 8j calls upon each Contracting Party to encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits resulting from the use of traditional knowledge and innovation by others. This indicates that equitable sharing should not only be between, but also within countries. In the CBD Article on sustainable use (Article 10), Parties also commit themselves to promoting the customary use of biological resources and to support local populations to develop remedial actions, all activities which would be promoted through a comprehensive community rights regime. On the other hand, the fact that the IU is currently under renegotiation gives ample opportunities to recognise and implement community rights. The very recognition that Farmers' Rights exist and should be implemented gives enough space for an holistic approach as to whom should be involved in defining access. In fact, the IU already grants farmers (and breeders) the right to decide over access to their materials: "breeders lines and farmers breeding material should only be available at the discretion of their developers..."

To sum up, the framework for developing a comprehensive community rights scheme in relation to access to genetic resources already exists in the current agreements. It is a question of political will to implement them.

3. Bilateral or Multilateral?

A third important issue in relation to the implementation of a community rights regime is the question whether the international agreements involved should be based on bilateral or multilateral approaches, or both. In this respect there is an important difference between the CBD and the IU. The CBD specifies that agreements (especially related to access and benefit sharing) should be reached on mutually agreed terms between the Contracting Parties. Although not specified, much of the language in -- and intentions behind -- the Convention is geared toward facilitating bilateral agreements. This is problematic and dangerous, as bilateral negotiations tend to play off weak and strong partners against each other, in which the stronger one (typically a company or industrialised country in search of access) ends up setting the conditions for the deal.

The IU, as it is now being renegotiated, tries to develop a broad, multilateral approach to the conservation, use and sharing of the benefits of plant genetic resources important for agriculture (without excluding bilateral deals). The rationale is that, in the case of agricultural biodiversity, there is a long history of free exchange of genetic resources, resulting in mutual dependence on genetic resources of all countries. Additionally, an institutional system is already in place, at least for the materials conserved ex-situ. While these arguments hold true, a broad multilateral agreement also embodies risks. The main danger is that unless the agreement states very specifically the rules of the game with respect to a community rights regime and an access regime based on it, the deal ends up legitimising the current status quo that has allowed the appropriation of genetic resources. In fact, much of the criticism of the Farmers' Rights concept as embodied in the IU from the side of local and indigenous communities, stems precisely from that concern.

In this context, it is of the greatest importance that the implementation of the CBD and the renegotiation of the IU are carried out in close harmony. At the moment there is a clear case for the negotiations on agricultural biodiversity to be carried out in a specialised forum such as FAO Commission on Plant Genetic Resources, but ultimately the two processes should be tied together. GRAIN has already proposed that the renegotiated IU be incorporated into the CBD through a special protocol on agricultural biodiversity.

To avoid the pitfalls of both strictly bilateral and multilateral approaches, the rules of the game related to rights, access, and benefit sharing should be clearly spelled out. The Parties to the CBD should develop a clear understanding of minimum conditions which any bilateral access framework should meet. Such an understanding should include a comprehensive community rights regime as outlined earlier in this paper. At the same, the renegotiation of the IU should lead to a comprehensive multilateral agreement on agricultural biodiversity, in which Farmers' Rights are defined and implemented along the same lines. Unless community rights are clearly entrenched both in the CBD and in the IU, biodiversity will simply become even more a simple commodity for those who can afford to pay, and for those who happen to be in the position to set the conditions for sale.

Towards a sui generis rights system

The conclusions from the above discussion on the current international negotiations and instruments are threefold:

First, national sovereignty over biodiversity is not incompatible with a strong community rights system based on Heritage, Territoriality and Communality, that retains and/or devolves part of the control over biodiversity to local farming and indigenous communities.

Second, neither the rules in the CBD that access be based on mutually agreed terms, nor the intention of the IU to reach a multilateral agreement on access to agricultural biodiversity with the least possible restrictions, are in conflict with a strong role for participation of local and indigenous communities in the setting of the terms and conditions to such access.

Third, bilateral and multilateral agreements, within both the CBD and the IU, need a clear definition of the rules of the game with respect to rights, access, and benefit sharing based on a community rights regime. This is a precondition to make sure that the objectives of both instruments (conservation, sustainable use and the sharing of benefits) are met, and to avoid a situation whereby some of the most important actors in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity (local and indigenous communities) are further marginalised in the process.

Perhaps the best way to incorporate a community rights regime into both the CBD and the IU is by developing a sui generis rights system for local and indigenous communities. Such a system should be based on the principles of Heritage, Territoriality and Communality as discussed earlier and should truly protect the biological resources and related knowledge of such communities while at the same time furthering the objectives of both the CBD and the IU. In the CBD such a sui generis system could be build upon its Article 8j, as an agreed interpretation of all Contracting Parties. In the IU, it should be part of the wording of Farmers' Rights which is currently under negotiation.

Proposals for a sui generis system to protect biodiversity resources and innovation are already being worked on at regional and national levels. The committee of experts preparing legislation for the Andean Pact countries has already suggested the development of a parallel sui generis collective rights system for communities, based on recognition of communal rights, and on the indivisibility of traditional resources and associated knowledge. In Colombia, India, and the Philippines similar proposals are being discussed at the national level.

Due to the myriad of cultures, knowledge systems and communities involved, it is impossible to provide an international blueprint for a sui generis system. The aim for international institutions would be to facilitate legislation and implementation at the national level. To this end, the CBD and IU need to incorporate the main principles and elements of such a system, call upon their Parties to legislate and implement them, provide for technical and political assistance, and facilitate monitoring mechanisms to assess progress. None of this can be done without the full and equitable participation of the local and indigenous communities concerned, both at the national and international levels.

The design of sui generis systems should be, and is, compatible with other international agreements, specifically the GATT-TRIPs agreement. This agreement calls for an effective sui generis system, specifically for plants. Although the word effective was undoubtedly included by industrialised countries to reflect their concerns that the inventions of their industries be sufficiently protected, both the COP of the CBD and the governments renegotiating the IU could and should argue that no sui generis system is effective and complete without the full recognition of the rights of local and indigenous communities. In any case, the agreements specifically dealing with biodiversity, such as the CBD and the IU, should have primacy over the more general GATT agreement on this matter.

Finally, there is the question of compatibility of such a sui generis system with the current Northern IPR systems as applied to biodiversity. While there might be areas where the two systems can peacefully co-exist, there will also be areas where the Northern IPR system undermines the conservation of biodiversity in general and the role of local and indigenous communities in particular, and thus is in conflict with the CBD, the IU, and the proposed sui generis system. The CBD includes a clear demand on its Parties to ensure that the current IPR system is supportive of and does not run counter to the objectives of the Convention (Article 16.5). One of the Convention's objectives is to ensure the equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of biodiversity, which is also one of the aims of the proposed sui generis system. In that respect the COP of the CBD must regularly review where and how current IPRs systems and practices harm the objectives of the Convention and the objectives of the proposed sui generis system, in order to work towards changes in IPRs laws that make them compatible with the conservation, use and equitable sharing of the benefits of biological diversity.

The fight against monopolistic Northern-style IPR is central to the wider struggle for peoples' rights to control over their livelihoods in general and their biological resources in particular. For farming and local communities, indigenous peoples, the urban poor, and the NGOs and others who work with them, this is not just another faddish issue. It is central to the wider democratic sustainable development political agenda. Local alternatives have little chance of success without freedom from wider macroeconomics policies that are out to destroy them.

This Article has been edited from a longer report prepared by GRAIN: Towards a Biodiversity Local Community Rights Regime, published in our Disclosures series. Copies of the fully footnoted and referenced document are available upon request from GRAIN.

 

Selected sources:

* Cameron, J. and Makuch, Z., The UN biodiversity Convention and the WTO TRIPs Agreement. WWF, Gland, June 1995.

* Colchester, Marcus, Salvaging Nature: Indigenous peoples, protected areas and biodiversity conservation, UNRISD, WRM, WWF, Geneva, September 1994, 76 pp.

* Crucible Group, People, Plants, and Patents, IDRC, Ottawa, 1994.

* Fernandez, P.G., Zamora, O.B., and Lara, F.J.(eds.), IPR Sourcebook: Philippines, UPLBCA-MODE, 1995.

* GRAIN, Agricultural Biodiversity in the Convention, BioBriefing No. 4, part one, Barcelona, June 1994.

* ICCBD Interim Secretariat, The rights of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles: experience and potential for implementation of Article 8(j) of the Convention on Biological Diversity, UNEP/CBD/IC/2/14, 20 May 1994, Nairobi.

* Pimbert, MP, and Pretty, UN, Parks, People and Professionals: Putting participation into protected area management. UNRISD, IIED, WWF, Geneva, 1995.

* Posey, Darrell, Traditional Resources Rights (TRR)Handbook, IDRC, Ottawa, 1995 (in press as of October).

* RAFI, Conserving Indigenous Knowledge: Integrating Two Systems of Innovation, UNDP, Geneva, 1994.

* Shelton, Dinah, Fair Play, Fair Pay: Laws to Preserve Traditional Knowledge and Biological Resources, WWF, Gland, 1995.

* Singh Nijar, G, A Conceptual Framework and Essential Elements of a Rights Regime for the Protection of Indigenous Rights and Biodiversity, in Biodiversity Convention Briefings, Third World Network, Penang, 1994.

* Swaminathan, M.S.(ed.), Farmers' Rights and Plant Genetic Resources: Recognition and Reward: A Dialogue, Macmillan India Ltd., Madras, 1995.

Author: GRAIN