Friday, June 3, 2016

WIPO indigenous peoples' representation still lacking

Nelson Kantule, from the Kuna Peoples in Panama (Kunas unidos por la madre tierra), and Preston Hardison, policy analyst for the Tulalip Tribes in the United States, were interviewed recently by IP-Watch about the current ongoing negotiations about intellectual property and traditional knowledge at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

WIPO traditional knowledge negotiations have long failed to include sufficient representation by indigenous peoples, and have been ongoing for many years with few, if any, results.  Chapter 9, "The role and inclusion of indigenous peoples in international copyright", of my book International Copyright and Access to Knowledge,  recounts this history of failure and places it in the context of indigenous peoples' representation in the United Nations more broadly.  

I note that in 2007,  the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the UN General Assembly.  Article 18 of that declaration provides that “Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.”

WIPO’s efforts to implement Article 18 have been deemed inadequate by some indigenous peoples, and WIPO has been called on by the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to improve its implementation of the declaration.

Indigenous peoples' representation at WIPO has been so bad that in February 2012 most indigenous observer delegates to the IGC stood and walked out of IGC negotiations in protest of “the continuing reduction in the quantity and level of their participation.”

In May 2012, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues chastised WIPO, issuing a number of recommendations to WIPO aimed at addressing some of the problems that had been identified.  It called on states “to organize regional and national consultations to enable indigenous peoples to prepare for and participate effectively in sessions of the Intergovernmental Committee” (p. 9-10).

As of my last check, the Forum's recommendations had not yet been addressed by WIPO, and Kantule and Hardison's account seems to confirm that WIPO's response has been inadequate.