MARAN TO INAUGURATE UNCTAD SEMINAR TOMORROW
Date : 02 Apr 2002
Location : New Delhi
Shri Murasoli Maran, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, will inaugurate an International Seminar on Traditional Knowledge (TK) in New Delhi on 3rd April, 2002. The 3-day Seminar is being hosted by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, and being organised in cooperation with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). It will bring together national experts from India, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Cuba, China, Colombia, Cuba, Kenya, Malaysia, Namibia, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Venezuela, as well as international experts and representatives from intergovernmental organisations. The protection and appropriate commercialisation of traditional knowledge is essential for the sustainable use of biodiversity and can play an important role in the development process. Yet TK is often an under-utilised resource in the development process. It is also being lost or misappropriated.
The objective of the seminar is to identify ways to maximise the trade and development benefits that can be derived from the sustainable use of biodiversity and associated TK. The seminar will pay special attention to traditional and herbal medicines, as India believes that the commercial exploitation of alternative systems of medicine can yield substantial economic and social gains.
The protection of traditional knowledge is an issue of national and international concern. First, TK plays a key role in the preservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. This is highlighted in both the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which will soon be followed by the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, adopted on 3 November 2001. Second, many activities and products based on TK are important sources of income, food and healthcare for large parts of the population in many developing countries. Third, concerns have been raised about how the benefits derived from the use of biodiversity and associated TK are appropriated and shared. For example, India has had to invest in expensive litigation to obtain the revocation of patents that had been granted improperly by foreign patent offices. Fourth, while the need to protect TK and to secure fair and equitable benefit has been fully recognised, there is no agreement on what would be the most appropriate and effective ways to achieve these objectives. Fifth, the long-term sustainable economic development of many indigenous and local communities may depend on their ability to harness their TK for commercial benefit.
The seminar will provide a forum to exchange national experiences in the protection of TK and explore ways to enhance the commercial benefits deriving from its use. Focus will be on the effectiveness of existing systems of protection, such as customary law, intellectual property rights (IPRs), sui generis systems, access and benefit-sharing mechanisms and documentation. Participants, most of whom are from biodiversity-rich developing countries, will prepare the basis for continued cooperation among participating countries in building elements of an internationally-recognised sui generis system to be further discussed in the Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), UNCTAD and other forums.