Ms Maria Perez-Esteve of UNCTAD, Geneva, presented a paper on this subject.
The importance of protecting the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities (traditional knowledge, TK) is increasingly recognized in international forums. Developing countries seek to ensure that the benefits of cumulative innovation associated with TK accrue to its holders while enhancing their socioeconomic development. They also aim at preventing the improper appropriation of TK, with little or no compensation to the custodians of TK and without their prior informed consent.
UNCTAD’s presentation highlighted possible instruments for the protection of traditional medicine knowledge, including traditional/customary law, modern intellectual property rights instruments, sui generis systems, documentation of TK and instruments directly linked to benefit-sharing. In addition to national systems, the protection of TK and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of biodiversity resources and associated TK may also require measures by user countries or cooperation at the multilateral level.
Ms Perez-Esteve emphasized the fact that protection of TK is a necessary, but not sufficient, requirement for its preservation and further development. To harness TK for development and trade, developing countries need assistance in building national capacity in terms of raising awareness of the importance and potential of TK for development and trade; developing institutional and consultative mechanisms on TK protection and TK-based innovation; and facilitating the identification and marketing of TK-based products and services. There is also a need to promote an exchange of experience among developing countries on national strategies for TK development, sui generis systems for the protection of TK and the commercialization of TK-based products and services.
At the end of the presentation, the UNCTAD representative reported on the outcome of the Expert Meeting including the recommendations at the (i) national level; (ii) multilateral level, and (iii) recommendations to UNCTAD.