The workshop participants stressed the important role of traditional medicine in developing countries and reiterated that countries should develop a national traditional medicine policy. This national traditional medicine policy should include the issue of R&D in the area of traditional medicine, the formal recognition of traditional medicine systems and the integration of traditional medicine in the national health care system.
The meeting noted that many activities and products based on traditional knowledge are important sources of income and health care, as well as environmentally sustainable routes to economic development for large parts of the population in many developing countries. The use of traditional medicine and the vast majority of plant genetic resources and other forms of biodiversity are found in, or originate from, developing countries. Access to these resources and the associated traditional knowledge can provide substantial benefits to companies and scientific research centres in both developed and developing countries. There is concern that traditional knowledge is at times appropriated, adapted and patented by scientists and industry, for the most part from developed countries, with little or no compensation to the custodians of this knowledge and without their prior informed consent. This is a trade issue, as traditional knowledge and products derived from traditional knowledge often cross international borders. Developing countries should rally their concern for fair and equitable sharing of benefits.
In view of the above, the workshop made the following recommendations:
1. Countries should have a national policy on traditional medicine as part of the national health policy and countries should develop and utilize traditional medicine in a meaningful manner in the national health care system.
2. Organizational infrastructure of traditional medicine should be developed and/or strengthened and official recognition accorded to it.
3. National and regional strategies should be developed for the protection of traditional medicine with the support of WHO and other international agencies.
4. Ways and means need to be devised and customary laws strengthened for the protection of traditional medicine knowledge of the community from biopiracy.
5. Simultaneously, efforts through technical cooperation among countries need to be made to add value through innovation for public health. Indigenous and local communities should be involved in devising these models.
6. Traditional knowledge which is in the public domain needs to be documented in the form of traditional knowledge digital libraries in the respective countries with the help of WHO to WIPO’s work in this area. Such information needs to be exchanged and disseminated through systems or mechanisms relating to intellectual property rights.
7. WHO, in cooperation with other agencies including UNCTAD, needs to support the initiatives taken by governments of Member States for capacity building, implementation and enforcing the legislation to protect and promote traditional medicine knowledge through training, seminars and workshops. International cooperation should be increased in this area.
8. Governments should develop and use all possible systems including the sui generis model for traditional medicine protection and equitable benefit sharing.
9. Countries should develop guidelines or laws and enforce them to ensure benefit sharing with the community for commercial use of traditional knowledge.
10. Traditional knowledge should be recognized in the form and concepts of the traditional medicine system of a particular country, and not necessarily on a western model.
11. Efforts should be made to utilize the flexibility provided under the TRIPS Agreement with a view to promoting easy access to traditional medicine for the health care needs of developing countries.