The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) (http://www.cites.org/index.html) entered into force in July 1975 and now has a membership of 125 countries. These countries act by banning commercial exploitation of an agreed list of endangered species of flora and fauna, and by regulating and monitoring trade in others that might become endangered. The Secretariat of the Convention is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme and helps countries to implement CITES by providing interpretation of its provisions, and implementation advice. The Secretariat also runs projects to help improve implementation, such as training seminars, and to examine the status of species in trade, to ensure that their exploitation remains within sustainable limits.
The mandate of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (http://www.fao.org/) is to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, improve agricultural productivity, and better the conditions of rural populations. A specific priority of the organization is to encourage sustainable agriculture and rural development, including a long-term strategy for the conservation and management of natural resources. Since the 1980s, FAO's Forestry Department has been producing a series of documents on non-wood forest products - some of which include medicinal plants - with information on national policies, conservation, and related research data and activities. FAO has collaborated with WHO on developing the latter's Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants by providing research data.
The principal goals of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (http://www.unctad.org/) are to maximize the trade, investment and development opportunities of developing countries, and to help them face challenges arising from globalization. Many of the world's products are based on traditional knowledge and represent major sources of income, food and health care. Likewise, most plant genetic resources and other forms of biodiversity originate from or are found in developing countries. UNCTAD is accordingly heavily involved in the issue of protection of traditional knowledge. Currently, it is responding to concern that TM knowledge is at times misappropriated. Collaboration between UNCTAD and WHO is still at an early stage but in 2000 included WHO attendance at UNCTAD's Expert Meeting on Systems and National Experiences for Protecting Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices, and UNCTAD representation at the WHO Interregional Workshop on Intellectual Property Rights in the Context of Traditional Medicine, held in Bangkok.
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) (http://www.unido.org/) helps developing countries and transition economies to pursue sustainable industrial development. In particular, it seeks to address concerns relating to competitive economy, sound environment and productive employment at the policy, institutional and enterprise levels. In 1986, a UNIDO meeting of experts recommended that research, development and distribution of herbal medicines be widely encouraged and incorporated into health delivery systems, especially in developing countries.
The UNIDO Third Consultation on the Pharmaceutical Industry, in 1987, recommended that UNIDO support industrial use of medicinal plants, including factory production of herbal medicines, improved technology for producing herbal medicines, and development of technology for standardizing production of herbal medicines. UNIDO currently supports developing countries in their efforts to build industrial capacity to produce herbal medicines. UNIDO has participated in a WHO consultation to develop the WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) (http://www.wipo.org/) is "dedicated to promoting the use and protection of works of the human spirit." It administers 21 international treaties dealing with different aspects of intellectual property protection. In 1998, WIPO Member States requested the Organization to initiate a work programme on intellectual property and traditional knowledge. Since then, WIPO has conducted the Asian Regional Seminar on Intellectual Property Issues in the Field of Traditional Medicine (in New Delhi, in October 1998), and worked with UNEP on two case studies on the role of intellectual property rights in the sharing of benefits arising from use of medicinal plants and associated TM knowledge. It has also undertaken fact-finding missions on intellectual property and traditional know-ledge (1998 - 1999) and conducted two roundtables on intellectual property and traditional knowledge. It has also developed a sample Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), including information on about 50 medicinal plants and associated traditional knowledge. WIPO has invited WHO to participate in its meetings and requested WHO cooperation in developing TKDLs.