Indigenous Groups Allege Canadian Obstructionism To Biodiversity ABS Protocol 21/10/2010 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Much of our best content is available only to IP Watch subscribers. We are a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. NAGOYA, JAPAN – With the clock ticking and less than a day to go before a draft of a legally binding instrument to prevent biopiracy is due to be presented to the assembly of a major United Nations meeting on biodiversity, delegations kept trying to find acceptable language, with different echoes coming from the negotiating room. Meanwhile, Canadian indigenous people convened a press briefing today (21 October) to charge that Canada was trying to block the negotiations and deny their human rights. A group of Canadian indigenous peoples representatives held the briefing to protest the position Canada adopted yesterday evening, when it opposed a preambular text “noting the significance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (UNDRIP) in the Access and Benefit Sharing protocol, according to the group. “Canada insisted that the reference to the UNDRIP be both bracketed and deleted” from the text, the group said at the press conference. A press release is available here. Canada is undermining indigenous peoples’ rights but also biodiversity as a whole, the group said. Canada could stall negotiations even if they stand alone in their position, as the protocol needs consensus on language and content, the group said. An even worse scenario would be that no parties support the indigenous peoples and that the language really is taken out of the protocol, they said. Armand MacKenzie, executive director of the Innu Council of Nitassinan (Innu Nation), said at the briefing, “you cannot claim to be a champion of human rights on one hand and at the same time oppose the most widely accepted international charter in relation to indigenous peoples rights.” The holders and owners of much of the world’s biodiversity and traditional knowledge are indigenous peoples, the group said, and “the Canadian government has been undermining the human rights of the world’s Indigenous peoples since 2006, both at home and internationally,” said Paul Joffe, a lawyer representing the Grand Council of the Crees. International human rights set up standards for most vulnerable peoples, MacKenzie said, but “Canada along with other countries have been introducing language that weakens more and more those standards and leave them as the lowest common denominator,” which prevent indigenous peoples to advance their rights in those processes. “This protocol in its present state and form will allow more exploitations of traditional knowledge to continue,” Gabriel said. “We depend on biodiversity, our identity as indigenous peoples is linked to our relationship and our dependency on the land. This is kind of a disturbing discussion on access and benefit sharing because, really, we are at the mercy of states in this particular discussion,” she said. “We were left in a vulnerable position,” said Gabriel, as indigenous peoples’ ability to propose text relies on the support of government parties. “Our rights have been weakened in the protocol itself,” she said. “Canada [doesn’t] wish to discuss with us whether their positions are consistent with Canadian constitutional law, which they are supposed to respect and they don’t wish to discuss with us whether their positions are consistent with their international human rights obligations,” said Joffe. Also, the fact that a consultative body called JUSCANZ including Japan, the United States, Canada, and New Zealand is present at the CBD, although the US is not party to the convention, might give an indication that the US is influencing its geographic neighbor and partner, according to Joffe. A delegate from a developing country who attended all the meetings of the ABS discussions since 2009 told Intellectual Property Watch at the beginning of the conference that developed countries had been trying to keep the issue of traditional knowledge outside of the protocol and were trying to avoid an instrument with strong compliance measures. Sovereign Rights for Indigenous Peoples? According to another representative of an indigenous peoples’ organisation, indigenous peoples have issues with the protocol, and although there are different schools of thought, the same concerns are shared, namely the fact that indigenous peoples have sovereign rights over their genetic resources and their traditional knowledge. The states are negotiating a regime that is trying to subrogate those rights, he told Intellectual Property Watch yesterday. Indigenous peoples are the true guardians over their resources and they want to have a right to allocate them. The right to self-determination over genetic resources should not be reduced by states, he said. Access to resources should be under indigenous authority, he said. “Some parties are supportive of those principles where we eliminate reference of national legislation” when applying to genetic resources but some parties believe otherwise. “We are not against national legislation,” he said, “but we are against national legislation that makes decisions on how to manage and to access resources.” The choices should come out of the community, he said. Asked about the risk of companies trying to enter into private negotiations with leaders of local communities, he said that some tribes do have that problem, partly because they have been impacted by western society, and partly out of naiveté. In the meantime, a study highlighting the economic value of biodiversity was released on Tuesday. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) calls for better recognition by decision-makers of the economic value of nature and its contribution to human livelihoods. Funders of the initiative included the UN and several European governments. “Biodiversity is the living fabric of this planet,” said Pavan Sukhdev, the study leader at a press conference launching the report. “How come it is not central stage of political discussions?” A lot of the world’s poor population relies on the free resources of biodiversity. “Development and biodiversity cannot been seen as competing choices They are the two sides of the same coin,” he said. Biodiversity is not just about beautiful species, it is about well being, feeding people, and survival. “We have treated those matters lightly in policy and business discussions,” he said. 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