Protocol on ABS Could Further Impoverish Indigenous Peoples, Groups Claim 26/10/2010 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment IP-Watch is 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. You also have the opportunity to offer additional support to your subscription, or to donate. Indigenous peoples today walked out of the ongoing negotiations at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, according to an indigenous representative. Indigenous Peoples are being left with a bitter taste from the draft text of a protocol intended to protect against misappropriation of genetic resources and ensure the sharing of the benefits which arise from use of those resources under discussion by negotiators who may not hold the views of those peoples. The latest version of the draft protocol was issued today. Indigenous peoples are not party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which is holding its 10th high-level Conference of the Parties in Nagoya, from 18-29 October, but they are able to attend the negotiations on an international protocol on access and benefit sharing, along with industry, research institutions, and civil society. Indigenous peoples participants are allowed to make proposals through a government, but may not negotiate directly on any text. A representative of Indigenous Peoples told Intellectual Property Watch today that indigenous people chose to leave the negotiations held in the Informal Consultative Group (ICG) which is trying to reach an agreement on the protocol text. Yesterday, Debra Harry, executive director of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, and a Northern Paiute from North America, told a press briefing “the CBD was enacted at a time when it became obvious that genetic resources held tremendous value.” “In these negotiations, states are asserting sovereignty over genetic resources, without acknowledging that that sovereignty is not absolute,” she said. “In reality, Indigenous Peoples are the holders and owners of much of the world’s biological resources, and traditional knowledge.” In the current draft of the protocol, Harry said that Article 5bis (access to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources) “requires parties to ensure that access to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources be in accordance with domestic law.” The phrase “in accordance with domestic law” could be problematic for Indigenous Peoples, she said, as “any attempt to subject our rights to domestic law is beyond the mandate of the CBD.” She said states were attempting to circumvent their existing international human rights obligations. The language of the preambular paragraph also is of utmost importance to Indigenous Peoples. Point 33 of the paragraph is still bracketed in the 26 October version. The two options are: “noting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” or “Taking into account the significance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” “when dealing with the implementation of the rights of indigenous and local communities in this protocol.” Indigenous Peoples previously protested the position of Canada opposing the language in the 21 October preambular text “noting the significance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (IPW, Biodiversity/Genetic Resources/Biotech, 21 October 2010). The CBD secretariat is housed in Quebec, Canada. “The protocol must meet standards consistent with the internationally accepted rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Harry. “If it does not, the ABS protocol will facilitate the misappropriation of genetic resources from indigenous lands and territories, and alienate the traditional knowledge implicated in benefit sharing schemes,” she said, adding that this would lead to a further impoverishment of the “world’s most vulnerable peoples.” Today, a group of Canadian indigenous peoples published a press release about Canada’s alleged undermining of the biodiversity negotiations. They said that in an interview with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, John Duncan, Canadian minister of Indian affairs and northern development, “claimed the ABS issue was a diversion. “What is being discussed in Japan is about intellectual property, so to think that has anything really significant to do with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is inappropriate,” he was reported saying. The Indian affairs and northern development agency is “one of the federal government departments responsible for meeting the government of Canada’s obligations and commitments to First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and for fulfilling the federal government’s constitutional responsibilities in the North,” according to their website. “It is shocking that the Indian affairs minister would misinform the public on issues that are critical to Indigenous Peoples globally,” Armand MacKenzie, executive director of the Innu Council of Nittassinan, said in the release. According to the group of Canadian indigenous peoples, these peoples face two imminent dangers in the ABS negotiations: “States may abandon support for inclusion of the Declaration (on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) in the preamble of the protocol,” and “indigenous peoples’ inherent right to genetic resources may be deemed to be contingent upon recognition by national legislation in each state.” Indigenous representatives in Nagoya were requesting a meeting with Canada’s environment minister, they said. Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Protocol on ABS Could Further Impoverish Indigenous Peoples, Groups Claim" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.