Do WIPO Delegations Want Indigenous Peoples’ Participation? 08/07/2014 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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)The participation of representatives of indigenous and local communities in the World Intellectual Property Organization committee working to prevent misappropriation of genetic resources and traditional knowledge is in jeopardy due to the thorough depletion of the voluntary fund allowing such participation. Some governments are acting to save the committee’s credibility. The depletion of the Voluntary Fund [pdf] has been flagged repeatedly during the last sessions of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) by WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, as well as Jamaican Ambassador Wayne McCook, chair of the IGC, and Alexandra Grazioli, from Switzerland, chair of the Advisory Board for the Voluntary Fund (IPW, WIPO, 26 April 2013). At the outset of the 28th session of the IGC, taking place from 7-9 July, Gurry again underlined the dire situation of the Voluntary Fund. Australia, Finland, New Zealand and Switzerland tabled a proposal [pdf] at the 27th session of the IGC earlier this year to propose that the rules of the fund be amended to that contributions could be drawn from the regular budget of WIPO. The participation of indigenous peoples and communities have been underlined as essential by many delegations. Indigenous peoples maintain that they hold a wealth of traditional knowledge, genetic resources and traditional cultural expressions, which have been and continue to be misappropriated. Working to Ensure Participation Switzerland, on behalf of the proposal co-sponsors, said the document is intended to identify additional sources of funding for the Voluntary Fund so that an appropriate level of financing for representatives of accredited indigenous and local communities canbe achieved. The Swiss delegate indicated that in September a further proposal would be submitted to the WIPO Program and Budget Committee (PBC). This is so that the PBC can decide and recommend to the General Assembly later in September that a sum of money be allocated within the WIPO regular budget for the participation in the Voluntary Fund. This sum of money would be determined by the PBC. In the future, it would allow the WIPO secretariat to use that money to make it possible for accredited representatives of indigenous and local communities to participate in the work of the IGC, she further explained. That means that it would no longer exclude that funds be taken from the WIPO regular budget to allow the participation of accredited local and indigenous communities in the IGC meeting if the funding of the Voluntary Fund is not sufficient, she said. Since the last meeting of the IGC, when this proposal was first introduced, the co-sponsors have consulted the finance section of the WIPO secretariat and have come to the conclusion that the proposal should be amended, the delegate said. No details were available at press time. Chile and Peru supported the proposal this week The US, in contrast, said it is supportive of the active participation of indigenous and local communities in the IGC, but could not support a recommendation that would allow WIPO’s core budget to contribute to voluntarily-funded projects. US Opposition This recommendation, the US delegate said, to have a UN agency’s core budget replenishing a voluntarily-funded project would be the first case of its kind in the UN system. A request to increase the budget or to designate a specific allocation to ensure the participation of indigenous groups in the IGC is raising questions, she said. In particular, the delegate said, “How will this new proposal ensure that this budget allocation would not set a precedent to have budgets of other committees expanded to include the participation of non member states in those meetings?” She added later that the participation of indigenous groups in the IGC is “very important” but the US delegation has questions to make sure that any new mechanism would lie within the budgetary process of WIPO. Chair Demands Action McCook suggested that the US consult with the co-sponsors before the end of the session, and that a solution must be found in this session. A simpler solution, he said, would be to receive commitments to the Voluntary Fund which would ensure its sustainability. The chair underlined the fact that the proposal was introduced “as a last resort.” “We have a fundamental question to answer,” he insisted, that is whether the commitment that was made to ensure support for the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities is still a commitment that delegations maintain. “It can only be maintained if it is enabled,” he said. “It is now disabled by lack of funds.” The next step “is either to restore the fund or pull any fig leaf from where we are,” he said. “We cannot give lip service to this notion of assuring the indigenous peoples participation without the means.” “If by 6 pm on Wednesday we have neither a mechanism nor funding, I will call upon the committee to affirm the position it is taking, which is it cannot assure the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities and take the consequence of that decision,” said McCook. “We are not ruled by events, we shape them,” he said. “This is an issue within our control. Either we decide to do something or we decide not to do something.” In the meantime, delegates, on the second day of the meeting, went to informal discussions to examine how language on similar issues of the three draft instrument texts could be applied to all instruments. The proposed six topics for discussion were: disclosure mechanisms for genetic resources and traditional knowledge (TK); differential approach concerning the scope of protection, exceptions and formalities for TK and traditional cultural expressions; the public domain, non-diminishment provisions, objectives; and capacity-building and awareness raising. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Do WIPO Delegations Want Indigenous Peoples’ Participation?" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.