Panel Sees Tension Between IP And Human Rights 20/03/2008 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)By Catherine Saez Intellectual property rights are affecting human rights in several areas such as public health, access to knowledge and agriculture, and human rights advocates have a decisive role to play to reverse the trend, according to members of a recent panel discussion on the negative impacts of intellectual property systems. The event organised on 13 March by the International Environmental Law Research Centre (IELRC) and 3D -> Trade – Human Rights – Equitable Economy in cooperation with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, brought together speakers whose primary aim was to provide entry points and opportunities for human rights advocates to challenge the current trend in intellectual property policy-making. Agriculture is an obvious illustration of the impacts of existing intellectual property rights said Philippe Cullet, director of the IELRC in Geneva. Until 1990, there was a system of open access to knowledge but “we have moved in a completely opposite direction and there is no answer why we have moved away” he said. Intellectual property rights foster the commercialisation of agriculture, leading to monocultures which threaten conservation of agro-biodiversity and biodiversity. IP rights also encourage cash crops like cotton, which are “opposed” to food crops, he said. For Eddan Katz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the intellectual property system has failed to preserve access to education, the right to free expression and the right to cultural participation. Role of Civil Society and Human Rights Advocates Ibrahim Salama, director in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, stressed the need to continue advocacy, to have a social safety net, and to promote think tank research. Intellectual property rights and human rights are not always antagonistic, according to Alejandro Neyra from the mission of Peru. “The two systems are different but they do work,” he said. Neyra emphasised the role of civil society and human rights advocates in the trade negotiations process at the World Trade Organization but also during the negotiations leading to free trade agreements (FTAs). “There is a very important role of human rights communities, journalists and civil society,” he said. “They ask negotiators to be aware of the possible negative effects of FTAs.” The role of civil society also was underlined by Dalindyebo Shabalala in the perspective of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s new Development Agenda, which he said has had the beginning of a successful outcome in relation to human rights. “For the first time, there is a set of items to which the organisation (WIPO) is accountable” he said. Human rights advocates should actively participate in debates for example over the interpretation of Article 15 (1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Cullet said. This article refers to the right of people to take part in cultural life, enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its application and to benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author. New intellectual property rights-related strategies should be promoted by human rights advocates, and non-governmental organisations addressing environmental, agriculture and labour rights, said Cullet. For example, the “commodification” of knowledge, which is turning knowledge into a commodity, should be challenged and farmers’ rights should be enhanced. For Shabalala, it is important that there is increased participation in WIPO activities and he encouraged organisations to come to WIPO and talk about human rights. The need for effective advocacy also was put forward by Katz, who is in favour of open access and encouraged the lobbying of education ministers and the raising of awareness about the tensions between intellectual property rights and human rights. Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 "Panel Sees Tension Between IP And Human Rights" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.