IGC 21 Update: WIPO Negotiators Further Develop Text on Traditional Knowledge

April 24, 2012

Five days of intense and collaborative negotiations on traditional knowledge and intellectual property reviewed draft articles on the protection of traditional knowledge that could be part of a future international legal instrument.  The 21st session of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) wrapped up on April 20, 2012 with progress in identifying areas of convergence.

The draft articles in question (in document WIPO/GRTKF/IC/21/4) had already been worked on by an expert working group in February 2011, and two earlier sessions of the IGC in May 2011 and July 2011. 

Following an initial plenary discussion, with active participation by country delegations and observers, three facilitators were appointed to revise the text - Nicola Lesieur (Canada), Andrea Bonnet López (Colombia) and Walid Taha (Egypt).  Their revised text (Rev. 1) was then submitted to the plenary for comments and textual amendments which were entered directly in the text projected on a screen (“live drafting”).  The plenary made textual amendments and comments on Rev. 1.  The facilitators then produced a Rev. 2 which was discussed and noted by the plenary.  This document will be transmitted to the WIPO General Assembly in October 2012.  The text identifies areas of convergence and issues on which further clarification and discussion are needed.  Issues of particular focus during the session were the definition of traditional knowledge, identification of the beneficiaries of protection, defining the scope of protection and identification of exceptions and limitations.  Objectives and general guiding principles for the protection of traditional knowledge, as contained in the text, were also discussed. 

In accordance with the IGC’s mandate, the WIPO General Assembly will take stock of and consider the text and progress made, and decide on convening a Diplomatic Conference.  The General Assembly will also consider the need for additional meetings, taking account of the budgetary process.

The formal decisions adopted by the IGC at this session are available here.

The session began with an Indigenous Panel which focused specifically on traditional medical knowledge as an important form of traditional knowledge.  The keynote speaker was Paul Linton, Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay, Canada, while other panelists were Daniel Mpoiko Kobei, Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program, Kenya and Leilene Marie Carantes-Gallardo, Tebtebba Foundation, Philippines.  The Panel was chaired by Nadir Bekirov, Foundation for Research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea, Ukraine.

On participation of observers, the IGC decided to maintain the observer accreditation process and the arrangements for the Indigenous Panel.  The Committee agreed also that no changes be made at this time to the arrangements related to the WIPO Voluntary Fund for Accredited Indigenous and Local Communities.  With the support of one delegation (Sri Lanka), the IGC requested the Secretariat to prepare an information document, for the next session of the Committee, providing information on the practical, procedural and budgetary implications of various suggestions for enhanced participation put forward by the Indigenous Caucus, including the possible recognition of Indigenous Peoples as a category of participants separate from States and observers. 

In line with further attempts to strengthen observer participation, the Secretariat provided an extensive briefing for observers on the first day of the session. 

The IGC Chair, His Excellency Ambassador Wayne McCook, met on a daily basis with the Indigenous Caucus Chair, Mr. Jim Walker (Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA), Australia). 

A number of organizations were also accredited at the session.  The WIPO Voluntary Fund for Accredited Indigenous and Local Communities funded six indigenous and local community participants at the session.  The WIPO Secretariat continued to fund secretarial services for indigenous and local communities at the session, provided by the Documentation Centre for Indigenous Peoples (DoCip).

Documents for IGC 21 are available here.

The report of IGC 21 will be tabled for adoption at IGC 23 taking place in 2013.

The next session of the Committee (IGC 22) will be held from July 9 to 13, 2012 and will address traditional cultural expressions. 

The Committee was attended by participants from 95 countries and 55 observers.  It was chaired by Ambassador Wayne McCook from Jamaica.  Ms. Alexandra Grazioli (Switzerland) and Mr. Bebeb Djundjunan (Indonesia) are the Committee’s Vice-Chairs.  Mr. Djundjunan was elected Vice-Chair at this session.