WIPO Roundtable on IPR and Indigenous Peoples

Subject: WIPO Roundtable on IPR and Indigenous Peoples
From: DJ DAMBIEC (dambiec@ozemail.com.au)
Date: ti 04 elo    1998 - 17:31:01 EEST

WIPO Roundtable on Intellectual Property and Indigenous Peoples
Geneva, July 23 and 24, 1998

Opening Adress by Mr. Roberto Castelo, Deputy Director General WIPO
World Intellectual Property Organization

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished participants, it is with the
greatest pleasure that I welcome you to a first-ever event within
WIPO, the Rountable on Intellectual Property and Indigenous Peoples.
Under the leadership of the new Director General of WIPO, Dr. Kamil
Idris, the roundtable marks the beginning of a dialogue between the
member States of WIPO and the world's diverse indigenous populations,
local communities and other holders of traditional knowledge. This
dialogue is motivated by the fact that the time has come for sharing
information and experience concerning protection of the traditional
knowledge of indigenous peoples, and for increased awareness of the
mechanisms which the existing intellectual property system may offer
for the enhancement of such protection. This dialogue is, we believe,
an appropiate and necessary step forward for the international system
of protection for human creativity and ingenuity, of witch WIPO is a

The Rountable is part of a new program at WIPO, which will be carried
out primarily by the Global Intellectual Property Issues Division.
Conceived by Dr. Idris and approved by the Member States of WIPO only
in March of this year, the Division has as part of its duties the
exploration and investigation of the needs and expectations of
potential new beneficiaries of intellectual property, that is to say,
groups with--for a variety of reasons--have not had full exposure or
access to the intellectual property system. Indigenous peoples, local
communities and holders of traditional knowledge have been identified
by WIPO as the first group of potential new beneficiaries.

The Roundtable is only one of the activities related to new
beneficiaries which will be undertaken in the 1998-99 biennium. Other
activities include a series of fact-finding missions to parts of the
world with significant indigenous populations or significant bodies of
traditional knowledge, pilot projects related to the documentation of
traditional knowledge formations, and exploration of the ways in which
information technology may serve as tool for protection and
conservation of traditional knowledge. These activities will be
undertaken in partnership with WIPO Member States, with sister
organizations in the United Nations system and with NGOs having
expertise and experience to bring to bear. All of these activities,
including the Roundtable, will provide a basis for provision of
information to the Member States of WIPO on ways that the needs of
indigenous peoples, local communities and holders of traditional
knowledge may be better served in regard to itellectual property.
Based on the information provided, the Member States will then decide
on appropiate next steps.

A few words now concerning the Roundtable itself. First, we must
acknowledge with gratitude the invaluable assistance and contribution
of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights, and in particular Mr. Julian Burger of the UN Center for Human
Rights. It was with the assistance of Julian and his team that we were
able to spread the amount of money we had for this meeting to as many
people as possible. With their assistance, we sponsored the attendance
of the more than 40 indigenous persons who were already invited by the
High Commissioner's office to its Annual Working Group on Indigenous
Populations, which takes place next week. We also wish to single out
the contribution of Mr. Alejandro Argumedo of the Indigenous Peoples
Biodiversity Network, who generously aided us in opening the lines of
communication to indigenous groups and in providing advice on the
organization of the meeting.

The Roundtable is intended, first and foremost, as a forum for
indigenous peoples and their representatives to share experiences and
aspirations concernig the protection of traditional knowledge by means
of intellectual property. Thus, following this morning's session, in
which brief presentations on the formal intellectual property system
will be given by WIPO colleagues, the meeting will consist of
contributions by indigenous persons, local communities and holders of
traditional knowledge, or their representatives. Specifically,
presentations will be made concerning efforts and initiatives to
protect traditional knowledge in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the
South Pacific, and, in a new approach for WIPO, under the guidance of
Chairman Lars Anders Baer, an opportunity will be provided for
statements from the floor by indigenous persons to present their views
on how the intellectual property system might serve as a vehicle for
advancement of respect for traditional knowledge formations, cultures
and ways of life.

Without further delay, permit me to introduce the persons who are with
me on the podium, many of whom need no introduction. First, it is a
deep personal honor to welcome Dr. Erica-Irene Daes, Chairperson of
the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations, who will
momentarily deliver an Opening Address to the Roundtable. Dr. Deas has
worked tirelessly for the rights of indigenous peoples, and she has
played a critical role in promoting understanding of the issues to be
dealt with in order to achieve meaningful progress towards
implementation of such rights. Next I introduce and welcome Mr.Lars
Anders Baer, who is the Vice President of the Sami Council, and who
has the double rol as a speaker and Chairman of the Roundtable.

I am also pleased to extend a personal greeting to the speakers, Mr.
Atencio Lopez of the Asociacion Napguana, Mr. Antonio Jacanimijoy of
the Coordinadora de las Organizaciones de Indigenas de la Cuenca
Amazonica (COICA), Dr Mongane Wally Serote, Chairman of the
Parliamentary Committee on Arts, Culture, Languages, Science and
Technology of the Parliament of South Africa, and Ms. Aroha Mead,
Manager, Heritage and Indigenous Issues Unit, Ministry of Maori
Development, Wellington, New Zealand. Each of these speakers will
share his or her personal perspective on how intellectual property,
and protection of the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and
local communities, may find common basis for evolution, in order that
all human creativity may be respected.

In closing my remarks, permit me to note that the Preamble to the
Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization
establishes the mandate of WIPO as "in order to encourage creativity,
to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the
world". It is the view of Dr. Idris, the Director General, that the
international intellectual property system must be democratic if it is
to survive, that the system's benefits must be available to all. It is
my hope that this Roundtable may advance appreciation and
understanding of the fact that human creativity springs from many
different sources of inspiration, and achieves expressions in many
different forms. I also hope that we may begin to see a path forward
towards ensuring that the benefits of all human creativity, wherever
and however generated and maintained, may be protected, respected and
shared according to commonly-recognized and -respected principles.

Thank you very much.

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