On February 27, 2017, QUNO Food & Sustainability Programme Assistant, Nora Meier, attended the opening of the 33rd session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. While the last two sessions were concerned with Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge respectively, this week’s meeting will focus on Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs). In particular, the member states will be debating the development of an international legal framework to protect TCEs and will intend to narrow existing gaps and reach common understanding on core issues. This includes the continuing negotiations around policy objectives, beneficiaries, scope of protection, administration of rights, and exceptions and limitations.
The morning session included a panel of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities on the theme of “IGC Draft Articles on the Protection of Traditional Cultural Expressions: Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ Perspectives”. Keynote speaker, Prof. Rebecca Tsosie (of Yaqui heritage), and the two respondents, Dr. Kanyinke Sena (member of the Maasai Peoples, Kenya) and Ms. Lucia Fernanda Inácio Belfort Sales (member of the Povo Kaingáng Peoples, Brazil), laid out their perspectives and cautioned the IGC, inter alia, that culture is not static and TCEs are constantly evolving. Therefore, applying a timeframe to the protection of TCEs would be contrary to their nature. Furthermore, they emphasized the importance of the Voluntary Fund for the credibility of the IGC as a whole as well as the negotiations being undertaken during the sessions. The Voluntary Fund, which depends on voluntary contributions of member states, has been depleted since 2014. Therefore, the IGC has not been able to provide direct funding for representatives of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities to participate in the IGC sessions.
QUNO welcomes the opportunity to be part of this session and will continue to monitor the progress of the negotiations this week. It supports the statements made by the Chair and the Indigenous Caucus, which called on member states to contribute to the Voluntary Fund.