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Global Commons: The Case of Indigenous Knowledge, Intellectual Property Rights and Biodiversity

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Mudiwa, Morris
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Globalisation, the Ninth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Conf. Date: June 17-21, 2002
Date: 2002
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/428
Sector: Global Commons
Information & Knowledge
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
indigenous knowledge
global commons
intellectual property rights--developing countries
biodiversity--developing countries
Abstract: "Globalisation brings with it different opportunities and challenges in the various sectors in which man is engaged. In the field of biological diversity, globalisation has several implications. Man depends on biological resources for his livelihood. However these resources are not evenly distributed on the face of the earth. It increases towards the equator. Incidentally, biodiversity is highly concentrated in the areas inhabited by third world countries. Developed countries are not as richly endowed with this resource as developing countries. However developed countries have developed technologies which enable them to manipulate biological resources to produce a variety of products which are used by man. Since these developed countries do not have much biodiversity from which to make these products they turn to developing countries. Biodiversity is not a product of man's creation hence developed countries have been and are still accessing these resources for free arguing that these resources are common heritage for the benefit of mankind. Developing countries have also held this notion. However the developed countries only define common heritage of biodiversity in terms of the raw product but once they make products out of it they then define it as 'private heritage' which is not liable for sharing. They have developed protection mechanisms such as patents which prohibit others from benefiting. These patents are referred to as Intellectual Property Rights. Developing countries have since awoken to the reality of this unfairness and are advocating for benefit sharing with the developed countries on wealth created from resources originating from their territories. The Intellectual Property Rights designed by developed countries did not take into account the types of property held by developing country people such as innovations and knowledge based on their biological resources. Such types of property as is held by developing countries was also classified as products of common heritage. Global efforts are now being made from disadvantaged nations to redress the situation. Globalisation therefore presents a lot of challenges where appropriate institutions should be developed in which all people who contribute to biodiversity conservation and utilization get a fair share of the benefits derived from it."

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