Traditional Resource Rights in the New Millennium
Thursday, February 24th to Saturday, February 26th, 2000
Hosted by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs with support from the Law Foundation
of British Columbia and Legal Services Society of British Columbia
First Nations House of Learning
University of British Columbia
Vancouver British Columbia, Canada
The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is hosting a three-day
legal conference exploring traditional resource rights, or cultural and
intellectual property rights issues affecting all Indigenous Peoples. The
target audience will be BC First Nation community members and workers,
representatives from Indigenous Peoples from around the world as well as the
traditional resource rights and academic communities.
The conference is tentatively focused on exploring and clarifying the
following three questions within an international context:
What is indigenous cultural and intellectual property? What rights do BC
First Nations want recognized? Can BC First Nations communities develop heir
own system(s) for protecting traditional resource rights?
This is a new and developing area of law that is not widely understood yet t
affects Indigenous Peoples where they live and on a daily basis. The World
Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization hope to
introduce draft amendments on Indigenous Peoples' knowledge during the TRIPs
review in 2000.
The conference format will consist of an international level overview, an
exploration of how such issues are being dealt within different jurisdictions
by using three-member panels and an attempt to demonstrate how different
issues are experienced at the community level with case studies.
Planned panels include:
Does ecotourism benefit local communities? Does it benefit the environment?
Or does it perpetuate patterns of power and dominance that are destructive
of the environment and of the people?
The cultural designs and motifs of our communities communicate our ideas and
beliefs. Can such images be "owned" by a community or by an artist? What are
the consequences when they are expropriated and mass-produced? Can the
current legal tools of copyrights, patents and trademarks protect the
cultural integrity of such images?
Forest Resources Panel
What are Forest Resources? How can Forest Resources be protected? Does
such protection afford "sustainable management"?
The repatriation of cultural objects is important to many communities. This
session will ask how are different communities dealing with repatriation?
What are the obstacles? What are the strategies?
Nonlegal Instruments Panel
Are there alternatives to the legal system that communities can use to
protect their territories? Alternatives include non-legal, market-related
measures. This session will introduce such measures like investment
screens, shareholder advocacy, consumer action and product certification.
Oral History Panel
Songs, dances, names and stories tell us who we are. What happens when oral
history is shared? What happens when there is a breach of confidentiality?
Should there be more community control of research projects? What are the
ways to protect oral history?
International Human Rights Overview
A brief look at international human rights and the effectiveness of
international efforts like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
International Biodiversity Overview
What do international efforts like The Convention of Biological Diversity
and the Rio Declaration mean at the community level? This is meant to be an
overview of what is happening on the international level.
What is Article 8(j)?
Article 8(j) of The Convention of Biological Diversity obliges the
signatories to essentially acknowledge the importance of Traditional
Ecological Knowledge (TEK), traditional lifestyles and sustainability, the
promotion of the idea of consent in the use of TEK and the idea of benefit
sharing and customary use. This is a closer look of what Article 8(j) means
at the community level.
Medicinal Plants Panel
The value of medicinal plants go beyond health. The cultural and spiritual
values of the knowledge of medicinal plants cannot be discounted. What
happens when medicinal plant knowledge is shared? Is it ethnobotany? Can
one simply separate the medicinal qualities from the cultural context?
Sacred Sites Panel
The major issues for Sacred Sites include unrestricted access; site
protection; privacy; and the integrity of the ecosystem. What strategies
can we learn from those communities who are willing to share their experiences?
Biopiracy Case Study
What is biopiracy or biodiversity prospecting? How does it impact
Indigenous Peoples' rights in terms of Intellectual Property Rights laws?
Are such laws adequate or appropriate? What examples or instances can we
Biodiversity conservation is becoming more and more difficult. Technological
change and the commercialization of biological resources have raised
fundamental scientific, economic, socio-political and ethical questions.
This panel will discuss their experiences and answer questions based on
How can communities respond to the growing concerns regarding Intellectual
Property? One way is through the use of Indigenous Peoples' declarations.
This proposed session will help those who are interested, considering and/or
planning on drafting such a declaration.
International Legal Review
A review of the importance and relevance to communities of legally binding
international agreements like the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
The World Heritage Convention; and the Rome Convention.
An examination of the Gatt Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). Why is this important at the
Repatriation Case Study
This proposed session is meant to be a follow-up to the Repatriation Panel
discussion and will look in detail how one community has dealt with
repatriation. What did they do in order to be successful in the
repatriation of their community objects? What are the problems that they are
Drafting a Community Intellectual Rights Act
In 1994, a Third World Network discussion paper (Nijar 1994) suggested the
concept of a community intellectual rights act. The idea of the act would
be to prevent the "privatisation and usurpation of community rights and
knowledge through existing definitions of innovations." This proposed
session will look at the purpose and the thinking of how such an act would
work at the community level.
Nonlegal Instruments Case Study
This proposed session will explore how nonlegal instruments have been used
at the community level. Did the community use investment screens,
shareholder advocacy, consumer action or product certification to protect
their territory? What were the considerations? What were the benefits?
What were the costs?
Do Pharmaceutical Agreements Work?
There are several companies who have embarked on extensive bioprospecting
expedition programs. Some have signed Pharmaceutical Agreements with
Indigenous communities. Some of these agreements are made under the
auspices of The International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups (ICBG) Program
which is a U.S. Government funded effort to promote equitable sharing of
biodiversity benefits in the context of integrated research and development
toward drug discovery, biodiversity, conservation and economic development.
Do these type of agreements work?
We invite you to forward any suggestions you may have about the proposed
sessions, possible panel speakers, resource people or appropriate papers and
documents that would be suitable for inclusion in the conference kit.
We will be updating our website with
links to sites and papers related to the conference theme. As well, we will
be using an email list to keep those who wish to be kept informed. To
subscribe to the list send an email to email below with the words
"Subscribe Protect" in the subject line.
The resources of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs are limited but we are
committed to delivering this conference as a public service to all
Indigenous Peoples. If you are in a position to contribute to or support
this timely initiative in any way, we look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you in advance for your assistance.
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