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UNPFII Discusses Intellectual Property, Climate Change Adaptation and the Right to Food

14 May 2012: Delegates at the 11th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) addressed: the protection of traditional knowledge; the need to improve socioeconomic conditions for indigenous peoples to help them to adapt to climate change, and to control corporate expansion on indigenous lands; and indigenous peoples' rights to food and food sovereignty.

On 10 May 2012, delegates engaged in a dialogue with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), based on a note (document E/C.19/2012/5) submitted by the WIPO Secretariat that summarizes action undertaken or planned by WIPO regarding indigenous peoples' issues. Wend Wendland, Director of the WIPO's Traditional Knowledge Division, indicated that WIPO's Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore is in the process of elaborating an international legal instrument regarding traditional knowledge, genetic resources and traditional cultural expressions. The representative from the International Indian Treaty Council warned that climate change and initiatives such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) could lead to a loss of indigenous peoples' right to develop their own protection systems. She recommended that the Permanent Forum transmit to WIPO such concerns.

On 11 May 2012, a panel discussion on Central and Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation, Central Asia and Transcaucasia was held. During the panel, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reported on an initiative called “Nomadic Herders,” a partnership-based project that aimed to, inter alia, protect the biodiversity and ensure the basis for indigenous communities to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. The Association of World Reindeer Herders underscored that reindeer herding communities continued to struggle in the face of land use change, climate change and development.

On 14 May 2012, the Forum held a half-day dialogue on the rights of indigenous peoples to food and food sovereignty, which featured the introduction of the Permanent Forum's study on “shifting cultivation and the socio-cultural integrity of indigenous peoples” (document E/C.19/2012/8). The Global Indigenous Women's Caucus called on Secretariats of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to ensure that indigenous women were able to participate in the discussions and negotiations on the rights to food sovereignty, especially since those women produced the majority of the world's food and were the main caretakers of biodiversity. The Arctic Caucus, speaking on behalf of the Saami Council and the Inuit Circumpolar Council, said that his group was seriously concerned about the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. Via a video link, Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, stressed that indigenous peoples' food rights were under ‘serious threat' given the increased pressure on their lands through food production, carbon credit schemes and the search for fossil fuels.

The 11th session of the UNPFII is taking place in New York, US, from 7-18 May 2012, and is organized under the theme is "The Doctrine of Discovery: its enduring impact on indigenous peoples and the right to redress for past conquests (articles 28 and 37 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)." UNPFII is an advisory body to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. [11th Session of the UNPFII Website] [ECOSOC Press Release 14 May 2012] [ECOSOC Press Release 11 May 2012] [ECOSOC Press Release 10 May 2012]