Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge in Namibia

The ministry of Environment & Tourism conducted a 3 day workshop in Windhoek Namibia, to help create public awareness on the importance of documenting and protecting IPR’s related to the use of Genetic Resources and associated Traditional Knowledge for the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol.

Namibia is a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol.

The Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, said that as investors are attracted to Namibia by its natural heritage and its rich traditional knowledge attached to the utilisation of these assets, it was imperative to implement the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) in order to engage and share experiences.

“It is a well-known fact that these assets are vulnerable to overexploitation, which has the potential to uproot them with no chance to grow again. The government is thus committed to counter this threat by ensuring that biodiversity and the ecological goods and services that they provide are used for the long term benefit of Namibians, especially the rural communities,” expounded the environment and tourism minister.

He said in the absence of a law, access to genetic resources and benefit sharing in Namibia has been regulated by the Interim Bio Prospecting Committee (IBPC) established by Cabinet in 2007.

Shifeta said the committee still regulates and facilitates all bio-prospecting and bio-trade activities, while at the same time safeguards them against unlawful exploitation and bio-piracy.

He urged the workshop participants to give priority to strengthening customary laws and value systems of indigenous peoples and local communities in the protection of their traditional knowledge.

The University of Namibia (UNAM) is involved with a project on documenting traditional knowledge.


Traditional Knowledge and Plant Genetic Resources Guidelines

The Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio) / NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency [SANBio/NEPAD Agency] have compiled an extremely interesting set of guidelines relating to plant genetic resources and traditional knowledge (TK). The guidelines run to 84 pages and can be found here: Sanbio Guidelines

SANBio is one of the five continent-wide regional biosciences and specialized centres of research and development established under NEPAD. The main objective of SANBio is to build and strengthen capacity in biosciences through exchanging ideas, promoting scientific excellence and harnessing indigenous knowledge in order to utilize natural resources sustainably and create wealth for the people of southern Africa. The network operates with a multi-country approach since many development problems transcend national borders.



Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property

Johanna Gibson’s “Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property: Law and Practice” won’t be released by the OUP until July, but at 704 pages, it looks well worth the wait. What will be in it? Topics promised include benefit-sharing, ownership, creation of intellectual property rights, disclosure of origin, coherence and consistency with international intellectual property regimes. For those who already have “Community Resources: Intellectual Property, International Trade and Protection of Traditional Knowledge”, 2005, ISBN: 0754644367, this work promises much.

Johanna Gibson is Herchel Smith Professor of Intellectual Property Law and Director of the Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute (QMIPRI) and many of us will know her past contributions to the excellent IPKat blog (IPKat is a registered Community Trade Mark 🙂

Contractual Arrangement Regarding Protection of Traditional Knowledge Holders

Just possibly you don’t follow all the European Society of International Law (ESIL) Conference Papers.
In that case you would miss this one.
Their paper looks at private contractual arrangements and is worth having a look at.


In the wake of increasingly widespread bio prospecting and commercial use of indigenous knowledge by enterprises and research institutions, a variety of international agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (1992), the CBD Bonn Guidelines (2002), the FAO’ International Treaty on Plant and Genetic Resources (2001), the the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Draft Provisions on Traditional Cultural Expressions/Folklore and Traditional Knowledge (2004) have proposed certain formulas for the protection of traditional knowledge (TK). The existing legal frameworks of TK protection at the international level lack specific instruments for TK protection, and rather constitute a soft law, and some regional and national laws that provide indigenous peoples with property rights over TK are not internationally recognized. There is still no operating binding international agreement that provides effective protective measures. The article argues that in the meanwhile private contractual arrangement constitutes one of the major instruments to protect TK during the bio prospecting process. Nevertheless, whether the contract basis is always workable and equitable remains controversial. The article aims to assess whether a contract model may properly protect indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge related to genetic resources. It will explore the strength and weakness of using contracts for the protection of TK holders. Among the most significant advantages are the freedom of concluding a contract and its flexibility. Thus, the contract could be of a very flexible instrument, fitting the peculiarities of a particular transaction. On the other hand, the approach has some limitations, such as an imbalance of bargaining powers between contracting parties.

Tsikun, Marina Igorevna, Ni, Kuei-Jung and Shang-Jhy, Liu, A Review on Contractual Arrangement Regarding Protection of Traditional Knowledge Holders (December 7, 2011). European Society of International Law (ESIL) Conference Paper No. 8/2011. Available at SSRN: