Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Beverly Rose-Forbes, says protecting the country’s traditional resources is of paramount importance, particularly in relation to misuse by third parties.
“We have long recognised the value and importance of traditional knowledge, our rich cultural expressions, and our treasured genetic resources. In the same breath, we also recognise the need for protection of these valuable resources against misappropriation and misuse by third parties and in general, protection against unfair competition,” she said.
The Permanent Secretary was addressing stakeholders at a consultation on a World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) project, to establish a regional framework for the protection of traditional knowledge (TK), traditional cultural expressions (TCE), and genetic resources (GE), held at Jamaica Promotions (JAMPRO) New Kingston offices, on May 30.
She noted that there are many cases of misappropriation of the nation’s traditional cultural expressions, such as folktales and music as well as folk art, where they are being used for commercial purposes by third parties, who “make a tidy profit”.
“In many cases, the works are modified and our traditional songs have become famous with little recourse or remedies available to our indigenous and other local communities,” the Permanent Secretary pointed out.
Mrs. Rose-Forbes further noted that the creation of a global information society, and the collection and storage of information related to it, has also brought increased opportunity for misuse of the country’s indigenous knowledge and indigenous people’s traditional cultural expressions.
“All of this underscores the need to protect our traditional resources against misappropriation by third parties in a very serious and consistent manner. In introducing the necessary legislative, administrative and judicial framework, therefore, we are mindful of the challenge of protecting traditional knowledge for its intrinsic value to indigenous communities, such as the Maroons, as against its value in a commercial context,” she said.
Mrs. Rose-Forbes noted that in this context, it is important that the rules and procedures are clearly defined, and that all the relevant national actors are identified, so that there can be greater transparency among prospective partners in the acquisition of traditional knowledge.
“Traditional knowledge must be protected outside its country of origin and we in this region need to ensure that an internationally enforceable minimum standard is maintained. All of this brings certainty and predictability for governments, investors, researchers, performers, and to the affected communities,” she added.
A report on the project states that traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions are living bodies of knowledge developed, sustained and passed on from generation to generation, and are important elements of the cultural heritage and spiritual identity of many local and indigenous communities, nations and regions with a shared history.
Genetic resources are parts of biological materials that contain genetic information of value; and are capable of reproducing or being reproduced.
The regional initiative to protect traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and genetic resources, came out of a WIPO meeting of Ministers with responsibility for intellectual property in 2006, and was advanced at a regional expert meeting in Jamaica in 2008.
This resulted in the formation of a regional working group which has been undertaking research, raising awareness, and conducting fact-finding missions and consultations with governments, indigenous and local communities, non-Governmental Organisations, regional organisations and other private and public stakeholders in the Caribbean region.
From the various consultations, policy papers were written, which seek to guide the process of a regional framework.
Contact: Alecia Smith-Edwards