During my time working with the protections of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions on an international level, discussing the issue with governments and especially when discussing with Indigenous Peoples from all over the world, I learned that we all have different prerequisites for how we can protect our cultural expressions – our designs, our songs, our paintings, our handicraft: we have our own rules of how our cultural knowledge and expressions can be used, we have different needs, financial or cultural, and different wishes regarding the use of our expressions and knowledge.
However, international minimal standards for protecting Indigenous Peoples’ cultures should be put in place. States, and companies within states, should be held accountable for misuse. International minimal standards are more important than ever, as internet and globalization has made it easier to access Indigenous Peoples’ cultural expressions and traditional knowledge.
At WIPO, discussions about creating such minimal standards have been ongoing for almost 20 years through a committee called the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (the IGC). The committee decided that a workshop with experts belonging to Indigenous Peoples should be organized, and in February this year the Indigenous Expert Workshop on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions was held.
Seven Indigenous experts, one from each of the seven socio-cultural Indigenous regions recognized by the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) were chosen to participate in the Workshop. I was proud to act as the Arctic representative, as well as the rapporteur of the workshop.
We discussed a wide range of issues relating to Traditional Cultural Expressions, Traditional Knowledge, and Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge Associated with Genetic Resources. We also reviewed text in WIPO IGC documents, and considered more comprehensive issues. Concerns were raised relating to the rights of Indigenous Peoples that were advanced in prior reports, such as the report of the Indigenous Expert Workshop in 2013, and issues raised by the Indigenous Caucus, which remain unaddressed and unresolved in the latest WIPO IGC texts.
Today, I get to work with my own people, the Sami, and I’m holding lectures and workshops to give information on how we can protect our traditional knowledge and our traditional cultural expressions. Platforms to discuss protection of Sami cultural heritage are very important, and during my latest lectures the discussions among the participants range from protection on a policy level to individual cases where Sami that are creating based on Sami tradition are seeking advice.
If you would like to read the report of the Indigenous Expert Workshop, it can be found here.