Compensating local communities for conserving biodiversity: how much, who will and when
Gupta, Anil K.
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Large number of local communities across the world have shared unhesitatingly their knowledge about local biodiversity and its different uses with outsiders including researchers, corporations, gene collectors and of course, activists. Many continue to share despite knowing that by withholding this knowledge they could receive pecuniary advantage. As if sharing was not enough, large number of herbalists do not even accept any compensation when offered. In some cases they have cultural and spiritual taboos against receiving compensation because of the fear that effectiveness of their knowledge would cease if they received any payment for it. Much against the conventional understanding, however, poor people are poor indeed, but not so poor that they cannot even think. For them, the knowledge gained through experimentation and innovation is a matter of life and death given the uncertainties of nature. Furthermore, this knowledge has immense value to all of mankind. After GATT and Rio treaty, sensitivity on the subject has certainly increased. It is being realized that biodiversity cannot be prospected or used without making the conserving communities and innovative individuals the stake holders in any plan for adding value to the resource. This realization has been articulated in FAO undertaking on Plant genetic resources through a recommendation of international gene fund in the name of Farmers Rights. This would be administered by an international civil service for distributing so generated resources to various governments for conservation purposes. The Rio treaty provides under Article 8J, a condition for Involvement and approval of local communities conserving biodiversity ensuring in the process an equitable sharing of benefits. Article 15.5 requires prior informed consent, through of course, enforceable only in the countries which have a law requiring such a consent. Neither the concept of farmers rights under FAO undertaking nor RIO treaty or GATT treaty provide specific mechanisms for achieving the goal of compensating local communities. FAO undertaking in fact is highly misleading. It celebrates the contribution of the farmers but provides for no direct incentives to those who conserve the genetic diversity.Part one of the paper deals with the role of networks, NGOs and IPR regime in conservation of knowledge. Part two enumerates the threats leading to the erosion of knowledge as well as resources. Part three describes briefly the experience of Honey Been network and part four provides discussion on an effective sue generis system and the requirement for changes in the national policy for conserving and rewarding agro biodiversity.
- Working Papers