Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Hon. Maj. Gen. (RTD). Kahinda Otafiire, has told the 2017 General Assembly of the World Intelectual Property Organization that protection of Traditional Knowledge and the country’s genetic resources, from misappropriation, is a key ingredient of Uganda’s National Intellectual Property strategy for promoting creativity and innovation amongst its indigenous peoples and local communities to promote access to alternative health care, food security, preservation of biodiversity and sustainable development.” Hon Otafiire who is leading Uganda’s delegation to the Assemblies, emphasized the contribution of Traditional knowledge systems to the social and economic development of Uganda.
Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and its decision-making bodies are meeting this week, in Geneva Switzerland, from 02 – 11 October 2017, with the hope of reaching a decision to convene a high-level meeting (diplomatic conference) to conclude a potential international instrument(s) or Treaty, in 2019 aimed at preventing the misappropriation of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. African countries are primary beneficiaries of this treaty. This is because the modern intellectual property system does not, neither adequately protect traditional knowledge systems nor local inventions based on genetic resources/traditional cultural artifacts/materials.
In his statement, Hon Otafiire told the Assembly that a potential treaty to protect genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore, at the international level is a priority issue for Uganda in the WIPO. Traditional knowledge systems in Uganda have long been used to ensure access to alternative medicines (e.g. herbalists), promote sustainable agricultural production and conserve the environment. He concluded by urging Member States to negotiate in a transparent and cooperative manner and with good faith to ensure that a diplomatic conference to negotiate a treaty to prevent misappropriation of Genetic resources in 2019.
The WIPO has been a key development partner for Uganda in the field of intellectual property undertaking technical assistance activities to encourage innovation and protection of intellectual property including; technical support to Uganda in upgrading and maintenance of the Intellectual Property Automated System (IPAS); training and capacity building for human resources; support in the form a regional workshop on intellectual property and Traditional Knowledge for economic development.
WIPO member states have a daunting task to negotiate the renewal of the mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), which expired in June 2017. The IGC has always held a renewable two-year mandate since it commenced text based negotiations in 2009. It will be particularly important for African countries, as key demanders for protection of genetic resources and traditional knowledge to ensure that the General Assembly agrees to convene a diplomatic conference to conclude a treaty in 2019.
The WIPO General Assembly will also decide, among other things: approving the program and budget of the organization for the 2018/2019 biennium; on furthering discussions for potential treaties to protect broadcasting organizations (the Broadcast Treaty), and; simplifying the international applications for industrial designs – the Design Law Treaty (DLT).
In other discussions, the WIPO General Assembly will discuss reports from various committees. At the WIPO General Assembly each committee reports on its activities over the past year. Of particular importance to Uganda and other developing countries is the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) as well as the Committee on the law of Patents. The committee is responsible for implementation of the 2007 WIPO Development Agenda by ensuring that development aspects are streamlined in all WIPO’s work including the Programme and budget. The last session of the Committee tasked the organization to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are fully streamlined in WIPO’s activities.
In a related development, On Monday 02 October 2017, several officers were elected to various offices. Uganda’s Mr. Bemanya Twebaze, the Registrar General of Uganda Registration Service Bureau, was elected the President of the Paris Union Assembly, and Ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr, Permanent Representative of Uganda to the United Nations Office in Geneva, has been serving as the Second Vice Chairman of the Coordination Committee. END