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Report No. 167

1.5. International Declarations concerning benefits to indigenous communities.-

Mr. K.L. Mehra, (supra) culls out the international declarations beneficial to indigenous communities and these recognise sovereign rights of nation-states over their respective territories, including their natural resources and cultural property. These are:-

The United Nations General Assembly resolution (Resolution 1803 of 1962) that-

"Due care should be taken to ensure that there is no impairment, for any reason, of the state's sovereignty over its natural wealth and resources."

The UN Conference on the Human Environment (1972) in Principle 21 states that-

"States have the sovereign right to exploit there own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies."

The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation's International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources (Conference resolution 3/91) and FAO's International Code of Conduct for Plant Germplasm Collecting and Transfer (1993) also recognise that nation-states have sovereign rights over plant genetic resources in their territories.

The Declaration (A.B. Cunningham, Ethics, Ethnobiological Research and Biodiversity, WWF-International, Gland, Switzerland, 1993) of Belem of the International Society of Ethno-biology strongly urged that-

"Procedures be developed to compensate native peoples for the utilisation of their knowledge and their biological resources and mechanism be established by which indigenous specialists are recognised as proper authorities and are consulted in all programmes affecting them, their resources and their environments."

The International Year (1993) for the World's Indigenous Peoples provided an unprecedented opportunity for the international community to examine existing injustices in various fields and to demonstrate its commitment to helping indigenous people, realise their rights. Article 29 of United Nations' Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (1993) states:

"Indigenous peoples are entitled to the recognition of the full ownership, control and protection of their cultural and intellectual property. They have the right to special measures to control, develop and protect their sciences, technologies and cultural manifestations, including human and other genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, and visual and performing arts."

Every nation has the power and jurisdiction to establish how its natural resources and assets, tangible and intangible, are controlled, used, and, if it wishes, made subject to sharing the economic benefits with people/communities that held the traditional rights. The International Labour Organisation's Convention. No. 169, Article 15, concerning indigenous peoples requires nation-states to consult with indigenous peoples when considering (proposals) exploitation of natural resources on indigenous lands, to respect indigenous peoples' rights "to participate in the use, management and conservation of these resources" and to ensure that indigenous peoples share the benefits of exploitation "where possible". The Convention on Biological Diversity (UNEP, Convention on Biological Diversity, Nairobi, Kenya, 1992) also reaffirmed this principle (Articles 3, 8, 15), stating that-

"each Contacting Party shall as far as possible and as appropriate, subject to national legislation respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices, and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilisation of such knowledge, innovations and practices."

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