Traditional Knowledge in the International Governance of Biogenetic Resources

Application Deadline

The University of Lausanne’s Institute of Political, Historical and International Studies (IEPHI) is hosting an international conference to reflect on the theoretical and practical meanings of traditional knowledge (TK) associated with the use of genetic resources and the conservation of biodiversity. In order to foster exchange among different generations of researchers, the conference organizers are seeking participants who are working on or who have recently completed their PhDs. Researchers early in their academic careers are thus invited to submit abstracts corresponding to the below-described panels exploring the theme of traditional knowledge in the international governance of biogenetic resources. Selected applicants will be invited to develop their abstracts into papers, which they will be sponsored to present at the conference alongside well-established researchers.

Conference Objectives:

The need to protect TK has become an apparently indisputable issue in the international governance of biogenetic resources. Most of the significant actors involved, which include governments of user and provider countries, conservationist and business organizations, as well as transnational social movements, appear to champion the protection of TK. However, while at first glance they may seem to be rallying around the same cause, closer inspection reveals that their views on fundamental issues differ. This conference will provide an opportunity to address this matter, focusing on the emergence of the notion of TK and the various approaches that have been proposed as to what should be protected, who the rights holders are, and how protection may be effectively provided, as well as the legal instruments, projects, and initiatives that have been developed in accordance with these different views.

Panels:

1. When: The Emergence of TK as a Political Construct

When did TK emerge as a political issue grafted to the goals of access, use, and conservation of genetic resources? Panel I invites papers that discuss how TK was framed by political, economic, scientific, and civic actors prior to the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992).

2. What: Perspectives on Traditional Knowledge

This panel will address the perceptions of TK held by different groups of actors subsequently to the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity. We invite papers focusing on provider and user countries, core or elemental regimes, business organizations, and transnational advocacy networks. Collectively, contributions should illustrate a range of assumptions and understandings pertaining to TK, including legal, cultural, religious, and cosmic perceptions. The panel seeks to give an equal voice to all stakeholder groups and assess the extent to which alternative views have been repressed, displaced, or altered in the international governance of biogenetic resources.

3. How and Who: How Should Traditional Knowledge be Protected and Who are its Rights Holders?

In the past decades, the notion that TK is the common heritage of humankind has become a contentious issue. This debate has led to the development of a variety of legal instruments aimed at protecting TK. This panel will examine who the TK rights holders are and how TK should be protected from the perspective of the various actors partaking significantly in the international governance of biodiversity. The panel welcomes contributions that inquire into the views held on these issues by governments of leading provider and user countries, the private sector, indigenous peoples’ movements, and peasant organizations.

4. Case Studies

Panel IV seeks to explore existing institutional approaches to what traditional knowledge is, how it should be protected, and who its rights holders are in various geographical locations. For example, for this panel we welcome papers that individually or comparatively analyse national policies on TK and biogenetic resources, important projects such as the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library in India, or conservation initiatives involving local communities such as the Potato Park in Peru. These suggestions are non-exhaustive, and other proposals aligning with the panel’s goals are encouraged.

Submissions:

Submissions are welcome from researchers who are in the process of writing or who have recently completed their PhDs. Abstracts of 250 words should be submitted to Anne de Chastonay:  annecatherine.dechastonay@unil.ch by September 29, 2017.

Selected applicants will be informed of their acceptance by October 4, 2017 and will be requested to submit a contribution of approximately 9000 words by December 15, 2017. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Anne de Chastonay.