The mandate of the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat to develop frameworks for Traditional Knowledge (TK) protection arose at the Forum Trade Ministers Meeting in 1999 out of a recognition that the region’s traditional and cultural resources were being improperly exploited without due compensation to TK owners.
Work on TK aims to address this on two levels through the development of regional frameworks for
1) Traditional Biological Resources (protection of traditional plants, medicinal knowledge etc), in collaboration with the South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP); and
2) Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Culture (EC) (protection of traditional arts, songs, dances etc.), in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
The Pacific Plan recognises the need for protection of cultural values, identities and TK. In that regard, the Plan recognises the role that Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) may have, particularly in ensuring the sustainable development and ownership of the region’s TK resources.
In 2002, the Model Law on Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Culture (TKEC) was completed. It was subsequently endorsed for adoption by member countries by the SPC Ministers for Culture followed by Forum Trade Ministers in 2003. A regional framework on Traditional Biological Resources, Innovations and Practices is presently in draft form. Mainly due to lack of resources, progress with regard to the implementation of the Model Law on TKEC and the finalization of the draft framework on Traditional Biological Resources, has been slow. In spite of this, some six countries have taken commendable steps to implement the Model Law on TKEC, with two countries, Fiji and Palau, now having draft TK Bills in place for public consultations with the view to consideration and legislative enactment.
In March 2007, at a high-level meeting of the executives of the PIFS and the SPC, it was decided that lead agency responsibilities relating to the Model Law would move from the SPC, which had held those responsibilities since 1999, to the PIFS. As a first step in this new role, the PIFS convened a Workshop in June 2007 to determine member countries’ technical assistance needs with regard to progressing the Model Law’s implementation at the national level. The conclusions and recommendations of that Workshop were subsequently endorsed by Forum Trade Ministers in August 2007.
The Action Plan is based on a distillation of Forum Trade Ministers’ directives since 1999 and the broader context and more recent directives set out in the Pacific Plan. The Action Plan is cognizant of the wider economic reforms countries are engaged in to respond to rapid globalization, diminishing trade preferences and aid. Improved policy transparency, the creation of a supportive environment for private sector expansion and economic growth, and assuring accountability and good governance underpin the Action Plan.