A wealth of traditional crop varieties, medicinal plants and other genetic resources are under the care of indigenous people and local communities — who need legal rights to manage them. New legal backing comes from the 2010 Nagoya Protocol to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which requires prior informed consent for access to traditional knowledge and genetic resources, and calls for support of ‘community protocols’ that set out rules for access and benefit sharing.
Community protocols are not just about indigenous rights: they clarify expectations for business and government, preserve irreplaceable biological resources, and support climate change adaptation and sustainable development. But to get these benefits, governments must back up the Nagoya Protocol with national laws and institutions, and support community-led participatory processes.
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