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Towards a Holistic Approach to Indigenous Knowledge Protection: UN Activities, `Collective Bio-Cultural Heritage' and the UNPFII

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Document prepared for the Fifth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 15- 26 May 2006, New York.~Over eleven UN agencies are carrying out activities on the protection, preservation and promotion of traditional knowledge, within their particular mandates and spheres of competency. While many valuable activities are underway, it is evident that there are also gaps in their alignment with indigenous peoples' perspectives, needs and aspirations. Indigenous peoples have expressed the need for the protection of their traditional knowledge to be holistic, human rights-based and developed with their full participation. This paper reviews a number of UN agency activities to develop policy and standards for the protection of traditional knowledge. It assesses the extent to which they reflect the perspectives and priorities of indigenous people, and identifies the gaps that need to be addressed. It also explores the concept of `Collective Bio-Cultural Heritage' as a means to address the gaps in UN processes, and identifies recommendations for the UNPFII, which is mandated to advise UN agencies on indigenous issues.

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