Declaration on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Genetic Resources and Indigenous Knowledge

Convened at the Sixth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

May 14-25, 2007

New York, New York

We, the undersigned Indigenous peoples and organizations, having convened during the Sixth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, from May 14-25, 2007, upon the traditional territory of the Onondaga Nation present the following declaration regarding our rights to genetic resources and indigenous knowledge:

Reaffirming our spiritual and cultural relationship with all life forms existing in our traditional territories;

Reaffirming our fundamental role and responsibility as the guardians of our territories, lands and natural resources;

Recognizing that we are the guardians of the Indigenous knowledge passed down from our ancestors from generation to generation and we reaffirm our responsibility to protect and perpetuate this knowledge for the benefit of our peoples and our future generations;

Strongly reaffirming our right to self-determination, which is fundamental to our ability to carry out our responsibilities in accordance with our cultural values and our customary laws.

Strongly reaffirming our commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as adopted by the Human Rights Council, including, Article 31, which establishes that:

            1.         Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts.  They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.

            2.         In conjunction with indigenous peoples, States shall take effective measures to recognize and protect the exercise of these rights.

Recalling the Declaration of Indigenous Organizations of the Western Hemisphere, Phoenix, Arizona (February 1995), which asserted, "Our responsibility as Indigenous peoples is to ensure the continuity of the natural order of all life is maintained for generations to come...We have a responsibility to speak for all life forms and to the defend the integrity of the natural order. …We oppose the patenting of all natural genetic materials.  We hold that life cannot be bought, owned, sold, discovered or patented, even in its smallest form."

Recalling the Beijing Declaration of Indigenous Women, issued at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which stated that “We demand that our inalienable rights to our intellectual and cultural heritage be recognized and respected.  We will continue to freely use our biodiversity for meeting our local needs, while ensuring that the biodiversity base of our local economies will not be eroded. We will revitalize and rejuvenate our biological and cultural heritage and continue to be the guardians and custodians of our knowledge and biodiversity.”

Recalling the Ukupseni Declaration, at Kuna Yala, Panama, 12-13 November 1997, which declared that “We reject the use of existing mechanisms in the legalization of intellectual property and patent systems use of existing mechanisms including intellectual property rights and patents to legalize the appropriation of knowledge and genetic material, whatever their source, and especially that which comes from our communities.”

Recalling the INTERNATIONAL CANCUN DECLARATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES at the 5th WTO Ministerial Conference - Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico, (12 September 2003), which stated, “Stop patenting of life forms and other intellectual property rights over biological resources and indigenous knowledge. Ensure that we, Indigenous Peoples, retain our rights to have control over our seeds, medicinal plants and indigenous knowledge.”

Concerned by the accelerated elaboration and negotiation of an international regime on access and benefit sharing under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the nation-states who are Parties to the Convention failure, to date, to recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples to control access to, and utilization of, the genetic resources that originate in our territories, lands and waters.  

Therefore, we urge the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to

1.  Prepare a legal analysis on States, peoples and sovereignty and their relationship, scope and application, to assist the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in understanding sovereignty in the context of the Convention and the role of sovereignty in developing an international regime on ABS;

2.  Recommend to the Convention on Biological Diversity that, consistent with international human rights law, states have an obligation to recognize and protect the rights of Indigenous peoples to control access to the genetic resources that originate in their lands and waters, and associated traditional knowledge.  Such recognition must be a key element of the proposed international regime on ABS. 

3.  Prepare a report on the social, cultural and economic impacts of commercialization of genetic resources and indigenous knowledge on Indigenous peoples.

4. Disseminate this Declaration and the above recommended reports to all relevant UN fora.


Indigenous Peoples and Organizations Supporting the Declaration on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Genetic Resources and Indigenous Knowledge

  1. Andes Chinchasuyo, Ecuador
  2. Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth
  3. Tonatierra
  4. Rapa Nui Parliament
  5. Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)
  6. International Indian Treaty Council (IITC)
  7. Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism (IPCB)
  8. Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development
  9. Native Women’s Advocacy Center
  10. Native Women’s Association of Canada
  11. South Asia Indigenous Women Forum
  12. Indigenous Peace Commission, Nepal
  13. Indigenous Women Republic Front, Nepal
  14. American Indian Law Alliance
  15. Fundación Cholsamaj
  16. Centro de Estudios Integrados para el Desariollo Comunal
  17. Centro de Proyectos para el Desariollo Comunal
  18. Turaga Nation
  19. Vanuatu Indigenous Peoples Forum
  20. Columbia River Education, Economic Development
  21. Diné Care
  22. Dewan Adat Papua Jayapura
  23. Juventud Indigena Argentine
  24. Call of the Earth Llamado de la Tierra
  25. El Molo People
  26. El Molo Eco-Tourism Rights and Development Forum
  27. Tatanka Oyate (Buffalo Nations)
  28. Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations
  29. Instituto Indígena Brasileiro para Propriedade Intelectual (INBRAPI)
  30. Sutsuin Jiyeyu Wayúu –Fuerza de Mujeres Wayúu
  31. Red de Mujeres Indígenas Wayúu
  32. Consejo Nacional de la Mujeres Indígena
  33. Tob Qom Choco Argentine
  34. Chirapaq, Centro de Culturas Indígenas del Peru
  35. Ecuador CONAIE
  36. Consejo de Todo los Tierra – Mapuche Chile
  37. Corporacion de Mujeres Mapuche
  38. Federacion de Pueblos de Pichincha
  39. Nacionalidad Waorani Del Ecuador
  40. Asociacion de Comunidades Indígenas
  41. Fundacion Para la Promocion del Concimiento Indígena
  42. Luz y Vida, Ecuador
  43. Cultural Conservation Act (CCA)
  44. International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests