Legal Reform in the Protection of Traditional Knowledge

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  • Topic: Culture, Law, World Heritage Site
  • Pages : 7 (2090 words )
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  • Published : April 14, 2013
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LEGAL REFORM IN THE PROTECTION OF TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE IN ZAMBIA

Zambia is an independent democratic state comprising of different ethnic groups which together represent a rich and diverse cultural heritage. This heritage gives Zambia a distinctive character from which it derives its unique personality. This valuable heritage must be preserved, nurtured and developed to foster a strong sense of national identity, pride and unity and to become a vitalising force in the development process. Our multi–ethnic value systems, traditions and beliefs as reflected through the various languages, performing and visual arts as well as other forms of cultural expression constitute the strands of a broader national culture and need to be well researched in order to be known, appreciated, respected and protected.[1]

Traditional knowledge is a legal term of art that has come to encompass a wide array of meanings.  The World Intellectual Property organization (“WIPO”) makes use of the term “traditional knowledge” as a specific term, stricto sensu and as a general term, lato sensu. Traditional knowledge stricto sensu is understood to refer to “technical” know-how and knowledge related to or associated with, inter alia, biodiversity conservation, agriculture, medicine and genetic resources.[2]

Traditional knowledge lato sensu is used in a broader sense to refer to both technical know-how, knowledge, and also folklore/traditional expressions and manifestations of cultures in the form of music, stories, paintings, handicrafts, languages and symbols, performances and the like, falling under the rubric traditional cultural expressions or expressions of folklore.[3] This paper will employ the broader meaning of the term ‘traditional knowledge’.

Indigenous people understand traditional knowledge to be various things. It includes the teachings and experiences passed on from generation to generation. It covers knowledge of the environment they live in. It is traditional healing It is holistic.  It cannot be compartmentalized and cannot be separated from the people who hold it.  It is rooted in the spiritual health, culture and language of the people.  It is a way of life.[4]

In Zambia, traditional knowledge is dealt with by a multiplicity of institutions and a host of statutes. These include the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs, the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources which consists of the Forestry Department[5], Zambia Wildlife Authority[6], the Environmental Council of Zambia[7] established under the Environmental Protection and Pollution Control Act; the House of Chiefs as established under Article 130 of the Constitution[8]; the National Heritage Conservation Commission[9] established under the National Heritage Conservation Commission Act; the National Museums Board[10] formed under the National Museums Act; the National Archives of Zambia[11].

In addition to statutes enacted and aforementioned, Zambia is a state party to the Convention on Biological Diversity and has signed the Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore[12].

The merits of the current legal regime in relation to traditional knowledge are that there exists some framework for the administration of traditional knowledge and there is a promotion of categories of traditional knowledge. The Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs ensures the proper administration and promotion of chiefs’ affairs, traditional governance systems, conservation and preservation of Zambia’s heritage, culture and arts for sustainable development and national identity, the promotion of traditional ceremonies, the promotion of traditional crafts and tourism souvenirs.

The Forest Department ensures sustainable management of forest ecosystems and biodiversity application through scientific and indigenous technical knowledge through, inter alia, promoting the value of forests for catchment protection,...
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