BY ARNOLD LETSHOLO
As Botswana prepares to domesticate the Nagoya Protocol, researchers have been urged to accept local community input and control of the research process.
This emerged during a workshop this past Thursday hosted by the Centre for Scientific Research, Indigenous Knowledge and Innovation (Cesriki) the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Project at the University of Botswana to sensitize researchers on the implications of the Protocol.
The ABS project officer, Dineo Gaborekwe informed the workshop that for best practices, as per the Article 20 of the Nagoya Protocol, researchers and the community are encouraged to develop, update and use voluntary codes of conduct, guidelines and best practices and standards in relation to access and benefit-sharing.
“It is an ethical practice in any research on traditional issues to include consultation with those who may be directly affected by the research or research outcomes whether or not the research involves fieldwork. The responsibility for consultation and negotiation is ongoing. Consultation and negotiation is a continuous two-way process. Ongoing consultation is necessary to ensure free and informed consent for the proposed research, and of maintaining that consent,” she explained.
She elucidated that research projects should be staged to allow opportunities for consideration of the research by the community. That consultation involves an honest exchange of information about aims, methods, and potential outcomes for all parties and that it should not be considered as merely an opportunity for researchers to tell the community what the researchers may want.
Gaborekwe emphasized that if communities know the aims and methods of a research project as well as its implications and possible results then they may decide themselves whether to oppose the project or embrace it.
She highlighted that the uniqueness and diversity of the people at whose place the research is conducted must be recognized.
“Research in traditional knowledge must show an appreciation of the diversity of local communities, who have different languages, cultures, histories and perspectives. The intellectual and cultural property rights of local communities must be respected and preserved. Cultural and intellectual property rights are part of the heritage that exists in the cultural practices, resources and knowledge systems of communities and that are passed on by them in expressing their cultural identity. Intellectual property is not static and extends to things that may be created based on that heritage,” she said.
She further underpinned that it is a fundamental principle of research to acknowledge the sources of information and those who have contributed to the research. Therefore, researchers should always acknowledge sources of information including sources of traditional knowledge.
“Traditional knowledge researchers, individuals and communities should be involved in a research as collaborators. Communities and individuals are entitled to be involved in any research project focusing upon them and their culture. Participants have the prerogative to withdraw from the project at any time. Research on traditional issues should also incorporate traditional knowledge perspectives and this is often most effectively achieved by facilitating more direct involvement in the research. The use of, and access to, research results should be agreed. Local communities’ peoples make a significant contribution to research by providing knowledge, resources or access to data. That contribution should be acknowledged by providing access to research results and negotiating rights in the research at an early stage. The community’s expectations, the planned outcomes, and access to research results should be in the agreement.”
A researched community she said, should benefit from, and not be disadvantaged by, the research project. Research in traditional knowledge studies should benefit local communities at a local level, and more generally. A reciprocal benefit should accrue for their allowing researchers, often intimate access to their personal and community knowledge. The negotiation of outcomes should include results specific to the needs of the researched community. Among the tangible benefits that a community should be able to expect from a research project is the provision of research results in a form that is useful and accessible.
Furthermore, negotiation should result in a formal agreement for the conduct of a research project, based on good faith and free and informed consent. The aim of the negotiation process is to come to a clear understanding, which results in a formal-written agreement, about research intentions, methods and potential results. The establishment of agreements and protocols between local communities and researchers is an important aspect in traditional knowledge research.
The workshop recognized that indigenous knowledge is at the core of the Nagoya Protocol and that for researchers to decide to undertake a project on genetic resources they are usually informed by traditional knowledge. Thus, it is important when domesticating the Protocol to note that genetic resources or biodiversity use is associated with traditional knowledge.
This therefore urges the researchers to adhere to specific principles when researching Traditional knowledge – a code of conduct. The development of a code of conduct for researching traditional knowledge will be used to support the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol.