Kuei-Jung Ni


Traditional Knowledge (TK) developed by indigenous peoples and local communities has been widely acknowledged as valuable to human society. TK may contribute to the protection of biodiversity, as well as the development of cultural expression, medicine and industry. As such, TK protection is no longer merely a local matter, but is of increasing international concern. A number of international institutions have engaged in lawmaking processes on the protection and preservation of TK. This article aims to undertake a review and analysis of current global protection activities, and to explore the legal implications embodied in these instruments. This article finds that the process is still in a preliminary stage and will keep evolving, and that thus far most of the instruments are of soft law character, although the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has been moving towards the formulation of a binding instrument on bio-related TK. Upon the holistic nature of TK, each regime has its own specific but limited function. The international community presently lacks a single and comprehensive structure for TK protection. Yet, some institutions under the United Nations system have engaged in cooperation and dialogue that are complementary and mutually supportive. While it remains premature to predict whether global lawmaking can play a constructive role in facilitating the protection of TK, this article suggests that relevant international institutions should pursue further harmonization and coordination in order to avoid the potential conflict between norms and to consolidate global actions.