Indigenous advocates from around the world are calling on a UN committee to ban the appropriation of Indigenous cultures — and to do it quickly.
Delegates from 189 countries, including Canada, are in Geneva this week as part of a specialized international committee within the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a United Nations agency.
Since it began in 2001, the committee has been working on creating and finishing three pieces of international law that would expand intellectual-property regulations to protect things like Indigenous designs, dances, words and traditional medicines.
The meeting takes place as concern grows worldwide about the rights of cultures to control their own materials.
Speaking to the committee Monday, James Anaya, dean of law at the University of Colorado, said the UN’s negotiated document should “obligate states to create effective criminal and civil enforcement procedures to recognize and prevent the non-consensual taking and illegitimate possession, sale and export of traditional cultural expressions.”
Whatever the merits of this proposal – and to me it looks close to worthless – you just know that Palestinians, the people with next to no indigenous culture of their own*, wil lbe chomping at the bit to claim that Israeli food staples like falafel, hummus and tehina are really stolen Palestinian culture and therefore Israelis have no right to – eat them. They’ll go to the UN to condemn Israeli fashion designers who make variants of keffiyeh patterns. They might even try to claim that the Jerusalem skyline is part of Palestnian culture and Israel has no right to build new buildings.
Mark my words. It’s going to happen and Mondoweiss and Electronic Intifada will write long, pseudo-scholarly articles to support it.
*The only exceptions I’ve ever seen of anything that could be considered culture that seemingly originated from Arabs in “historic Palestine” are soap from Nablus and costumes from Bethlehem.
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