Collaborating with the Medical Research Council in South Africa

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In collaboration with the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) unit of the Medical Research Council, Natural Justice facilitated a two-day workshop on “Legislative requirements for conducting research on medicinal plants and traditional medical knowledge with special reference to the South African situation”. The workshop was facilitated by Laureen Manuel and Kabir Bavikatte with support from Sylva Batshi and Sabine Zajderman.

The participants of the workshop consisted mainly of researchers from IKS unit, and a few representatives of the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST). The workshop centred on the international and domestic law and policy on Access and Benefit Sharing, specifically the Convention on Biological Diversity, Nagoya Protocol, National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, and Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing Regulations. The workshop also focused on the importance of community protocols and their role in securing the free, prior and informed consent of communities.

In addition to the presentations on the various laws and policies at national and international levels, participants were given case studies based on the real life challenges experienced by users, providers and regulators of indigenous biological resources and traditional knowledge. The case studies, in bringing the challenges closer to home for the researchers, engendered some intense discussions around issues of:

  • Free and prior informed consent
  • Negotiating mutually agreed terms, and
  • Fair and equitable benefit sharing

These discussions highlighted the importance of good process and the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. The workshop concluded on a high note with the scientists and researchers of the Medical Research Council stating that they have a much better understanding of the law and a deeper grasp of the concerns and rights of communities as it pertains to the work that the Council will undertake in the future.

16 December 2010

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