Johanna von Braun and Kabir Bavikatte were invited to Pretoria by the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST) to discuss the possibilities of future collaboration between DST’s work on indigenous knowledge systems and Natural Justice. The DST was represented by its Director General Prof. Yonah Seleti, Hlupheka Chabalala of the National Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Tom Suchanandan, Director: Advocacy and Policy Development. The meeting discussed the work of Natural Justice in the context of bio-cultural protocols and traditional knowledge commons. The meeting concluded with an agreement on 4 key areas of collaboration:
- A joint proposal by DST and Natural Justice to develop the first small pilot on traditional knowledge commons in South Africa.
- A proposal for a scoping study to be conducted by Natural Justice on the possible development of traditional knowledge based first aid kits by the Bushbuckridge Traditional Health Practioners Association based on their bio-cultural protocol. This scoping study will be the basis of a larger proposal to national and international donors to seek financing for a larger project that would be implemented by Natural Justice, the DST and a range of local partners in the Bushbuckridge region.
- A Natural Justice proposal to provide legal advice to the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) in its engagement with a community in the Northern Cape for further research on a local medicinal plant used by the community. Part of the proposal will be the development of a bio-cultural protocol based on which an ABS agreement could be entered into between the MRC and the community for the use of their traditional knowledge relating to this plant.
- Natural Justice was also asked to submit a proposal to develop a feasibility study for the DST on a South African law dealing with Sui Generis Systems to protect traditional knowledge. The law would have to be developed in the context of the various other laws in South Africa that refer to traditional knowledge.
The high point of the meeting was a strong support by the DST for bio-cultural community protocols as the way forward to protect community knowledge and resources and a readiness to make bio-cultural protocols national policy through the potential South African sui generis law. The meeting also explored ways in which Natural Justice and the DST could collaborate on the ongoing negotiations at the WIPO IGC.