Indigenous advocates from around the world have reportedly recommended to a specialized United Nations committee to make cultural appropriation of indigenous peoples illegal as an international standard.
The specialized committee, which is a part of the U.N.’s World Intellectual Property Organization, discussed the issue when members met in Geneva, Switzerland, this week, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported Tuesday. They were discussing the committee’s progress, its future work and the renewal of the committee’s mandate.
Delegates from 189 countries that sit on the committee have been working since 2001 on creating text-based negotiations that protect the traditional knowledge, cultural expressions and genetic resources as intellectual property of indigenous peoples and to prevent misappropriation of these properties.
In a presentation to the committee on Monday, James Anaya, dean of law at the University of Colorado, said the negotiations that the committee had created should “obligate” participating states to introduce criminal and civil enforcement procedures to confront “the non-consensual taking and illegitimate possession, sale and export of traditional cultural expressions,” the CBC reported.
The committee commissioned Anaya in 2014 to provide a technical review of its drafted negotiations as an indigenous expert and “within the framework of indigenous human rights.”
During Monday’s session, Anaya cited Urban Outfitters’ so-called “Navajo” line as an example of a major retailer using “false marketing” of an indigenous community ― the Navajo Nation ― for financial gain, CBC reported.
The Navajo Nation sued Urban Outfitters in 2012 for marketing a line of Navajo-themed products ― which included panties and a flask ― without first asking permission from the Native American tribe, which registered the Navajo name in 1942, according to The Guardian. Urban Outfitters reached a settlement with the tribe for an undisclosed amount in November.
The U.N.’s specialized committee, known officially as the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (or IGC), is a forum for WIPO member states to discuss intellectual property issues and negotiate an international treaty that would protect unique cultures and traditions.
This week’s committee session began in Geneva on Monday and was due to continue until Friday. The World Intellectual Property Organization will meet with the committee in October to review the committee’s progress.