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The Nature of Law Newsletter, October 2006



Volume 1, Issue 3, October 2006

Message from the Chief Counsel

This third newsletter discusses a diverse array of recent legal events of interest to members of the Sustainable Development network. Katharina Gamharter and Danielle Malek outline intellectual property issues that present new avenues for legal technical assistance, especially working with colleagues in the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research. Katharina and Danielle bring a wealth of knowledge concerning intellectual property issues with professional and graduate degree work encompassing intellectual property and biotechnology. Salman Salman has been the leading expert helping the World Bank revise its Indigenous Peoples operational policy and he and international law expert Maurizio Ragazzi bring to our attention the new Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council and now pending before the General Assembly. The new Treaty on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is also pending before the General Assembly for adoption, is addressed by Alberto Ninio, who worked extensively on the preparation of the new Bank guidelines for addressing the inclusion of disabled persons in development projects. These guidelines will soon be available in paper and electronic format.

As always, we welcome your feedback on how this newsletter can best be of service.

Charles E. Di Leva
Chief Counsel, Environment and International Law Unit
Legal Vice Presidency - The World Bank


Exploring Hybrid Intellectual Property Options for Agricultural Research
By Katharina Gamharter & Danielle Malek

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
By Maurizio Ragazzi & Salman M.A. Salman

The New UN Treaty on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
By Alberto Ninio

Exploring Hybrid Intellectual Property Options for Agricultural Research
By Katharina Gamharter & Danielle Malek

LEGEN was recently invited to participate in a brainstorming meeting on exploring hybrid intellectual property (IP) options for agricultural research hosted by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The meeting was attended by diverse participants from the private sector, government, development organizations and NGOs.

The interface of private interests and public concerns in the context of IP was first explored by drawing lessons from the health sector. Specific lessons learned from the IP and health debate and raised at the meeting include the need for national legal systems tailored to local requirements, a maximum use of permitted flexibilities, and enhanced technical capacity within public sector research institutions.

The meeting then focused on implications of the current IP landscape on agricultural research. There was agreement on the trend of expanding IP in agriculture and several problematic aspects of this trend were flagged. However, the meeting also provided an opportunity to “think outside the box” and to brainstorm innovative IP options. Specific ideas explored included peer review of patent registration to improve patent quality, public-private partnerships (including those based on the idea of protected commons), and the separation of the protection of IP products from IP tools. The meeting also stressed the growing importance of IP issues in projects related to agriculture and biodiversity.

Potential avenues highlighted for future action by the CGIAR were the commissioning of case studies relating to specific issues on the agricultural IP agenda and the provision of support for capacity strengthening and awareness-raising

LEGEN’s experience in diverse environmental law issues, particularly in agricultural policy, and its growing expertise in advisory work in IP law and policy perfectly situate it to respond to new initiatives in this area. We look forward to providing continued input on issues such as:

Legal arrangements for public/private partnerships
Design of sui generis IP legislation for plant variety protection consistent with WTO obligations
Design and advice on IP components in projects related to agriculture and biodiversity
Development of best practices regarding IP issues in project work

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
By Maurizio Ragazzi & Salman M.A. Salman

The United Nations Human Rights Council, a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly established in April 2006 in replacement of the Commission on Human Rights and consisting of 47 member states, adopted on June 29, 2006, a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration was not adopted by consensus, but by a recorded vote of 30 votes against two (Canada and Russia), with 12 abstentions. Three member states were absent. The Declaration is now pending before the General Assembly. If approved, it will (like all General Assembly resolutions) be a non-legally binding document, with an influence commensurate to its degree of acceptance, in practice, by states.

The background to the Declaration goes back over twenty years, when ECOSOC (a UN principal organ) established a Working Group on Indigenous Peoples to develop minimum standards regarding the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Its drafting history dates back to 1995, when the Commission on Human Rights established an open-ended intersessional working group to elaborate a draft declaration. Thus, the work on the draft declaration has been on-going for the last eleven years.

The New UN Treaty on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
By Alberto Ninio

On August 25, 2006, after five years of work, and with an unprecedented involvement of disabled people’s organizations, the draft International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ICRPD)  was adopted ad referendum by the UN Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by New Zealand’s Ambassador Don MacKay. The Convention is expected to be approved at the UN General Assembly this Fall.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the agreement “a historic achievement for the 650 million people with disabilities around the world that have lacked adequate protection until now”, adding that “this long overdue Convention will mark the beginning of a new era in which they will have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.”

Although there is already an Inter-American convention prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities, and numerous non-binding international instruments addressing disability issues, the UN Convention (see general principles in the box below) will be the first comprehensive international human rights convention on disability that provides for the protection of civil, political, social and economic rights.

General principles

The International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is particularly notable for its inclusion of an article that explicitly elaborates general principles. Although such articles are common in environmental and other fields, such an article is unusual in the human rights context. It is hoped that the express articulation of general principles will assist in the interpretation and implementation of the Convention. The “fundamental principles” of the Convention (as of August 25, 2006) are expressed as:

(a) Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons;

(b) Non-discrimination;

(c) Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;

(d) Respect for difference and acceptance of disability as part of human diversity and humanity;

(e) Equality of opportunity;

(f) Accessibility;

(g) Equality between men and women; and

(h) Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.

The ICRPD’s articles cover a number of key areas that are relevant to the work of the World Bank, including accessibility, personal mobility, health, education, employment, rehabilitation, participation in political life, equality and non-discrimination. It also recognizes the specific protections required by some of the more marginalized groups within the disability sector, namely women and children with disabilities.

A few examples of areas in which States Parties may require implementation assistance from the World Bank include:

  • Implementation activities of developing countries, who emphasized the need for inclusive development policies and practices during the Convention negotiations process;
  • Legislative and policy reform initiatives, banning discriminatory customs and practices (e.g., in education, health, labor market fields, etc.) and promoting alternative approaches that are inclusive of persons with disabilities; and
  • Removal of barriers hindering access to, e.g., the environment, transport, public facilities and communication, and economic participation (e.g., equal access to financial services).

In recent years the World Bank has played an important role in the field of inclusive development, both internally and externally. Regional and thematic working groups within the Bank are reference points for learning about disability and development.

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1st Meeting of the Bureau of the 17th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol

New Delhi, India


Opportunities and Challenges in Agricultural Water Reuse 

Santa Rosa, California, United States


Corporate Climate Response New York, NY, United States 


Meeting of Donors on the Climate Change FundsParis, France

30 - 3 Nov.

18th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol

New Delhi, India



Global Perspectives on Large Dams New Haven, Connecticut


EMA 10th Annual Fall Conference Marina del Rey (Los Angeles), California, 


International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict


2nd Meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutant Review Committee

Geneva, Switzerland 


United Nations Climate Change Conference - Nairobi 2006Nairobi, Kenya


Water Finance & Investment SummitThe Princeton Club, NYC 


Future Fuels 2006Washington DC, US 

29 Nov. - Dec.2

World Tourism Forum - For peace and sustainable developmentPorto Alegre, Brazil 

29 Nov. - Dec.3

Bioenergy World AmericasSalvador, Brazil 


GEF - Consultations and Council MeetingWashington DC, USA


United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) Ad Hoc Expert Group on Non-Legally Binding InstrumentsNew York, New York


Energy, Environment, and Development: Analysing Opportunities for Reducing Poverty Bangalore, India


International Forestry and Environment Symposium 2006Kalutara, Sri Lanka


Delhi Sustainable Development Summit New Delhi, India











The Environment and International Law Unit of the World Bank’s Legal Vice Presidency (LEGEN) provides advice to the Bank on all environmental and international legal and policy issues related to Bank-financed, implemented and/or supported projects.

For futher information, please email us:

Last updated: 2011-09-05

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