Protecting Traditional Environmental Knowledge and New Social Movements in the Americas: Intellectual Property, Human Right or Claims to an Alternative Form of Sustainable Development?

19 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2014  

Rosemary J. Coombe

York University

Date Written: 2005

Abstract

The protection of traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) is a complex area of emerging law that has attracted a great deal of academic attention and controversy over the past five years. Rights with respect to TEK are only one dimension of the struggle for indigenous political autonomy in Mexico and elsewhere, but they are not insignificant. The Zapatista resistance to NAFTA and global neoliberalism is well known but just as important are peoples' ongoing struggles in Chiapas for collective political autonomy and their assertion of rights to communal forms of rural subsistence framed in cultural terms as the right to maintain a distinctive indigenous identity. As Jung suggests with respect to the Zapatistas in Chiapas, these "cultural" assertions are not merely expressions of a need for recognition, nor attempts to safeguard traditional practices from the threat of modernity, but instead "...indigenous identity is the condition of participation in a global political dialogue" that insists upon a political voice for many of those who have been most marginalized and oppressed by modernity and asserts for this group the "right to have rights."

Keywords: Traditional environmental knowledge, Cultural rights, Zapatistas, Sustainable development, Neoliberalism

Suggested Citation

Coombe, Rosemary J., Protecting Traditional Environmental Knowledge and New Social Movements in the Americas: Intellectual Property, Human Right or Claims to an Alternative Form of Sustainable Development? (2005). Florida Journal of International Law, Vol. 17, 115-135, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2463888

Rosemary J. Coombe (Contact Author)

York University ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.yorku.ca/rcoombe/publications.htm

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