UN countries adopt groundbreaking intellectual property treaty

Mātauranga Māori is central to te ao Māori and a major part of our unique culture and national identity in Aotearoa.

Published: Monday, 8 July 2024 | Rāhina, 08 Hōngongoi, 2024

The Treaty adopted by the United Nations will help ensure that traditional knowledge about genetic resources is properly traced.

Te Puni Kōkiri represented Aotearoa at the United Nations in May 2024 to help achieve this historic success.

“Te Puni Kōkiri set its sights on being a world-leading indigenous policy agency and in May we took this goal quite literally,” says Laine Fisher, Policy Manager, Te Puni Kōkiri.

A small delegation of Te Puni Kōkiri policy experts represented Aotearoa at the United Nations Diplomatic Conference on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge.

“We went to negotiate and agree a historic new international Treaty and, working with other United Nation states, were able to exceed our expectations.”

The Treaty recognises the role of indigenous people's traditional knowledge (mātauranga Māori) in inventions. The Treaty requires countries to ensure people applying for patents identify the country of origin of any genetic resources and any traditional knowledge used. This then ensures people seeking to protect their inventions aren't misappropriating knowledge or resources.

The Te Puni Kōkiri team received high praise from several indigenous organisations and governments for playing a leading and decisive role in negotiations.

“This mahi is a hugely humbling opportunity. Understanding how important it was to get the Treaty finalised, the team had to take a pragmatic but principled approach to ensure that 192 other countries would agree to it.”

Te Puni Kōkiri has built off the mahi of rangatira who stepped onto the international stage and laid a strong platform for progress, such as Aroha Mead and Maui Solomon, among many others.

The Te Puni Kōkiri rōpū was supported by Manu Caddie, who attended the conference on behalf of an NGO and joined the indigenous caucus. Manu’s knowledge and agility helped bring a wide range of countries toward consensus.

The team from Te Puni Kōkiri will now turn their focus to seeking the Government’s decision on whether Aotearoa will sign up to the international Treaty. More information about this mahi can be found here.

The Te Tumu mō te Pae Tawhiti work programme at Te Puni Kōkiri seeks to create sustainable economic opportunities based on our unique place in the world, stimulate economic activity, enhance our cultural identity and protect and restore the wellbeing of our environment.