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Tackling biopiracy in Southeast Asia: the need for a legally binding regional instrument

Jinyup Kim

Keywords: biopiracy; Southeast Asia; access and benefit sharing; indigenous people and local communities

Biopiracy, largely defined as misappropriation of biological resources and associated traditional knowledge, has occurred all around the world. Southeast Asia, one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, has been a victim of biopiracy in a number of cases across the region. Despite the high occurrence of the exploitation of resources, the region has not responded to the problem of biopiracy adequately. One of the most important reasons for this lack of response to biopiracy is the absence of a legally binding regional instrument(s). However, considering that (i) biopiracy does not respect national borders, (ii) most of the Southeast Asian states have ratified the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and (iii) soft law instruments adopted so far have failed to tackle biopiracy, this article argues that a legally binding regional regime should be established to tackle biopiracy in a consistent manner. Following an analysis of a number of biopiracy cases in the region, this article discusses why a legally binding instrument(s) is necessary. It suggests how to improve the current regional instruments pertaining to access and benefit sharing in relation to biological resources and associated traditional knowledge, based on the analysis of instruments adopted to tackle biopiracy in other regions.

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