Professor of Practice Profile: Timothy Hodges

Professor of Practice Timothy Hodges is continuing his work of understanding how indigenous communities in both the South and the North participate in and benefit from the implementation of international sustainable development treaties (such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity). Currently, he is reviewing the experience of Indigenous Peoples representatives in negotiating the Nagoya Protocol on access to and benefit sharing (ABS) from genetic resources and traditional knowledge, and he is also developing case studies on indigenous community implementation of the Protocol.

Hodges served as a co-chair of the Nagoya Protocol negotiations, giving him a unique opportunity not only to observe the many challenges encountered by Indigenous Peoples in international treaty-making, but also to facilitate the impact of indigenous representatives on the ultimate shape of such legally-binding instruments.

The Nagoya Protocol was adopted in October 2010 and entered into force four years later. 100 countries are now parties to the treaty and the number is steadily increasing. The Protocol operationalizes the 'Grand Bargain' of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): the sharing of benefits derived from the utilization (usually in the North) of genetic resources with the countries where they were obtained. In return for receiving a more equitable share of these benefits, developing countries, which hold much of the world's biodiversity, are required to continue to conserve and sustainably use such resources. Canada is Party to the CBD and serves as host to the CBD Secretariat, located in Montreal.

As the custodians of their lands and natural resources, Indigenous Peoples and local communities have a central role to play in determining the success of the Protocol. Their traditional knowledge and practices, embedded in their cultural heritage, play an important role in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, as do their customary laws and local governance structures. In his recent case studies, Hodges has found that barriers to successful implementation of the Protocol include lack of awareness of the treaty, disinformation, insufficient technical and legal capacity, and the failure of national governments to consult with Indigenous Peoples.

Despite the close involvement of Canadians in the development of the Nagoya Protocol, Canada has not signed the treaty and there has been an apparent hiatus of work on this issue within the federal government over the past decade. But Hodges believes that a new impetus is building in Canada at the community level to move forward, as part of the project of reconciliation and the commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Timothy Hodges was Co-Chair of the Working Group on Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Resources (ABS) under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) from 2006 to 2010. A former career diplomat, he has been involved in a wide range of international files relating to technology transfer, science policy, biotechnology, intellectual property rights, genetic resources, indigenous issues, global change and circumpolar affairs – negotiated under the G8, WTO, UN CBD, UNFCCC, CSD, UNESCO, APEC, FAO, NAFTA, OAS, OECD, and numerous other international organizations.

Back to top