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Declaration of the International Conference on Medicinal Plants held at Bangalore, India

Volume 3 Number 1 - December 1998


For further information, please contact Darshan Shankar, The Foundation for the Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), 50 MSH Layout, Anandagar, Bangalore 560024, India.

This Declaration was a result of an International Conference for Medicinal Plants held in Bangalore, India in February 1998. It was hosted by the Foundation for the Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT). It attracted 400 delegates representing major stakeholders from 35 countries. The international organising committee for the conference included IUCN -The World Conservation Union, World Wide for Nature (WWF-UK), U.K., Global Initiative for Traditional Systems of Health (Gifts), U.K. Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Italy, PLANT TALK (magazine on plant conservation worldwide), Biodiversity Network (BCN), U.S.A. and BGCI.

This international event marked the tenth anniversary of the Declaration at Chiang Mai in which the essential role of medicinal plants in primary health care was formally recognisd. The aim of the meeting was to assess the progress that had been made in the field of medicinal plant conservation, to address some of the diverse issues that are raised by their utilisation and to make concrete plans for conservation action.

Dr Peter Raven, in opening the Conference, drew attention to the importance of preserving cultural diversity as a key to the conservation of biodiversity and noted that medicinal plant use is as old as humanity. In closing the Conference, Dr M.S. Swaminathan remarked that this has been an extremely important meeting and offered his support and involvement in the on-going momentum created by the Conference.

For further information, please contact

Darshan Shankar,
The Foundation for the Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT),
50 MSH Layout,
Bangalore 560024,

Tel: +91 (080) 333 6909/0348/348 4465,
Fax: +91 (080) 333 4167,

Statement of Participants

We, the participants in the International Conference on Medicinal Plants, held in Bangalore, India, 16-19 February 1998, coming from:

  • Community Groups
  • Local, regional, national, and international NGOs
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Industry
  • Research institutes and universities
  • Government agencies
  • Donor agencies
  • Inter-governmental organizations

re-affirm the spirit and action embodied in the Chiang Mai declaration of 1988 concerning the conservation of medicinal plants, and believe that medicinal plant conservation and the revitalization of traditional knowledge on healthcare uses of plants must become matters of international priority.

We express our serious concern about the continuing loss of medicinal plants and their natural habitats and the loss of local control over natural resources and their management.

We, therefore, applaud the Convention on Biological Diversity for its commitment to conserve biodiversity and encourage the wider use and application of knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous communities and for emphasizing the need for equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of biodiversity with local communities.

We call for additional international investments for in situ and ex situ conservation of medicinal plants, revitalization of traditional medical cultures and removal of impediments to global availability of traditional health products.

We also draw attention to the infringement of traditional knowledge and resource rights by the exclusive manner in which intellectual property rights related to traditionally known resources are being claimed.

We believe medicinal plant research should reflect the value and understanding of traditional knowledge systems rather than viewing indigenous knowledge of plants simply as raw materials or leads for improvements to be made by others.

We call upon all national and international herbal and phyto-medicine companies to focus on sustainable use of biodiversity and benefit-sharing with local communities. We particularly call for support to enlightened partnerships between governments, NGOs, industry and local communities, to act urgently to save medicinal plants and the rich and diverse cultures associated with them.

We resolve to form a global electronic network in order to promote constructive relationships between the diverse agencies active in the field of medicinal plant conservation and their sustainable utilization.

Our Recommendations Related to Conservation

High priority to programmes for the conservation of medicinal plants should be justified on the basis of savings that the plants generate for national health expenditure and thus to the national economy. National conservation programmes should continue to emphasize in situ conservation of biodiversity, including medicinal plants, since this is more cost effective than other approaches. The growing demand for medicinal plants also makes it imperative to find ways and means to cultivate such plants extensively on scales appropriate to the demand.

Government and Non-Government Organizations Should:

  • Develop national, regional and local biodiversity planning, and implement programs for inventory and threat assessment of medicinal plants.
  • Identify key areas for habitat protection, including bio-cultural sites like sacred groves.
  • Sign agreements with botanical gardens and appropriate international agencies to regulate transfer of germplasm, previously taken from developing countries, for commercial use.
  • Develop community-based conservation strategies for increasing self-reliance of rural communities in primary health care by building upon cultural traditions and practices.
  • Develop new models of multi-dimensional ethno-botanical studies driven by community needs rather than by national or global priorities.
  • Develop extensive cultivation programmes involving small and marginal farmers, tribals and women as beneficiaries.
  • Strengthen global, regional and national networking activities related to conservation and sustainable utilization of medicinal plants.

Our Recommendations on Trade and Enterprise

  • Government organizations, Industry and Conservation NGOs should improve monitoring and control of trade for threatened medicinal plants and take urgent steps for the revival of their populations in the wild.
  • World Trade Organization [WTO] should formulate international and national codes that make it mandatory for Trade and Industry to provide reliable information on the volumes traded, sources of plants and disclose use of traditional knowledge in patent claims.
  • Governments should find ways to encourage the natural products industry to contribute its share towards the costs of conservation of Medicinal Plants and their related cultural diversity.
  • The CBD Secretariat, World Trade Organization, NGOs and national governments should promote regional co-ordination to develop new "bio-partnership" guidelines.
  • World Health Organization [WHO] and Drug Regulation Authorities in importing countries should formulate new guidelines for certifying authenticity of traditional herbal products in consultation with indigenous knowledge systems to encourage manufacturers in developing countries to bring their products into the world market.
  • Government and non-government organizations should motivate industry to take practical steps to promote "economic participation" of rural communities in growth of the sector.

Our Recommendations Related to Revitalization of Traditional Medical Cultures and Plants

  • Governments and International Agencies should accord priority not only to documentation of traditional medical knowledge but also to its revitalization and communication to future generations.
  • WHO should promote introduction of traditional knowledge into international medical education. It should increase investment levels for promotion of Traditional Systems of Medicine. WHO should also assist in establishment of international schools for Traditional Systems of Medicine, to begin with, in their regions of origins in order to balance the overwhelming and culturally limiting domination of western medicine schools worldwide.
  • Governments should promote national and regional associations of herbal healers and traditional medical practitioners for the assurance of high quality medical service to the public.
  • International agencies and national governments should promote cross-cultural Traditional Medicine databases and research projects to promote South-South collaboration and to also share traditional medical knowledge on fair terms with other cultures.
  • Governments should take urgent steps to frame national policies to include support for revitalization of local health traditions in the South and North in order to strengthen self-reliance of rural communities.
  • Governments should design national herbal drug "research strategies" on methodologies which reflect traditional theory.
  • Governments should involve custodians of traditional medical knowledge as senior advisors in appropriately designed collaborative clinical research projects between traditional and western medicine.
  • Governments should make policy changes at all levels in the public health system that will remove disincentives to citizens using traditional systems of medicine.

Recommendations on Traditional Resource Rights

Government and Non-government Organizations Should:

  • Formulate policies and legal framework that favour greater local control over resources.
  • Develop resource centres (at local, regional, national and international levels) to strengthen a community's capacity for advocacy, self-representation, negotiation and the protection of traditional resource rights.
  • stablish regional information networks on case studies, community experiences, sourcing opportunities.
  • Form new laws that respect rights of indigenous people over resources and lands traditionally used by them and oppose adverse laws claiming government or private corporate ownership or control over indigenous and traditional people's resources, land and territories.
  • Develop codes of ethics and standards of conduct for all non-commercial and commercial activities on such principles as prior informed consent, full disclosure on source of materials and traditional knowledge, equity and self-determination.
  • Ensure that cross-cultural translations of traditional products into western medicine are not granted IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights) if what is non-obvious in borrowing culture is obvious in the donor culture.
  • Universities worldwide should design and introduce new inter-disciplinary and inter-cultural science that have a broader cultural basis that includes the world-view of traditional knowledge systems.