I have been writing about Geographical Indication (GI) for the last few weeks. The more I write the clearer picture I get about the importance of GI products in Bangladesh. It is much more than simply registering several dozens or several hundreds of products under the Geographical Indication Act 2013. It is related to our national interest. But so far we have neglected it to a large extent. So, it is time to be aware of GI products’ and how they can contribute to advancing our national interest.
What is national interest? According to Hans Joachim Morgenthau, one of the towering figures of International Relations and Political Scientist of the 20th century, “The meaning of national interest is survival—the protection of physical, political and cultural identity against encroachments by other nation-states.”
How can Geographical Indication (GI) contribute to preserving our national interest? Before answering this question, we should take into account some of the factors which are integral parts of the concept of national interest.
Many people have a very limited and partial concept of national interest. They feel that national interest is limited to national security and political strength. However, national interest should and must include economic, cultural and even environmental factors. Also, we have to take the basic values, ideas and principles of our constitution into consideration.
Sadly, we have largely ignored the potential of Geographical Indication in the last 10 years. We have a very narrow and limited approach towards GI. We tend to just focus on the economic benefit of registering GI products. The assumption is like this: registering a product under GI Act will simply increase its sales and generate employment.
There is no doubt that GI products have huge potential for contributing to the economic development of a country. In fact, the primary goal of Geographical Indication is to identify the local products that have potential to generate employment in the regional areas.
Rising temperature has become a major cause for concern for all the countries, and it has prompted us to take the environment pollution issue very seriously. GI aims to preserve nature by giving GI status to important trees, flowers, fruits, fish and animals. A very effective way to save a tree or a flower is to bring it under GI certification because it makes local people and also government bodies more serious about its preservation and importance.
Very few of us are aware of the fact that Dhaka City has a rich history of at least 400 years. The artisans in Shakhari Bazar have been making ornaments with Shankha or conch shells for several centuries. Granting GI status to Shankha of Shakhari Bazar will help to preserve the age-old craft.
GI products have nothing to do with politics in that sense but on the other hand we see a kind of legal battle is going on between India and Pakistan over the GI status of basmati rice, which has a direct relationship with politics. Therefore, GI products can contribute to the political stabilization of a country. In fact, when the number of GI products in our country will cross 100, then we will be able to realise this matter. And GI products have a very big role in regional development. When the regional economy of a country becomes strong, it strengthens its overall economy and solidifies its stance in the international arena.
The writer is the President of EDC