Interdependencies, conceptualizations of humanity and regulatory regimes
Informed by various interdependencies across space and time, the concept of “humanity” has been invoked to advocate the adoption of regulatory regimes that address these interdependencies. Discourse on how to regulate the use of the human genome and human genetic databases fits this pattern. The human genome was declared “the heritage of humanity,” albeit “in a symbolic sense,” by the 1997 UNESCO Declaration of the Human Genome and Human Rights, endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 1998. Human genetic databases were not declared a global public good by the 2003 UNESCO International Declaration on Human Genetic Data, even if the Ethics Committee of the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) in a 2002 Statement on Human Genetic Databases suggested that they should have been. The literature on how to regulate the use of the human genome and human genetic databases, furthermore, appeals to global public goods theory and to ideas informing regimes that regulate the use of certain natural resources in which humanity is deemed to have an interest as sources of inspiration. Prompted by these references in the literature, this chapter seeks to identify parallels and discrepancies between the various discourses. This chapter illustrates that, in part, different types of interdependencies and different conceptualizations of humanity inform these discourses, resulting in conceptual confusion. This chapter first addresses the interdependencies that play a role in debates on how to regulate the use of the human genome and human genetic databases. It then discusses global public goods theory and subsequently considers regimes that address the use of natural resources in which humanity is deemed to have an interest, both of which have been appealed to in writings regarding the human genome. The natural resources regimes referred to include those that address the use of fish in the high seas and the mineral resources of the Area. In addition, regimes that address the protection of the earth’s climate system and biological diversity are briefly discussed. Finally, this chapter submits that three conceptualizations of humanity play a role in these various discourses and that distinguishing between them is important methodologically and for purposes of attaining conceptual clarity.