Culture


Forest traditions make business sense for indigenous people
Thomson Reuters Foundation, 18 November 2013

LONDON, UK: For centuries, indigenous communities in the Philippines have kept the country’s rainforests safe from over-use, thanks to their deep and spiritual respect for nature’s limits. But in the last decade, economic interests seen as good for development – ranging from mining to palm oil cultivation – have overshadowed indigenous people’s way of life, often with devastating effects on the forest. That has led to a gradual recognition at international level of the important role local communities play in forest conservation. Researchers are finding that, where indigenous people have strong land rights, forests are being preserved. “Whatever the forests can give, that’s only what they take,” says Ruth Canlas, facilitator for the Philippines branch of the Philippines-based Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange of South and Southeast Asia, a network of NGOs and community-based groups that helps indigenous communities market forest goods from resources other than wood, including honey, medicinal plants and rattan for crafts. With the help of such organisations, indigenous people are banding together to form community forest enterprises, which combine products from multiple groups to expand production and marketing opportunities. This enables local people to earn more, allowing them to continue managing and making a living from their forests – and reducing the chance they will be forced off their land to seek work in urban areas. Read the article …

Arctic Biodiversity Assessment: Indigenous Peoples and Biodiversity in the Arctic
Tero Mustonen and Violet Ford, 2013

Arctic biodiversity has been and continues to be managed and sustained by Arctic Indigenous peoples through their traditional knowledge. Traditional knowledge is used to observe, evaluate and form views about a particular situation on the land. This knowledge reflects perceptions and wisdom that has been passed on to new generations right up to the present day. However, steps need to be taken to ensure that traditional knowledge is renewed and passed on to the generations to come. The imposition of ‘western’ ways of living, introduced diseases and health regimes, formalized school-based education, Christianity, and the crisscrossing of traditional homelands by modern infrastructure have reduced the capacity of Arctic Indigenous communities to maintain their customary ways of understanding and interacting with their environment. The past century has seen the rise of modern conservation practices in tandem with increasing industrial uses of the land, often with no appreciation for traditional modes of life in the region. Read the chapter …

Internship position open at SPFII
SPFII release, 12 November 2013

An internship position is now available at the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Applications should be submitted online at the UN Internship Programme webpage, with a copy sent to bernardi@un.org. The specific job opening is JO # 31737 and the deadline for applications is 26 November 2013. Read the release … Visit the UN Internship Programme webpage …

Training Workshop: Community-based Inventorying of Intangible Cultural Heritage
22-28 November 2013 (Shymkent, Kazakhstan)

This training workshop is aimed at enhancing the national capacities in the field of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, in particular inventorying under the 2003 UNESCO Convention on intangible cultural heritage, including practical technical skills in inventory-making. Experts from Kazakhstan will be trained in identifying, defining, inventorying and documenting intangible cultural heritage. They are in charge of implementing concrete safeguarding activities and conducting training in the management and appropriate transmission of intangible cultural heritage, while undertaking and/or coordinating related scientific, technical, legal, economic and other studies. The purpose of this session is to raise awareness about the value and diversity of the intangible cultural heritage and ensure community participation and consent in all activities concerning their intangible cultural heritage. Participants will be from governmental and non-governmental organizations, communities and institutions, with preference given to local communities. Further information …

COBRA Project: Future challenges, local solutions

Standing for Community Owned Best practice for sustainable Resource Adaptive management in the Guiana Shield, South America, the COBRA project brings together South American and European civil society organizations with extensive experience in enabling and disseminating grassroots solutions in the Guiana Shield region of Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. It is a multidisciplinary project focused on promoting community-owned solutions for the management of ecosystem services, and for response to emerging challenges related to climate change, biodiversity conservation and forest management, while at the same time maximizing social justice and ecological sustainability. Indigenous groups in South America are participating in the project, using a range of visual methods including participatory video and photography. Visit the project website …

Australia is the place of vanishing languages
Chris Raja, ABC, 19 November 2013

NORTHERN TERRITORY, AUSTRALIA: The definition of cultural heritage can vary. It can be physical – such as that contained in culturally-significant buildings, landscapes and artefacts – or intangible, contained in language, music, movies and customs, festivals, and food. But it’s not just old things, pretty things, or physical things. Cultural heritage involves strong human emotions. The role language, culture and heritage plays in a person’s life and community cannot be underestimated. Culture is the basis of all social identity and development, and cultural heritage is the legacy that each generation receives and passes on. In a sense, it is what makes us human. There are other considerations, such as what happens to a culture that is brought so low that its language is taken from it. Once you take away a nation’s language, you take away its soul. Once language is lost, people are forced to think and see the world differently. They lose their mother tongue.

In 2008, the NT Government announced that school programs were to be taught only in English for the first four hours of every school day. The policy was replaced with a new policy in 2012, which stated that home and local languages “can and should be used where appropriate to support the learning and acquisition of concepts.” The Four Hours In English policy had disastrous consequences. Languages are in threat of dying out. Australia is the place of vanishing languages. The truth is that the West, and in particular the English language, has run over most other languages and cultures like a semitrailer truck. It has been nothing short of devastating.

Recognising, respecting and celebrating languages, diversity and cultural heritage is integral to healthy, harmonious relationships. Cultural heritage is not static. Culture and language changes over time and approaches need to be dynamic and adaptive. Effective cultural heritage management can have wide economic, social and environmental benefits. Read the article …

Traditional owners pass on valuable knowledge
ABC Rural, 19 November 2013

CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA: If you’re an indigenous man or woman, where better to learn how to care for your country than being on it with the guidance of your own traditional owners? That opportunity has just been provided to a group of 12 youngsters who headed out onto country, at Mt Molloy, near the headwaters of the Mitchell River. Under the watchful eye of “Uncle” Graham Brady, the participants of the program have been learning about ethnobotany, weeds, erosion and even how to kill an animal humanely. Read the article …

24th regular session of the Human Rights Council
9-27 September 2013 (Geneva, Switzerland)

At its 24th session, the Human Rights Council adopted two resolutions of relevance to indigenous peoples. In A/HRC/24/L.21, it decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples for a period of three years on the same terms as provided in its resolution 15/14. In A/HRC/24/L.22, among other issue, the Human Rights Council requests the Expert Mechanism to continue its study on access to justice in the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, with a focus on restorative justice and indigenous juridical systems, particularly as they relate to achieving peace and reconciliation, including an examination of access to justice related to indigenous women, children and youth and persons with disabilities; prepare a study on promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in natural disaster risk reduction, prevention and preparedness initiatives, including consultation and cooperation with the indigenous peoples concerned in elaboration of national plans for natural disaster risk reduction; and continue to undertake the questionnaire survey to seek the views of States and indigenous peoples on best practices regarding possible appropriate measures and implementation strategies in order to attain the goals of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Council also recommended that the four themes identified in the outcome document of the Global Indigenous Preparatory Conference for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples held in June 2013, in Alta, Norway, be taken into account when considering the specific themes for the round tables and interactive panel for the World Conference. Visit the session’s website … Read the meeting’s resolutions and decisions …

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