February 2009

Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Change: Australia 2

UNU-IAS Traditional Knowledge Initiative, February 2009


The UNU-IAS Traditional Knowledge Initiative and the UNU Media Studio present a video brief about the effects of climate change on remote indigenous countryside near Shipton’s Flat, Queensland, Australia. The short presentation is told from the perspective of a Kuku Nyungkal Aboriginal woman in Northern Australia and highlights the impacts of increased global temperatures on the Nyungkal country, including driving animals to higher altitudes and transforming previously flowing streams into quiet pools of stagnant water. This is the second in a series of seven web episodes highlighting indigenous perspectives on climate change. Read the announcement … See the video brief and related article …  

UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger

UNESCO, February 2009


On 19 February 2009, UNESCO launched the electronic version of the new edition of its Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. This interactive digital tool provides updated data about approximately 2,500 endangered languages around the world and can be continually supplemented, corrected and updated, thanks to contributions from its users. The Atlas, presented on the eve of International Mother Language Day (21 February), enables searches according to several criteria, and ranks the 2,500 endangered languages that are listed according to five different levels of vitality: unsafe, definitely endangered, severely endangered, critically endangered and extinct. The Atlas notes an increase in the number of speakers of several indigenous languages, such as Central Aymara and Quechua in Peru, Maori in New Zealand, Guarani in Paraguay and several languages in Canada, the United States and Mexico. As UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura stressed, “The death of a language leads to the disappearance of many forms of intangible cultural heritage, especially the invaluable heritage of traditions and oral expressions of the community that spoke it – from poems and legends to proverbs and jokes. The loss of languages is also detrimental to humanity’s grasp of biodiversity, as they transmit much knowledge about the nature and the universe.” Read UNESCO’s press release … Visit the Atlas website …

International Expert Group Workshop on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, Corporate Accountability and the Extractive Industries

Tebtebba Foundation and UNPFII

27 March – 29 March 2009 (Mandaluyong City, Metro-Manila, Philippines)


The International Expert Group Workshop on indigenous peoples’ rights, corporate accountability and the extractive industries, authorized by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) at its seventh session, is organized by Tebtebba Foundation in cooperation with the UNPFII Secretariat. The workshop will provide the opportunity for dialogues among participants with the aim of improving the situation of indigenous peoples in relation to extractive industries. It will be attended by invited indigenous experts and UNPFII members, and observers at expert level from the UN system and other-governmental agencies, academic institutions, NGOs, States and extractive industries. Visit the meeting’s website …

Joint Action Plan for Barents indigenous peoples

Barents Observer, 16 February 2009


ARCHANGEL, RUSSIA: A new Action Plan for Indigenous Peoples in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region for the period 2009-2012 has been approved by the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region. The plan promotes measures within the fields of trade and business, language and media, health and social related issues, environment and culture. The measures are focused on the Nenets, Vepsian and Saami areas on the Russian side of the region. An interim goal for indigenous peoples’ cooperation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region is “to secure solid conditions for further transmission and usage of indigenous peoples’ knowledge and competence.” Read the article … Download the Action Plan [doc] …

Revised laws ‘could promote biopiracy’ in Peru

SciDev.net, 19 February 2009


LIMA, PERU: Modifications to intellectual property laws that the Peruvian government “rushed through” to enable the go-ahead of a free trade agreement (FTA) between Peru and the United States could facilitate biopiracy and hamper Peru’s position as a protector of traditional knowledge, say experts. They have warned that the changes have resulted in flexibility in certain regulations, leaving them open to broad legal interpretation, which could facilitate genetic resource patenting by other countries. Rules protecting indigenous knowledge related to biological resources have also been changed. The regulations of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) stipulate the presentation of a “certificate of origin” before patenting — proving access has been officially authorized. But the amendment merely requires the filing of a license — which can be issued by lesser authorities. Additionally, failure to use the license will incur only a penalty, rather than cancellation of the patent as the CAN mandate stipulates. “This measure will cause biopiracy … allowing any person or company to patent our resources or knowledge only by filing a license contract,” said Manuel Ruiz from the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law. Read the article …

Yoga piracy: India shows who’s the guru

Times of India, 22 February 2009


NEW DELHI, INDIA: Instances of self-styled yoga gurus claiming copyrights to ancient “asanas”, especially from the West, is now becoming rampant. This has made 200 scientists and researchers from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Union health ministry’s department of Ayush join hands to put on record all known yoga postures and techniques that originated in India. Scientists are presently scanning through 35 ancient Sanskrit texts to identify and document all known yoga concepts, postures and terminology. The team plans to put on record at least 1,500 yoga postures by the end of 2009. Once completed, they will be put in the world’s first Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) created by India. They will then be recognized as India’s public property. The TKDL, 30 million pages of information, has been created to prevent those living abroad from claiming patent for existing knowledge. Read the article …

Ancient art: Traditional Chamorro fishing still works today

Pacific Daily News, 21 February 2009


GUAM, USA: Jesse Rosario, a programme coordinator with the University of Guam’s College of Natural and Applied Sciences, says it was his grandfather’s way to try to pass on the knowledge he had of fishing which is why he, the grandson, has helped to organize the 4-H program at the university to teach youth each summer how to fish the traditional way and why, as a member of the Guam Fishermen’s Co-Op, he worked to help develop the lunar calendar. The lunar calendar, which is based on the one used for centuries by Chamorros, was made available to the public about a month ago. The lunar calendar charts the phases of the moon and tides, as well as the fish that are in season at each time of the year in the Marianas. Read the article …

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