October 2010


Traditional knowledge in policy and practice: approaches to development and human well-being
Suneetha M Subramanian and Balakrishna Pisupati (eds.)
United Nations University Press (November 2010) | ISBN 978-92-808-11919

This book is divided into chapters by a variety of experts, organized into categories dealing with production activities/services (agriculture, health, water management, biodiversity, arts, economic development), adaptive capacity (environmental management, climate adaptation), and learning and governance processes (communities, women, education, governance, ethics and equity, intellectual property rights). It highlights the relevance of TK on two fronts: firstly, from an epistemological view, each chapter provides evidence that traditional communities generally base their decisions and actions on clear precepts and principles within an overarching cosmo-vision of the interrelatedness of all things in nature; secondly, each chapter clearly brings out practical and ecologically sound ways in which communities have used their knowledge and skills to address their various needs.

Bertus Haverkort and Coen Reijntjes highlight the diversity and evolution of worldviews among knowledge communities and point out possible relations between different knowledge societies and sciences. Marie Battiste brings out the challenges faced by indigenous communities when they are exposed to an educational process that is insensitive to their cultural learning. Stephen B. Kendie and Bernard Y. Guri use the case of traditional leadership in Ghana to highlight the importance of traditional governance to achieve development objectives, while at the same time showing the challenges to and opportunities for these traditional structures when they operate within a broader national governance framework. Fatima Alvarez Castillo and Maria Nadja A. Castillo highlight the challenges women in traditional societies face both on account of their gender and the communities they belong to. Doris Schroeder brings out subtle and inherent inter-cultural contradictions, clarifying what ethics, exploitation and justice mean in different contexts during interactions between those who provide knowledge and resources and those who commercialize them. Kelly Bannister, Sarah A. Laird and Maui Solomon highlight a best practice case of inter-cultural research partnership, with the development of the International Code of Ethics by the International Society of Ethnobiologists. Ikechi Mgbeoji makes an argument for the need for TK-rich countries to have regional initiatives and protocols to protect TK on terms they deem appropriate. R. Rengalakshmi dwells on traditional land management and crop improvement practices, the roles of women in traditional agricultural practices, and highlights global initiatives that seek to ensure sustainable agriculture by incorporating best practices from the chemical input-based agriculture and principles followed in traditional farming. O. I. Oladele and A. K. Braimoh draw attention to traditional soil and land management practices that can be effectively deployed to mitigate the impacts of climate change on agricultural production. Gerard Bodeker examines health cultures around the world, and provides a comprehensive account of policies related to promotion of traditional medicine in certain countries, particularly in the tropics. Unnikrishnan Payyappalli argues that in addition to focusing on traditional practices there is an urgent need to focus on the plight of the practitioners who constantly add to the body of traditional knowledge and practices. Calvio Guillen and Salvatore Arico make a case for using traditional environmental management principles as the basis for territorial development. Fikret Berkes’s example of the relevance/appropriateness of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and practices, based on his long interactions with the James Bay Cree communities, demonstrates the fact that there is much be gained by including insights from knowledge-rich communities. Suneetha M. Subramanian focuses on traditional communities’ use and management of biological resources and the challenges involved in ensuring the co-evolution of human cultures and biodiversity. Joaquim Shiraishi Neto, Noemi Miyasaka Porro and José Antonio Puppim de Oliveira use the example of the babassu breaker women in Brazil to clearly bring out the challenges faced by businesses and communities in the context of new definitions of community rights and regulations related to the access and use of biological resources in their custody. Rachel Wynberg highlights the various challenges that arise in decisions related to accessing shared genetic resources and traditional knowledge and sharing benefits, through the example of the Hoodia case in Southern Africa. Alphonse Kambu throws light on community water management practices and international policies that aim to regulate the use of water. Ameyali Ramos Castillo presents a best practice case of urban water management in the San Cristobal region of Mexico, based on traditional principles of water use by the Chiapas. Agni Klintuni Boedhihartono elaborates on various climate adaptation techniques deployed by traditional communities, especially in areas vulnerable to droughts and floods. Kabir Bavikkatte, Harry Jonas and Johanna von Braun critically examine the current trend to commoditize traditional knowledge as a means for securing economic development. Tom Lanauze, Susan Forbes, and Maui Solomon narrate the renaissance of the Moriori community through research and documentation of its archaeological “art”. Further information …

Tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity
18-29 October 2010 (Nagoya, Japan)

Three days before the end of CBD COP 10, several issues of relevance to TK and indigenous peoples are being discussed, particularly in the context of the negotiations for a protocol on access and benefit-sharing (ABS), and of Article 8(j) (traditional knowledge).

On ABS, TK-related issues are currently being addressed in a closed group with the participation of Parties only, following an initial consideration in the Informal Consultative Group which includes representatives of indigenous and local communities. Major issues of controversy include:

  • preambular paragraphs, particularly one noting UNDRIP, which was eventually agreed after Canada withdrew its opposition following consultation with capital;
  • a provision under benefit-sharing (article 4), addressing fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and/or TK associated with genetic resources held by indigenous and local communities, with the communities concerned;
  • a provision under access (article 5), requiring community prior informed consent or their approval and involvement for access to their genetic resources; and
  • a provision under TK associated with genetic resources (article 9), referring to benefit-sharing from TK obtained from a source other than directly from an ILC, including TK associated with genetic resources whether oral or documented or in other forms.

With regard to article 8(j), deliberations are ongoing on: a draft code of ethical conduct; as well as the theme for the in-depth dialogue to be held at the upcoming meeting of the Working Group on Article 8(j). Visit the meeting’s website … Read the decisions under consideration … Follow daily coverage of the meeting by IISD Reporting Services …

Centuries of Change: State of the Native Nations Symposium
12 November 2010 (National Museum of the American Indian, Washington D.C, USA)

This symposium will address recent international trends in the search for pragmatic indigenous and nation-state solutions developed with the Native peoples of the Americas. It will take a particular look at the work of the Organization of American States with respect to the human rights, land rights, and civil rights of indigenous peoples. It further includes sessions on the UNDRIP, indigenous peoples and climate change, and indigenous peoples and the role of education. Download the programme guide [pdf] … Download the programme invitation [pdf] …

The evolution of benefit sharing
Elisa Morgera and Elsa Tsioumani

This article traces the evolution of the use of the legal concept of benefit sharing in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with a view to highlighting its contribution to indigenous and local communities’ livelihoods. To this end, the article proposes a distinction between inter-State benefit sharing (as identified in the third CBD objective and as usually linked to access to genetic resources) and notably lesser known State-to-community benefit sharing (in relation to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity). The article highlights the different legal connotations of the two dimensions of this legal concept, while supporting an integrated interpretation of the CBD. It points to a wide array of benefit sharing-related tools under the CBD that can be used to support indigenous and local communities’ livelihoods in pursuing the convention’s three objectives. The article also identifies other international processes – in the areas of intellectual property, health and climate change – in which these conceptual developments may have a significant influence. Read the guest article …

Bridges Trade BioRes Review
ICTSD, volume 4, number 3, October 2010

This issue of Bridges Trade BioRes Review focuses on the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD, held from 18-29 October 2010, in Nagoya, Japan. It contains articles of relevance to the ABS negotiations and traditional knowledge protection, including:

Download the issue [pdf] …

A review of patent activity in the cosmetics sector in the context of the ethical sourcing of biodiversity: Trends in patent activity in the cosmetics and perfume sectors
Union for Ethical BioTrade, Information note 1, 2010

This information note is the first in a series reviewing patent activity in the cosmetics sector in the context of the requirements of the ethical sourcing of biodiversity and the CBD, and provides data and analysis on: growing importance of patents to cosmetics companies over the last 20 years; relative significance of patent activity in relation to natural ingredients, particularly those derived from plants; countries where patents are being sought and main companies engaged in patent activity; and initial questions raised on the manner in which the cosmetics sector considers and advances the CBD objectives, including on prior informed consent and equitable sharing of benefits. The note touches upon issues of access to traditional knowledge and the effects of patent protection. Download the information note [pdf] …

A review of patent activity in the cosmetics sector in the context of the ethical sourcing of biodiversity: Patents, plants and countries of origin
Union for Ethical BioTrade, Information note 2, 2010

The second information note in the series provides data and analysis on: top plant families, genera and species in patent documents for ingredients and extracts in the cosmetics and perfumes sectors; distribution of these species; and existing references to country names and terms linked to traditional knowledge, including in relation to the origin of the species, in these patent documents. Test terms for the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous peoples and local communities revealed few results, with references mainly to traditional medicines. Download the information note [pdf] …

Engaging the Traditional Chinese Medicine Industry in the recovery of saiga antelope
CITES press release, 15 October 2010

At a workshop on the conservation and sustainable use of the saiga antelope, representatives of the Traditional Chinese Medicine industry, which uses saiga horn in several medical products, confirmed their willingness to do their part in restoring wild saiga populations. Read the press release …

Next Page »