Dialogue workshop: indigenous knowledge, traditional knowledge, science and connecting diverse knowledge systems
10-13 April 2012 (Guna Yala, Panama)

The report of this dialogue workshop on connecting diverse knowledge systems, which was held prior to the second session of the plenary to establish the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) (April 2012, Panama City), has been made available online. The report summarizes the presentations and discussions, and includes reflections submitted to the IPBES session.

The workshop’s goal was to facilitate better exchange and cross-fertilization among diverse knowledge systems in an equal, legitimate and transparent way, for the benefit of sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems. It was acknowledged that indigenous, traditional, local and scientific knowledge systems are different manifestations of valid and useful forms of knowledge, which can contribute to sustainable management of ecosystems, and that there are complementarities as well as new ideas and innovations to be gained from cross-fertilization. It was clear in the dialogue that there are many approaches for exchange among knowledge systems, and that the attitudes framing the exchange are essential. The following primary principles were brought forward: respect for diverse knowledge systems, trust, reciprocity and equal sharing. Other key factors for successful exchange include: long-term commitment, respecting customary practices, communication on equal terms, modesty in relation to one’s own knowledge system, ethical codes of conduct, including the elders and youth, and embracing intergenerational learning.

The dialogue focused on validation, documentation, sharing of knowledge and co-production of knowledge. Rather than applying science-based mechanisms to validate other knowledge systems, separate protocols determining validation mechanisms for diverse knowledge systems were suggested. In relation to documenting and sharing knowledge, it was recognized that knowledge systems are dynamic, and databases and other kinds of documentation may give a static picture that does not reflect current understanding, if not continuously updated. Free, prior and informed consent should always be applied, and clear agreements on mutual terms have to be made between the community/knowledge holders, and external researchers. An additional aim was to contribute to novel approaches for inclusion of diverse knowledge systems into knowledge generation, ecosystem assessments and capacity building in knowledge-related processes. The group elaborated a series of principles and values recognized to be important for a continuous dialogue in IPBES and other fora. Read the report …