Customary law

Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Global Environmental Change
Erik Gómez-Baggethun, Esteve Corbera, and Victoria Reyes-García (guest eds)
Ecology and Society special feature 18(4), 2013

This special feature of Ecology and Society addresses two main research themes. The first one concerns the resilience of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and the conditions that might explain its loss or persistence in the face of global change. The second theme relates to new findings regarding the way in which TEK strengthens community resilience to respond to the multiple stressors of global environmental change. Those themes are analyzed using case studies from Africa, Asia, America and Europe. Theoretical insights and empirical findings from the studies suggest that despite the generalized worldwide trend of TEK erosion, substantial pockets of TEK persist in both developing and developed countries. A common trend on the studies presented is hybridization, where traditional knowledge, practices, and beliefs are merged with novel forms of knowledge and technologies to create new knowledge systems. The findings also reinforce previous hypotheses pointing at the importance of TEK systems as reservoirs of experiential knowledge that can provide important insights for the design of adaptation and mitigation strategies to cope with global environmental change. Based on the results from papers in this feature, the guest editorial also discusses policy directions that might help to promote maintenance and restoration of living TEK systems as sources of social-ecological resilience. Read the issue [open access] …

Indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories, and resources
Birgitte Feiring, International Land Coalition, 2013 | ISBN: 978-92-95093-90-4

Published as a contribution to the debate towards the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, this study assesses the global and regional instruments, mechanisms and initiatives in regard to indigenous rights to lands, territories and resources. It contains a review of regional situations of indigenous people in Asia, Africa and Latin America, showing how the situation of indigenous peoples varies across regions and countries; and also offers an analysis on how indigenous peoples’ land rights are related to three key thematic areas: women’s rights and access to land and resources; community conserved areas; and climate change and REDD+.

The study concludes with a summary of key trends and challenges, including the non-recognition of tenure rights, and further identifies key opportunities, including strong or emerging indigenous peoples’ organizations, and progressive legislation and policy developments. The study confirms what was suspected: indigenous peoples entertain special relationships with their lands, territories and resources, as these are central to their world view, their cultures, livelihoods, spirituality, identity, and their continued existence as distinct peoples. Read the ILC press release … Download the study [pdf] …

BSF Projects – Progress Update
ITPGR release, December 2013

ROME, ITALY: The 19 projects sponsored by the second round of the Benefit-Sharing Fund of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR) are currently in implementation in 31 countries across Asia, Africa, the Near East, and Central and South America. The projects place particular importance on farmers’ traditional knowledge, their socio-cultural systems and institutions, and the role of local communities in securing access to agricultural biodiversity. Farmers are involved in the collection, characterization, evaluation and development of new varieties in crops like rice, maize, potato, wheat and barley, as well as in the compilation of information on existing crop diversity. These activities are also consistent with national strategies and priorities. The Treaty’s BSF projects also emphasize the importance of gender differentiated traditional knowledge and the adoption of gender-equitable approaches. To help secure local seed systems and facilitate sharing of information on seed development, the projects have set up Seed Clubs. Similarly, biodiversity fairs and farmer exchange visits have been taking place in Bhutan, Guatemala, India, Jordan, Iran, Morocco, Tunisia and Peru, thus providing excellent opportunities for exchanging knowledge, building on established good practices and giving farmers the opportunity to showcase seed collections representative of their selection and conservation practices. Read the update …

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 …

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 …

Improving governance of forest tenure: A practical guide
J. Mayers, E. Morrison, L. Rolington, K. Studd and S. Turrall
Governance of Tenure Technical Guide no. 2, IIED and FAO, 2013 | E-ISBN 978-92-5-107587-6

Intended to support the use of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, this practical guide aims to improve decision-making with regard to forest tenure in four critical areas: understanding, organizing, engaging and ensuring. It starts by highlighting some important opportunities and challenges in governance today and directs readers to further information. It then lays out a toolkit containing some 86 tools described in summary form and 9 key tools explained in some depth. These tools are labelled for their appropriateness in different governance contexts and for the amount of time, money and skills needed to use them. A glossary and extensive web-linked bibliography for further inspiration are also provided. Download the guide [pdf] …

Implementing Improved Tenure Governance in Fisheries: A Technical Guide to Support the Implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security
FAO, preliminary version, September 2013

This guide has been developed to assist in the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines with regard to fisheries in marine and inland waters. It explains the characteristics of the fisheries sector and provides technical guidance, aiming to contribute to the improvement of governance of tenure in fisheries. Special attention is given to small-scale fisheries, considering the sector’s particular importance to food security and nutrition, poverty eradication, equitable development and sustainable resource utilization. Part 1 of the Guide provides explanations with regard to important concepts for understanding tenure in fisheries, including tenure rights, customary and informal tenure systems, and a human rights approach in small-scale fisheries governance and development. Part 2 discusses approaches for how to implement responsible tenure in fisheries and is directed to those who are tasked with implementing the Guidelines in the fisheries sector and for the benefit of small-scale fishing communities. The Guide focuses in particular on issues of concern with regard to tenure in the context of livelihoods of vulnerable and marginalized groups. Download the Guide [pdf] …

Land Tenure Journal
FAO, September 2013

This issue of Land Tenure Journal focuses on governance of tenure in small-scale fisheries. In addition to an article by Anthony Charles on key considerations, it includes case studies from Southeast Asia, Lake Victoria in Tanzania, the Sami in Norway, South Africa and Grenada. The case of tenure rights of fishing communities in marine protected areas is also addressed. Download the issue [pdf] …

Eighth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity
 7-11 October 2013 (Montreal, Canada)

The Working Group on Article 8(j) (traditional knowledge) and related provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) forwarded a number of recommendations to the Conference of the Parties (COP), including: a draft plan of action on customary sustainable use; a process for developing voluntary guidelines for the repatriation of traditional knowledge; and a process for advancing work on several tasks that will contribute to work under the Convention and the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing (ABS), including guidelines on prior informed approval for use of traditional knowledge, fair and equitable benefit-sharing, and reporting and prevention of unlawful appropriation of traditional knowledge.

The Working Group also addressed a progress report on the implementation of the work programme on Article 8(j) and related provisions, and mechanisms to promote the effective participation of indigenous and local communities in CBD work; sui generis systems for the protection, preservation and promotion of traditional knowledge; and recommendations from the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).

An in-depth dialogue focused on connecting traditional knowledge systems and science, such as the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), including gender dimensions. Delegates also discussed whether to change the terminology “indigenous and local communities” used under the Convention to “indigenous peoples and local communities” used in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Rio+20 Outcome Document, and requested the Secretariat to prepare an independent analysis, including by seeking advice from the UN Office of Legal Affairs, to facilitate further consideration of the matter at COP 12.

Visit the meeting website, including links to documents … Read the CBD press release … Read the IISD Reporting Services daily reports …

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