Development


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] …

Rain Forest Warriors: How Indigenous Tribes Protect the Amazon
National Geographic, 22 December 2013

LONDON, UK: Deforestation stops at the borders of the lands of indigenous tribes, where a massive green island is comprised of ten legally ratified indigenous territories totaling 35 million acres (14 million hectares). For those who want to protect the Amazon, there’s a lesson here. How do relatively few indigenous people manage to keep the chainsaws and bulldozers at bay over a vast area of pristine forest? Legal protections are part of the answer: Threatened by ranchers, loggers, and gold miners on their borders, the Kayapo fought for and won official recognition of their lands in the 1980s and 1990s. (Their southern neighbors were already living in a smaller protected area, the Xingu Indigenous Park, established in the 1960s.) But this region of the southeastern Amazon is like the Wild West, a territory lacking proper governance. Violent conflict over land, illegal logging and gold mining, fraudulent land deals, and other corruption are rampant. Laws are not protection enough. Some native tribes have staged protests, pressured the government, and fought on the ground to secure their rights. Read the article …

Peru to chair the 9th session of the Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage
UNESCO release, 7 December 2013

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN: The 8th annual meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguard of Intangible Heritage, marked by the 10th anniversary of UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage, ended in Baku today with the election of José Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Peru to UNESCO, as chair of the next session. The 9th session will take place in Paris, France, from 24 to 28 November 2014. During the meeting, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture, Francesco Bandarin and Lassana Cissé, Mali’s National Director for Cultural Heritage, signed an agreement whereby Mali will receive $307,307 in emergency assistance from the Intangible Heritage Fund for the compilation of an inventory of its intangible cultural heritage. The project involves taking stock of intangible cultural heritage—knowledge and practices concerning nature, oral traditions, rituals and festivals, traditional crafts etc.—over the entire country. Four elements were inscribed on the List Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, which helps States Parties mobilize international cooperation and assistance to ensure the transmission of this heritage with the participation of the concerned communities. The Committee also inscribed 25 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, which serves to raise awareness of intangible heritage and provide recognition to communities’ traditions and know-how that reflect their cultural diversity. Read the release …

UN expert on cultural rights calls for more space for people to express themselves in Viet Nam
OHCHR release, 29 November 2013

HANOI, VIET NAM: The UN Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, called on the Government of Viet Nam “to expand the space for people to articulate their views and to ensure they can contribute their knowledge, including their traditional knowledge, to the development of the country.” The Special Rapporteur also urged the Vietnamese Government “to significantly increase its efforts to map and mitigate the negative effects of development schemes so that the country can fully benefit from the strength of the varied cultures of its peoples to promote sustainable development.” “Measures are needed to ensure that the people whose cultural heritage is being used to promote tourism are empowered to manage these activities to their best advantage,” Ms. Shaheed said, adding that “people should not be obliged to perform rather than live their own cultures.” Read the release …

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 …

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