Knowledge Politics II: Local and Indigenous Knowledge and the CBD

Knowledge Politics II: Local and Indigenous Knowledge and the CBD


ESPM 169: October 15, 2002

Knowledge Politics II: Local and Indigenous Knowledge and the CBD

1. Logistics

- Alastair's lecture: 29th - therefore, swapping sessions. Tuesday - MNCs; Thursday: National Politics I.

- Weds. October 23: International Environment Careers Fair, 3:00-4:30 PM, in the Tan Oak Room, ASUC MLK Student Union.

- section readings

- next assignment - due: Thursday!

2. Group check-in

3. Local, Traditional, Indigenous, Lay Knowledge

- following on from Joerg's lecture - science has played a very important role in IEP

- most often, "big science" - especially in Climate Change

- BD, and also desertification convention, introduce a counter approach: the importance of recording, preserving and utilizing "local knowledge", situated in specific contexts

 is this international politics coming "down to earth" or is it not so simple?

 terminology: subtle differences between local, traditional, indigenous, lay knowledge

Story: Brian Wynne and sheep in Cumbria (northern part of England) following Chernobyl

- following the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, which send waves of radiation across Northern Europe, farmers in Cumbria were banned from selling sheep for the short term, based on scientific assessments of the likely run-off of radioactive materials, farming practices, etc.

- turned out to be wrong: problem much more long-term, therefore, expert advice to farmers to hold out was economically a disaster for them

- turns out the experts conducting experiments - following proper scientific method - never consulted the farmers, who could have told them that the soils in many areas were peaty, not clay (on which the model relied), and further, that the scientists showed poor understanding of the actual practice of sheep farming in the hills

 Wynne's points are primarily about trust of expertise, but also make a very important point about different sorts of knowledge and how it's derived, maintained and put into practice

 Many people argue wrt BD that similar local knowledge and expertise has been ignored round the world

4. Defining "Local", or "Other" Knowledge

a. In General:

- "knowledge" as a broader category than "science"

- local knowledge: "unique and situated, holistic and processual" (Long, p. 116), cf. "science", which moves towards standardization: knowledge that is "standardized, universal, compartmentalized (e.g. disciplines in academia) and instrumental (has a goal in mind)"

- usually associated with particular groups, e.g. indigenous farmers, urban dwellers, college students, Berkeley upper-middle classes (wedding planning) and specific places (though not necessarily: campuses)

 i.e. local knowledge important for all of us

 becomes political when under threat; opposed by other models of acquiring knowledge or when the holders' lifestyles are threatened; clear economic value to the knowledge (e.g. traditional medicines), especially when the communities are impoverished (Gupta piece in text); communities view their knowledge as being appropriated without recompense

 NOT purely a North-South issue

b. In and Around CBD:

"Traditional knowledge refers to the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities around the world. Developed from experience gained over the centuries and adapted to the local culture and environment, traditional knowledge is transmitted orally from generation to generation. It tends to be collectively owned and takes the form of stories, songs, folklore, proverbs, cultural values, beliefs, rituals, community laws, local language, and agricultural practices, including the development of plant species and animal breeds. Traditional knowledge is mainly of a practical nature, particularly in such fields as agriculture, fisheries, health, horticulture, and forestry."


Why important?

Many studies have shown the active role that local communities have played in

"a. generating knowledge based on a sophisticated understanding of their environment,

b. devising mechanisms to conserve and sustain their natural resources and

c. establishing community-based organizations that serve as forums for identifying problems and dealing with them through local-level experimentation, innovation, and exchange of information with other societies"

- this from a 1992 address on IK, BD Conservation and Development (D. Michael Warren)

- also long-maligned by outsiders: now a tool of resistance, and empowerment, especially for indigenous groups

- also an important resource in and of itself

- very clear in the face of external threats, such as multinational investment, government development projects

- implies a much more flexible, contextualized approach to conservation, as opposed to a technocratic "best science" approach

5. Its Role in the CBD: Article 8j and the Ad-Hoc Working Group

- CBD: a very important international forum for putting forward ideas about local tools for conserving BD, as well as local knowledge ABOUT BD being an important rationale for conservation

- indigenous peoples became active players in the CBD

- Marybeth's slides

Article 8j and Related Mention:


2.1 In the Preamble and in Article 8(j), explicit mention is made of indigenous and local communities and traditional knowledge in the coverage of the Convention. The Secretariat’s paper to the COP3 recommended in paragraph 103, that other provisions of the Convention should be considered conjointly with Article 8(j). In particular, Articles 10(c), [Sustainable Use] 17.2 [Information Exchange] and 18.4 [Technical & Scientific Cooperation].

2.2 In the Preamble to the Convention, the Parties recognize:

‘The close and traditional dependence of many indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles on biological resources, and the desirability of sharing equitably benefits arising from the use of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices relevant to the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components.”

2.5. Article 8(j) obliges States to give legal expression to the Convention’s objectives as set out in the Preamble:

“Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible, and as appropriate ...

“(j) Subject to its national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices.”

 CoP established an ad-hoc working group to address the implementation of Article 8j and to engage indigenous and local communities in the process

- idea is for national governments to develop and implement plans under Article 8j.

 indigenous communities also have declared their interest in measures concerning sovereignty and property rights to genetic resources (double threat - e.g. from their own governments)

6. Issues

a. Indigenous Rights

- struggle to include local knowledge - its protection, etc. - can't be separated from struggle for self-determination and land rights by indigenous peoples the world over

- means of protecting their own life-styles in the way they see fit

- Indigenous communities, peoples and nations: "those which, having historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the society now prevailing in those territories or parts of them" (Dr. Martinez Cobo)

 though a contested definition; IPBN claims "self-definition"

 examples

 for indigenous peoples, their biggest threat has often been their own governments, followed by MNCs and global markets, anthropologists (well, not really) - plus, conservation biologists

- i.e. national parks and inhabitants

 therefore, they look to the international community for protection, support

In addition to the Convention, a number of international instruments and initiatives are of particular relevance to traditional knowledge. They include the following:

*Agenda 21: Principle 22 of the main document that came out of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro recognizes that indigenous peoples have a vital role to play in environmental management and development because of their traditional knowledge and practices;

*The International Labour Organization's Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples: This Convention calls for action to protect the rights of indigenous peoples;

*United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples: The Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations has established an open-ended, inter-sessional working group to elaborate a draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Work is in progress;

*The Inter-American Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: An Indigenous Peoples and Community Development Unit has been established under this Declaration and is currently drafting a strategy on indigenous peoples;

*The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank: These Banks are committed to ensuring that the development process promotes indigenous peoples' participation;

*The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank: Both organizations have launched programmes to promote indigenous peoples' development and to ensure that the development process fosters the full respect for the dignity, human rights and uniqueness of indigenous peoples.

Caveats: construction of indigeneity; dynamism of culture

b. Who Uses, Records, Preserves Local Knowledge, and How?

- databases, access, format

- CBD: does a good job of involving indigenous communities in negotiations

- access and ownership

c. Inevitability of Clash between "scientific" and "other" knowledge?

- careful not to reify local knowledge (Easter Island)

- just because knowledge is local in its generation, doesn't mean it can't be translated to other areas

- certainly, a sense of threat

 but real intractable conflict is distributing and controlling benefits

- how IPRs might be made to mesh in these instances

- threat posed by TRIPs

- how to organize against appropriation?

- many argue for "western" tools - e.g. cataloging and transcribing

- create networks - Anil Gupta's chapter on the Honeybee Network ("a global voluntary initiative, its purpose is to network people actively engaged in eco-restoration and the reconstruction of knowledge about precious technological, ecological and institutional systems", p. 183; farmers' organizations

- generating appropriate IPRs, in terms of compensation, permission (but careful of too much money to a poor community)

- also protect communities from encroachment

7. Conclusions

- importance of local knowledge approach to CBD, to IEP, to international politics more generally