Promoting and mobilizing Local and Indigenous Knowledge for sustainable development in Timor-Leste (June 2011 - )

UNESCO Office, Jakarta is promoting LINKS activities with a special focus on "Sustainable Development in Small Island Development States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDC)", such as Timor-Leste, with a strong emphasis on climate change adaptation as well as recognition and promotion of local and indigenous knowledge.

This approach, including developing holistic and interdisciplinary activities, is in line with the Mauritius Declaration and the Mauritius Strategy. It also bears in mind the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change "Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability".

Much of Timor Leste’s national wealth lies in its natural resources. However, rapid social changes, including the transition from semi-subsistence to market economy, are impacting traditional natural resource management systems. Overexploitation of natural resources, shorter fallow periods in swidden agricultural systems and rapid population expansion all put heavy pressures on the natural environment, including disruption of hydrological cycles, soil erosion and destruction of crucial water catch areas. Is it estimated that more than 70% of Timor Leste’s land has been severely degraded by deforestation, overgrazing, and agricultural practices.

As Timor Leste’s natural environment is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, it is of key importance to promote sustainable resource management regimes to support the development path of future generations.

Timor Leste is rich in ethnic and cultural diversity, resulting in a wide variation in indigenous knowledge systems, customs and governance structures in spite of its relatively small geographical area. Customs and indigenous knowledge systems are highly relevant to the daily lives of local communities since they comprise the basis for a wide range of problem-solving strategies.

However, exposed to increasing levels of globalization, indigenous peoples are rapidly changing their knowledge systems and practices to accommodate the new lifestyles. This process goes often hand in hand with increased environmental degradation, loss of social support networks and cultural identity and heritage.

In the light of these challenges, it has become very important to develop wise strategies to manage societal, cultural, and environmental changes at the same time ensuring sustainable development. Over the last decades, there has been growing international recognition regarding the role of Indigenous Knowledge as a potential resource in development programmes.

The shift in paradigm of regarding local and indigenous communities as merely recipients of development programmes to active participants, has been reflected in many international reports, conventions and agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), the Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992), Declaration On Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge (1999), the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001), and Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005).

In 2011 and 2012, the SCS Unit of UNESCO Office, Jakarta has carried out several key activities to promote LINKS in Timor Leste:

In 2013, the following activities are planned:

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