09.08.2019 -

Indigenous knowledge for better water management

Within the framework of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, the Seminar "Indigenous Knowledge for Integral Water Management in Latin America and the Caribbean" was held in Manaus, Brazil August 8-9. The meeting focused on the discussion on the sociocultural, technical, legal, economic and political aspects that the native peoples of the region have taken in the area of water management. The Seminar was organized by the International Hydrological Program (PHI) of UNESCO, the Conference of Ibero-American Water Directors (CODIA) and the UNESCO Brasilia Office, in collaboration with the Agência Nacional de Águas (ANA), the Organization of the Treaty of Amazon Cooperation (ACTO), and the Agência Brasileira de Cooperação (ABC). Indigenous leaders from Panama, Ecuador, Mexico and Colombia were summoned, as well as local communities in Manaus.

The Seminar had at its center the Sustainable Development Goals, and an analysis of how they have been treated in relation to indigenous peoples, within the framework of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, so that recommendations are generated within the theme of indigenous knowledge. The Seminar had the honorable participation of Mr. Jorge Ellis (UNESCO Quito), Fabion Eon (UNESCO Brasilia), Karla Bitar -Superintendent of the Amazon National Historical and Artistic Patrimony Institute- (IPHAN AM), Humberto Cholango -Minister of Waters of Ecuador-, and Oscar Cordeiro Neto, representative of the ANA.

In the event, Professor Javier Taks, from the UNESCO Chair in Water and Culture (Uruguay) spoke on indigenous ontologies and resistance/negotiation against hydraulic modernization and the human right to water, in addition to the modern socio-hydrological cycle and alternative visions. Within the explanation of this point, the Otomi-Tolteca leader, Mindahi Bastida, and the Coordinator of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), Nara Baré, participated.

As a result of the Seminar, attendees have been able to expand their knowledge about indigenous perspectives in relation to water resources, and decision makers are expected to identify and respond to the challenges of indigenous communities around their needs. The ideal is for this Seminar to become a foundational stone for relations between native peoples and water managers.

Beyond the valuable presence of representatives of indigenous communities and organizations throughout Latin America, among the participants there were experts and managers directly related to water management, both at the national, regional, and state level. Discussions within UNESCO regarding indigenous peoples were promoted by a session held by the IHP within the World Water Forum. This session was named "Water culture in the indigenous peoples of Latin America."

The relationship between indigenous peoples and water resources inspires an approach to water as a human right and a common good, as it provides for the search for new technologies and forms of organization that guarantee water supply to the continent. However, many indigenous practices and techniques used in resolving water-related conflicts often do not have due importance in government organizations, businesses and civil society. Therefore, the Seminar allows the dissemination of indigenous knowledge about water as part of the Integrated Management of Water Resources (IWRM) in the region. The purpose of the event was to increase connections between water managers and indigenous peoples, strengthening the field of water governance.

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