Indigenous knowledge at COP22

The UNESCO Pavilion at the 2016 UN Conference on Climate Change (COP22) opened its doors on November 7th with a special day event dedicated to indigenous knowledge. A series of discussions showed that the over 400 million indigenous persons living in the world can give valuable contributions to tackle climate change.

Indigenous peoples of northern Europe, Siberia and Alaska, pastoralist communities in the Sahel, or island communities in the Pacific Ocean are highly vulnerable to the adverse climate change effects they are already experiencing. Yet they are utilizing their local knowledge produced through direct experiences over generations to respond actively to changing climatic conditions.

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Call for Submissions of Indigenous and Local Knowledge

Maasai pastoralists herding cattle, Narok, Kenya

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is conducting assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These regional assessments are to be based on, in addition to scientific knowledge, the knowledge, practices, observations and understandings of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Knowing Our Changing Climate in Africa

Maasai pastoralists herding cattle, Narok, Kenya

UNESCO’s Climate Frontlines initiative is launching a new project for pastoral/herding communities in 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The project aims at understanding pastoral peoples’ own knowledge of weather and climate, their forecasting skills, and their observations of environmental change.

UNESCO is looking for individuals who will work with their communities to achieve the following project’s goals:

  • to build dialogue between community members and climate scientists,
  • to strengthen local capacities to engage with national policy-makers on climate change adaptation.

Local and Indigenous Knowledge

©F.R. Hickey
Leaf sailing in canoe

Sophisticated knowledge of the natural world is not confined to science. Societies from all parts of the world possess rich sets of experience, understanding and explanation. Local and indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings. For rural and indigenous peoples, local knowledge informs decision-making about fundamental aspects of day-to-day life.

This knowledge is integral to a cultural complex that also encompasses language, systems of classification, resource use practices, social interactions, ritual and spirituality. These unique ways of knowing are important facets of the world’s cultural diversity, and provide a foundation for locally-appropriate sustainable development.

The Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme is a UNESCO interdisciplinary initiative that brings together expertise from the Natural Sciences, Social and Human Sciences, Culture, Communication & Information and Education.

Nominations for IPBES Workshop on Indigenous and Local Knowledge

Update: Deadline for submission of nominations extended to 15 April 2013 

On or before the 28 March 2013, nominations are welcome for relevant experts and stakeholders to attend an international workshop organized in the framework of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The primary objective of this workshop is to identify procedures and approaches for building synergies between indigenous & local knowledge and science. Organized on behalf of the IPBES Multidisciplinary Expert Panel by UNESCO, UNU and the Ministry of Environment of Japan, this workshop will be held from 9 to 11 June 2013 in Tokyo (in English only).

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has been recently created by governments from around the globe in order to reinforce dialogue between policy-makers and the scientific community. This global mechanism is designed to gather, analyze and synthesize information that will inform decision-making on countering biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystem services. The knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities makes a crucial contribution, alongside science, to understanding the status and trends with respect to biodiversity and ecosystem services. For this reason, the IPBES functions, operating principles and work programme explicitly recognize and respect ‘the contribution of indigenous and local knowledge to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems’ (UNEP/IPBES.MI/2/9 Appendix 1, para. 2 (d)).

The Plenary of IPBES at its first session decided to invite members, observers and other stakeholders to submit nominations to the secretariat for participation in the multidisciplinary and regionally balanced expert workshop (on indigenous and local knowledge) for consideration by the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel.

You are hereby requested to submit such nominations on or before 28 March 2013. To download the nomination form and access additional information, please refer to the interactive Table of IPBES intersessional activities that is available here:

For those who may have difficulty accessing the IPBES site, the IPBES nomination form for the Indigenous and Local Knowledge Workshop is also available here (in a Word document or as a PDF). The completed forms, accompanied by the CV of the nominee, are to be submitted before the deadline to ipbes.unep(at)

Indigenous Knowledge and Science: From Recognition to Knowledge Co-production

©Jennifer Rubis

"We, the Indigenous Peoples, walk to the future in the footprints of our ancestors"

In Rio in 1992, Indigenous Peoples voiced their commitment to a sustainable future rooted in the knowledge and worldviews of their Elders. As part of the contribution to Rio+20, a plenary thematic session on Indigenous Knowledge was held at the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development on 13 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro. Building upon the outcomes of the Planet Under Pressure session on Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Futures (London, 28 March 2012), this session of the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development panel considered, among others, how global environmental governance has been and continues to be transformed by an expanding engagement amongst local and indigenous knowledge holders, the scientific community and decision-makers.

Knowledge Systems, Knowledge Diversity, Knowledge Societies: Towards a UNESCO Policy on Engaging with Indigenous Peoples

© Paule Gros
Mayangna woman and mupih (Nicaragua)

UNESCO is embarking on a process to elaborate a house-wide policy on engaging with Indigenous Peoples. A General Conference Side Event launched this process on the 10th November. The event featured the highest-level indigenous spokespersons from the three foremost UN institutions with respect to Indigenous Peoples: Mr James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms Myrna Cunningham, Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and Mr. Vital Bambanze, Chair, UN Expert Mechanism on Indigenous Peoples.

Pastoralist Knowledge, Weather Forecasting and Climate Change Adaptation Workshop, 7-9 November 2011, Chad

African pastoralists

A workshop in Ndjamena, Chad, will take place from 7-9 November 2011 to investigate ways to anchor climate change adaptation policy within both science and traditional knowledge. The workshop will bring together African pastoralists and climate service providers to discuss how traditional rural knowledge systems and adaptation strategies can interact with meteorological science in order to produce information for establishing climate change adaptation policies as well as for providing more locally accurate weather forecasts.

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (09 August)

© Paule Gros

Indigenous peoples hold some of the keys to tackling global challenges. As we strive to foster sustainable and equitable development, it is vital we listen to the voices of indigenous peoples and that we learn from their knowledge. UNESCO's Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems programme seeks global recognition of the importance of indigenous knowledge for understanding the impacts of climate change and for developing ways to adapt at the community level.

Conocimiento Mayangna por la Interdependencia de los Pueblos y la Naturaleza: Peces y Tortugas

Mayangna woman

La selva tropical de America Central en la frontera entre Nicaragua y Honduras ha sido el hogar de las tribus Nayangna y Miskito por siglos. En el correr de su existencia basada en la agricultura de quema, la pesca y la caza, han logrado formar un sistema ecológico y lo han protegido de su destrucción.



UNESCO and the Global Climate Change

UNESCO’s Strategy for Action on Climate Change was approved at its 179th Executive Board in April 2008. The Strategy helps to position the Organisation’s climate change activities within overall joint action by the UN system. In January 2008 an Intersectoral Platform, UNESCO Action to address climate change, was created to coordinate and foster UNESCO activities in this domain.  

IOC 50th Anniversary

© Fackler/NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries
Kelp forest, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (USA)

The IOC celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2010. Beginning with the International Indian Ocean Expedition in 1960 the IOC has worked to promote international co-operation in researching and protecting the ocean.


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