TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
The world has never been as rich as it is today, yet over one billion people suffer from extreme poverty. UNESCO and the LINKS project are committed to raising awareness that freedom from poverty is a fundamental human right.
The LINKS project integrates local and indigenous knowledge (L/IK), practice and worldviews into sustainable development and resource management processes, such that rural communities become active partners in defining development targets, priorities and means. It focuses on the needs of traditional knowledge holders, both men and women, including both elders and youth.
Capacities to record indigenous knowledge and contribute to developing advocacy tools to strengthen local voices in biodiversity governance, and pedagogical tools for intercultural education reinforced in rural and indigenous communities in Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, Nicaragua, Palau, Russia, Solomon Islands, Thailand and Vanuatu.
One recent output is "Reef and Rainforest: An Environmental Encyclopedia of Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands". The more than 1200 entries in this volume affirm the status of Solomon Islanders as knowers and managers of land and sea, while at the same time assuring a place for vernacular language and indigenous knowledge in the classroom.
LINKS also seeks to use new information and communication technologies to strengthen the transmission of indigenous knowledge from elders to youth. One approach has been the use of interactive CD-ROMs as vehicles for conveying traditional knowledge. "Dream Trackers - Yapa Art and Knowledge of the Australian Desert" is the first LINKS CD-ROM, soon to be followed by a CD-ROM honoring Pacific Islander knowledge of the ocean environment entitled "The Canoe Is the People: Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific".
Awareness and promotion of dialogue: LINKS organized international seminars and workshops, and produced publications. This includes a session at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg 2002) on "Linking Traditional and Scientific Knowledge for Sustainable Development". An international seminar, organized with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France), led to the publication of "NGOs and the Governance of Biodiversity" in the International Social Science Journal (ISSJ) (2003). Most recently, an Experts Meeting was organized on "Safeguarding the Transmission of Local and Indigenous Knowledge" (Nagoya 2005).
Poverty as a Human Rights issue
LINKS addresses the cultural, economic, political and social rights of rural and indigenous communities. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, for example, states that: "a child (…) who is indigenous shall not be denied the right … to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practice his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language". Furthermore, "the education of the child shall be directed to: The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, languages and values …"
The LINKS project seeks to develop culturally-appropriate education that integrates indigenous knowledge, values and worldviews. It advocates the broad recognition and inclusion of indigenous knowledge in sustainable development and resource management. LINKS underlines the role of local knowledge in poverty alleviation:
- local knowledge and practice maintain the informal resource based economies, upon which many rural communities depend;
- indigenous knowledge and values are essential for the cultural, economic and physical well-being of indigenous and rural peoples.
Policy implications and expected applications
Revision of policy relating to natural resource management and sustainable development, in particular the roles of indigenous peoples and indigenous knowledge and values in these processes.
Re-thinking of education policy and corresponding curricula to ensure culturally appropriate content including local and indigenous knowledge, values and worldviews.
- "Science, Traditional Knowledge and Sustainable Development", Series for Science and Sustainable Development, No. 4, 2002, Paris: UNESCO/ICSU. 24 pp.
- "Indigenous Knowledge", A. Agrawal (ed. advisor), International Social Science Journal No. 173, 2002. 142 pp.
- "NGOs in the Governance of Biodiversity", M. Roué (ed. advisor), International Social Science Journal No. 178, 2003. 126 pp.
- "Reef and Rainforest. An Environmental Encyclopedia of Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands", by Edvard Hviding, LINKS 'Knowledges of Nature' Series No. 1, 2005. Paris: UNESCO. 252 pp.
- "Water and Indigenous Peoples", LINKS "Knowledges of nature" series n°2, 2005. Paris: UNESCO.
"Dream trackers. Yapa art and knowledge of the Australian Desert", by B. Glowzewski, 2000, Paris: UNESCO Publishing.
"The Canoe Is the People. Indigenous navigation in the Pacific", 2005. Paris: UNESCO.
Sustainability and future development
The LINKS project is a long-term effort based upon building trust and mutual understanding between local & indigenous communities, on the one hand, and state resource managers and development workers, on the other. In view of the long-term nature of the project, LINKS is presently being integrated into UNESCO's regular programme in order to allow for a longer-term vision and planning.
HUMAN RIGHTS ADDRESSED
Education and training
Freedom of expression and participation
Peace and security
Asia and the Pacific
Latin America and the Caribbean
Europe and North America
UNESCO OFFICES INVOLVED
The Cree School Board (Canada),
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Norway),
Wageningen University (Netherlands),
The PDF-A grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) supports preparation of a Mediumsized GEF proposal involving Palau, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
The UNDP Small Grants Programme for field projects in Nicaragua and Palau.
Local and indigenous communities and NGOs:
Bangladesh Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge (BARCIK),
First Nations of Chisasibi and Whapmagoostui (Canada),
Associacion Markan Kura (Mapuche NGOChile), Mayangna communities of Lakus River (Nicaragua)
National or subnational academic and cultural institutions:
Centre national de la Recherche scientifique (CNRS-France)
Cree School Board (Canada)
Native Law Centre (Canada)
Wageningen University (Netherlands)
University of Bergen (Norway)
University of Durham (UK)
Vanuatu Cultural Centre (Vanuatu)
International agencies and conventions:
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
PDF version of this article or the full document, UNESCO's Programme on the Eradication of Poverty, Especially Extreme Poverty
UNESCO's Poverty Eradication website