Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems

The intersectoral Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) initiative integrates local and indigenous knowledge, practice and worldviews into sustainable development and resource management processes. Its aim is to ensure that small island communities, and in particular indigenous knowledge holders, both men and women, and elders and youth, are active partners in defining development targets, priorities and means. The place of indigenous knowledge in many small-island cultures underscores the importance of this dimension in considering the issue of 'national and regional enabling environments'.

Activities include a pilot exercise to reinforce indigenous knowledge transmission in Solomon Island classrooms. Conducted in villages in Marovo Lagoon in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (September 2005), this pilot serves to develop guidelines for classroom use of a sourcebook (published in October 2005) that is wholly based on local ecological knowledge, entitled 'Reef and Rainforest: An Environmental Encyclopedia of Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands'. To further this work, LINKS is also developing an extrabudgetary project in Palau, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to empower indigenous knowledge holders in biodiversity governance and reinforce the long-term viability and transmission of indigenous knowledge relevant for biodiversity conservation.

An interactive CD-ROM entitled 'The Canoe Is the People: Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific' was launched at the UNESCO General Conference in the presence of the Fiji Minister of Education and with the support of New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Palau (October 2005). A Pacific launch was held at the thirteenth Consultation of the Pacific Heads of Education in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (November 2005). Waikato University (New Zealand) has proposed to assist with the development of a Maori language version. The draft Learning Resource Pack for 'The Canoe Is the People' CD-ROM has been distributed for review by the Curriculum Development Units of Fiji, New Zealand and Palau.

A project is currently underway in the south-western Indian Ocean (Mauritius, Rodrigues and Réunion) on the creative blending of women's medicinal knowledge, anchored in the local flora and shaped by the diverse cultural traditions of India, China, Madagascar, East Africa and Europe.

The book 'Water and Indigenous Peoples', underlining the importance of indigenous water management and rights, was formally launched at the fourth World Water Forum in Mexico in March 2006.

In the present (2006-2007) biennium, intersectoral action seeks to enhance linkages between cultural and biological diversity with the aim of strengthening the knowledge base among policy- and decision-makers in SIDS, on the interdependence of cultural and biological diversity and on cultural practices favouring local-level sustainable use of biodiversity.

In a similar vein, ongoing work on the vulnerability of SIDS to disasters includes reinforcing education for natural disaster preparedness and mitigation, drawing on endogenous capacities as well as promoting the role of local and indigenous knowledge in community-level disaster preparedness. In addition, as part of the Organization's contribution to the Hyogo Framework for Action, a 'Coalition on Education' is taking the lead in integrating disaster reduction education into school programmes and in making school buildings safer, in the context of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) and the preservation of cultural monuments and sites from disaster risk, including World Heritage sites. Further information is accessible through the UNESCO website on Natural Disasters Reduction.

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