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motion for debate


Discussion / motion for debate

backcover EDM5

Legal empowerment of traditional knowledge holders rejuvenates traditions

Explanation of the motion
As 2009 ends, the Copenhagen COP15 on Climate Change has not resulted in agreements to reduce the effects of climate change. In the West young people are acting to ‘Beat the Heat’, yet the major impact will be on people living in the South.

One strategy for mitigating climate change is to ensure legal recognition and empowerment of communities that are conserving biodiversity. 2010 will be an important year in the development of environmental law for indigenous peoples and local communities (ILCs). Negotiations under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are likely to culminate in two instruments that impact significantly on the lives of ILCs: the International Regime of Access and Benefit Sharing (IRABS) and the Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD). NGOs and representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities are now questioning in both UN forums whether the proposed instruments will adequately respect and promote communities’ ways of life that contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

As a response to this concern, indigenous and local communities, supported by NGOs such as Natural Justice from South Africa (www.naturaljustice.org.za) and UNEP Kenya (www.unep.org), have been developing bio-cultural community protocols (BCPs). These are a tool that makes traditional knowledge available for further development on legal terms and conditions not dictated by the receiver but by the providers of knowledge. Furthermore, legal recognition is expected to lead to more awareness among ILCs of their rights. It will also legitimise ILCs’ traditions for government officials, who often look down upon them.

We expect that legal recognition of BCPs will motivate young people within ILCs to become prouder of their traditions, thus gaining their support in working to meet challenges such as mitigating climate change. But what is likely to be more effective for conserving biodiversity? Working on multilateral conventions or revitalising social processes for development and well-being? Or will these different approaches meet somewhere?

Join the debate
We invite readers to respond to the motion Legal empowerment of traditional knowledge holders rejuvenates traditions. A selection of responses will be published in the Interacting section of the next issue of ED Magazine. Please restrict your contribution to not more than 200 words.

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