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306. As with GEOSS, the aim of GEO-BON is to ascertain the data requirements of user groups, review and prioritize research, facilitate interoperability among observation systems and databases, generate regularly updated assessments of global trends, design decision-support systems that integrate monitoring with modelling and forecasting, and make data and reports available to users. 228

Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN) 228



307. IABIN is a forum for countries of the Americas to share, collect and use biodiversity information relevant to decision makers, focusing on conservation and natural resource management and education linked to natural resource management in the Americas region. The network is concerned with the creation and promotion of the necessary infrastructure to allow exchange of biodiversity information, including aspects such as training and capacity building, network development and the provision of tools and guidance. 228

308. IABIN has been endorsed by the heads of state of 34 countries in the Americas, and each of the countries has nominated a focal point. IABIN operates through a membership council called "IABIN Council." The Council is policy focused. It has the authority to make decisions and take action on behalf of IABIN. IABIN is currently substantially supported by the GEF working through the Organization of American States, although other organizations and governments have also contributed substantially. As well as the focus on building the infrastructure, the network is developing through several thematic approaches covering: pollinators, invasive alien species, and protected areas. 228

309. The network is currently developing an online platform to collate biodiversity information from diverse sources such as universities, museums and government organizations into one place. IABIN has no formalized membership beyond country membership, although members are expected to work together to collate and share information and to develop partnerships with existing organizations. 229

International Council for Science (ICSU) 229


310. Founded in 1931 to promote international scientific activity in the different branches of science and its application for the benefit of humanity, the International Council for Science (ICSU) is one of the oldest non-governmental organizations in the world. ICSU's strength and uniqueness lies in its dual membership, National Scientific Members and International Scientific Unions, whose wide spectrum of scientific expertise allows ICSU to address major, international, interdisciplinary issues which its Members could not handle alone. 229

311. ICSU seeks to accomplish its role in a number of ways. Over the years, it has addressed specific global issues through the creation of Interdisciplinary Bodies, and of Joint Initiatives in partnership with other organizations. Important programmes of the past include the International Geophysical Year (1957-58) and the International Biological Programme (1964-74). Major current programmes include the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme: A Study of Global Change (IGBP), the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), DIVERSITAS: An Integrated Programme of Biodiversity Science and the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP). 229

312. In order to strengthen international science for the benefit of society, ICSU mobilizes the knowledge and resources of the international science community to: 229

a) identify and address major issues of importance to science and society; 229

b) facilitate interaction amongst scientists across all disciplines and from all countries; 229

c) promote the participation of all scientists in the international scientific endeavour; and 229

d) provide independent, authoritative advice to stimulate constructive dialogue between the scientific community and governments, civil society, and the private sector. 229

International Long Term Ecological Research (ILTER) Network 229


313. International Long Term Ecological Research describes itself as a ‘network of networks’ consisting of Scientists and organisations involved in long term site-based ecological research across the globe. 32 countries have established formal LTER programmes within their territories. ILTERs goals include fostering and creating collaborations and co-ordination amongst scientists involved in similar ecological research, improving comparability of long-term ecological datasets, delivering scientific information to policy-makers, scientists and the general public and educating a new generation of scientists in long-term ecological research. The long term focus allows the network to concentrate on assessing and resolving complex environmental issues in a wide variety of ecosystems around the world. 229

314. The ILTER Coordinating Committee consists of 32 individuals (one from each member country) and the Executive Committee consists of between 6 and 8 members. Most ILTER members are national or regional networks of scientists involved in long-term, site based ecological research. These networks have expertise in collecting, managing and analysing long-term environmental data and are responsible for the creation of a large number of unique long-term datasets. In total over 1800 individual scientists are involved, working at hundreds of different sites. 229

International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 229


315. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature is a global network of governmental and non-governmental organisations, United Nations agencies, companies and local communities. The IUCN is the world’s largest environmental network, with over 1,000 member organisations, over 1,000 professional staff and approximately 11,000 volunteer scientists based in 160 countries, it also has official observer status at the UN. IUCN’s policy and programme is set at members meetings that take place approximately every four years, and in between the organization is run by an elected council. 229


316. IUCN supports and carries out research on species, biodiversity and ecosystems, runs a large number of practical field projects around the world and carries out policy-making and advocacy work. This information is managed by a network of over 1,000 professional staff in 60 offices. IUCN’s work often focuses on the interaction between local communities and conservation issues. 229

317. IUCN produces, and is largely responsible for maintaining, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a comprehensive list of species and sub-species, detailing their conservation status, taxonomic information and information on their distribution. This list is based on wide assessments of species status carried out in partnership and collaboration with a wide range of organizations and individuals, and in particular members of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. The Red List is commonly used by governmental and NGOs as the standard by which species’ threat levels are assessed and as such, is an important tool in biodiversity conservation at the species level. 230

318. IUCN is also one of the three organizations that provides advice relating to implementation of the World Heritage Convention. In doing so IUCN relies not only on the expertise of its staff, but calls on its members ship and the members of the expert World Commission on Protected Areas to make input. 230

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 230


319. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was established in 1961 to serve as a forum where Governments of leading developed economies work together to address the economic, social and environmental challenges of globalisation. OECD provides a setting for governments to compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good practice and work to coordinate domestic and international policies. OECD is also one of the world’s largest and most reliable sources of comparable statistical, economic and social data, and produces internationally agreed instruments, decisions and recommendations to promote good governance in areas such as information and communications policy, taxation and the environment. 230


320. The Environment Directorate provides governments with the analytical basis to develop policies that are effective and economically efficient, including through country performance reviews, data collection, policy analysis, projections and modelling, and the development of common approaches. 230

321. The OECD Working Group on Economic Aspects of Biodiversity, focuses on markets for biodiversity, incentives and valuation, access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing, and has been working closely with the CBD on these issues. It also works on other areas of biodiversity, in particular market creation, and seeks active partnerships with other international organizations. 230

322. The Framework for Common Actions around Shared Goals commits OECD member countries to collaborating on key issues relating to environment and development. Recently three main work streams have emerged as (i) integrating climate adaptation into development co-operation, (ii) financing water supply and sanitation; and (iii) the governance and capacity development for natural resources and environmental management. 230

323. ENVIRONET works to enhance the coherence of OECD country policies in the areas of environment and development co-operation by bringing together senior-level representatives of development co-operation agencies responsible for environment and environmental specialists from multilateral agencies such as the European Environmental Agency, ECOSOC and the World Bank. Its membership also includes leading international NGOs. 230

Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) 230


324. The Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment is an interdisciplinary body consisting of natural and social scientists and scientific institutions which are working together to develop syntheses and reviews of scientific knowledge related to current or potential future environmental issues. It therefore operates at the interface between scientific and decision-making. 230


325. SCOPE does not carry out field or laboratory based research but works on projects developing state-of-the-art scientific reviews of key environmental issues. Projects are initiated by one or more SCOPE members and are then submitted to the General Assembly and Executive Committee for review and approval. SCOPEs science programme uses a 3 cluster structure (Managing Societal and Natural Resources, Ecosystem Processes and Biodiversity, Health and Environment) which promotes cross-programme co-ordination and interaction. 230

326. SCOPE consists of 37 national science academies and research councils and 22 international scientific unions. These members constitute the General Assembly, which convenes every three years, and are responsible for electing the Executive Committee. Members are expected to develop activities which support SCOPEs objectives at the National and International level. 230

327. SCOPE is concerned with reviewing and publishing scientific research and identifying gaps in current scientific research, and communicates project results to scientists, decision-makers and the general public through peer-reviewed scientific monographs and by maintaining a rigorous ongoing publications programme. 231

Scientific, Technical and Research Commission of the African Union (AU/STRC) 231


1. The Scientific, Technical and Research Commission of the African Union (AU/STRC) was instituted by Organization of African Uunity in 1964 to replace the Commission for Technical Cooperation in Africa with a mandate to coordinate and promote scientific and technological research and findings, and to serve as a clearing house for all scientific and technical activities for sustainable growth and development on the continent. The AU/STRC is headquartered in Lagos (Nigeria) and it is now one of the departments of the African Union Commission. 231


328. AU/STRC work focuses on applied research including the development of relevant technologies to inform African Union’s policies. It conducts capacity building programmes for policy-makers and other stakeholders in areas of applied science, traditional knowledge and other similar areas. A regional database of national expertise in relevant areas and priority research and capacity building needs is being created in collaboration with national and international partners. 231

329. The Commission works closely with National Councils for Science and Technology (NCST) or equivalent institutions at tha national level to build capacity and inform policies. Within the AU Commission, STRC collaborates closely with Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU/BAR) of the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture (DREA). There is also collaboration with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the International Council for Science Regional Office for Africa (ICSU ROA). 231

330. The Commission operates through “expert committees” composed of the representatives of African countries who are specialists in identified areas of science and technology. More specialised inter-African sub-committees were created under the AU/STRC. The most relevant areas to science and policies with dedicated sub-committees include soil science, sea and inland fisheries, medicinal plants and traditional medicine, and biodiversity, biotechnology and biosafety. 231

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCBD) 231


331. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is a CEO-led global association of approximately 200 companies dealing exclusively with business and sustainable development. The council functions as a platform for companies to share knowledge and experiences of sustainable development. It is also actively involved with advocacy of business positions on sustainable development and in this capacity, works alongside a variety of governmental and non-governmental organizations. The WBCSD has members from 35 countries and around 20 different industrial sectors. Its stated objectives include being a leading business advocate for sustainable development, promoting the business case for sustainable development; demonstrating the contribution which businesses make to sustainable development and contributing to a sustainable future for developing nations. 231


332. The WBCSD Ecosystem Focus Area aims to provide a credible engagement and collaboration platform to address challenges and opportunities associated with ecosystems and ecosystem services. It will build on the work of the WBCSD Sustaining Ecosystems Initiative. The Focus Area will support the business license of member companies to operate, innovate and grow by proactively addressing business risks associated with accelerating ecosystem degradation and the loss of ecosystem services. More specifically, it will promote the development and uptake of best practice mitigation and market-based approaches that support the sustainable management and use of ecosystems services – both on a stand-alone basis and in cooperation with other stakeholders. 231

A.8. Review of the role of Local Knowledge in Science-Policy Interface Relevant to Biodiversity 232


1. According to a case study on Mobilizing Traditional Knowledge and Expertise for Decision-Making on Biodiversity issued by the IMoSEB processes, it is now widely accepted in western scientific and policy making arenas that the knowledge and practices of Indigenous peoples, traditional societies and local communities make important contributions to the maintenance of biological diversity. Simply put, traditional knowledge and expertise cannot be ignored in biodiversity conservation and management efforts. The key challenge at present is to move beyond merely accepting in principle the importance of traditional knowledge in policy-making related to biodiversity conservation and management, to ensuring these knowledges and practices are fully considered and implemented in policy decisions in a more systematic way. This is, however, a complex and multifaceted challenge that involves a number of practical and philosophical considerations of vital importance. Moreover, the situations and priority concerns of Indigenous peoples, traditional societies and local communities are not uniform across the world, so due care is needed to avoid generalizations or extrapolations that may overlook significant regional differences or diversity and lead to erroneous outcomes. 232

What is local knowledge, and why is it important? 232


333. Local knowledge (also variously referred to as traditional, indigenous, community, customary, or practical knowledge), refer to the long-standing information, wisdom, traditions and practices of certain indigenous peoples or local communities. In many cases, traditional knowledge has been orally passed for generations from person to person. Some forms of local knowledge are expressed through stories, legends, folklore, rituals, songs, art, and even laws. Other forms of such knowledge are often expressed through different means. One distinction that is often made between local knowledge and modern or ‘western’ knowledge is that unlike the latter, it does not separate ‘secular’ or ‘rational’ knowledge from spiritual knowledge, intuitions, and wisdom. It is often embedded in a cosmology, and the distinction between ‘intangible’ knowledge and physical things is often blurred. Indeed, holders of local knowledge often claim that their knowledge cannot be divorced from the natural and cultural context within which it has arisen, including their traditional lands and resources, and their kinship and community relations. It is embedded in a social, cultural, political, and economic context, and taking it away from this context (as is sometimes done in ‘documentation’ exercises), is to devalue it and rob it of its essence. 232

334. Local knowledge is not, as often perceived, a static phenomenon, but one that is constantly evolving with changes in the internal and external environment of the community concerned. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘non-formal’ knowledge, but it should be recognized that communities can and have also formalized knowledge systems. While deeply rooted in practical experience, often over generations, but also contains conceptual and theoretical elements. Both formal and non-formal, practical and theoretical, aspects of local knowledge are considered in this paper. The primary distinction made is between these and ‘modern scientific’ knowledge. 232


335. For the purposes of this paper, only the knowledge that is relevant to biodiversity is considered; this is also referred to as ‘local ecological knowledge’. 232

336. Local ecological knowledge is one of the fulcrums of survival of traditional societies, it is a part of their life, and impossible to separate from all other aspects of living. It is what gives them to ability to make sense of nature, to find their place and meaning within nature and in relation to each other, to derive physical, material, and cultural sustenance from nature, and to devise means by which nature can be sustained along with sustaining society. The fact that communities have survived for millennia, often in very harsh ecological and physical conditions, is in no small part due to local ecological knowledge. Even in the modern world, local ecological knowledge is crucial to help communities adapt and continue to find meaning and identity. Most commonly accepted is its role in the “traditional” or primary sectors of the economy: agriculture and pastoralism, forestry, fisheries, water, and products made from natural resources such as crafts, furniture, and housing. Given the fact that a majority of the world’s population remains dependent on these sectors for their survival and livelihoods, the incalculable contribution of local ecological knowledge is quite clear. 232

337. Though there has been a tendency amongst modern societies (and learning from them, amongst traditional ones too), to consider local ecological knowledge as ‘primitive’ and outmoded, it is increasingly clear that it has tremendous contemporary relevance. 233


338. A whole range of industrial products are dependent on or use local ecological knowledge in varying ways. This is true for sectors like textiles, pharmaceuticals, household good, and so on. Health care, through all systems of medicine, is to varying degrees of extent dependent on local ecological knowledge, or on combinations of local ecological knowledge and modern knowledge. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the majority of the world’s population (in areas like Africa, up to 80% of the population) is dependent for varying degrees on medicinal plants through traditional health care systems. Numerous studies have demonstrated the contribution that local ecological knowledge also makes to the modern pharmaceutical industry and modern health care, a contribution that may only increase as people in the western world (including westernized people in the ‘developing’ countries) become more conscious of plant-based cures. The WHO estimates that 25% of modern medicines are made from plants first used traditionally. 233

339. Services like food distribution, education, climate forecasting and warning, and community care also continue to be performed through institutions using traditional means, and in some cases even modern institutions of the government or corporate sector are discovering the value of this. Rates of maternal mortality at childbirth were reduced significantly when traditional institutions (including the traditional birth attendant) were used in combination with modern communications. 233

340. Though much more recent, there is now a growing recognition of the role that local ecological knowledge could play in humanity’s response to the gravest threat it now faces: climate change. The fact that communities have for centuries and millennia adjusted their behaviour and strategies and knowledge systems to changes in their surrounds, is central to this realisation. Communities adjust their agriculture/pastoralism/fishing and hunting-gathering to subtle or not-so-subtle changes in climate, to threats from other communities or invasions, to disease and epidemics, and so on. Traditional systems appear to be static, but they are indeed dynamic in making such adjustments. Such adaptability could be a key factor in the response that we give as a species, to the impacts of climate change, and the role that local ecological knowledge in all the sectors named above could provide the alternatives needed to build towards a more sustainable way of dealing with our atmosphere. 233


341. A key scientific question to address is how to assess unsustainability, and what indicators, criteria and methods can be used for this? Here too, traditional knowledge has a vital role, for traditional peoples and communities have used a wide range of their own indicators and methods to get an idea of sustainability. Water flows, the presence/absence or appearance/disappearance of certain species, the behaviour of domestic or wild animals, and other kinds of changes in their surrounds are used in myriad sophisticated ways to learn about ecological changes that may be detrimental or beneficial. 233

342. In all the above and many more ways, local ecological knowledge is crucial to meeting the goals of a number of international conventions and agreements, including the CBD and other environmental conventions, and the Millennium Development Goals. It is also central to the achievement of the provisions laid out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 233

Threats to local ecological knowledge 233




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