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343. More than ever before, local ecological knowledge faces serious levels of erosion. As the peoples and communities holding local ecological knowledge themselves face a range of threats from outright annihilation to ‘assimilation’ into ‘mainstream’ society, the knowledge they hold also slips away. A clear and alarming indicator is the threat to languages, with some scholars estimating that half of the around 6000 languages spoken today may become extinct by 2050 or 2100. A language (oral or written) is not only a means of communication between members of a people or community, it also contains within it the essence of considerable information and knowledge and wisdom of the people or community. Its loss is therefore a loss of local ecological knowledge, especially in the case where local ecological knowledge has passed down and evolved orally. 233

344. Across the world, as one model of modern education and means of mass communication spread, newer generations of traditional peoples are simply not imbibing local ecological knowledge in way that their parents or ancestors did. As growing demand for natural resources from a greedy global economy touches every community, elements of local ecological knowledge that managed to maintain sustainable levels of harvest become redundant or sidelined, and soon forgotten. Most of all, as the people in such communities themselves get amalgamated into urban-industrial sectors, they no longer have a need for local ecological knowledge ….at least not for a while till many of them find themselves cast out of the economy and adrift, but now without even their local ecological knowledge or without any natural resources to fall back on. 234

345. Intellectual property rights regimes also threaten local ecological knowledge, through piracy and wrongful claims of ownership, or through commercialization of knowledge that is held to be common (therefore freely available) or sacred. 234

Integrating local ecological knowledge into the science-policy interface 234



346. Given the recognition that local ecological knowledge remains crucial to the goals of biodiversity conservation in particular and environmental sustainability in general, it needs to find a central place in any attempt to influence policy. For this to happen, it is essential that the currently one-sided relationship between modern scientific knowledge and local ecological knowledge, in which the former either displaces or co-opts the latter, is replaced by one that is mutually respectful and on an equal footing. Experts and advocates of both kinds of knowledge need to acknowledge the weaknesses of theirs and the strengths of the other, and explore ways to build synergies that fill each others’ gaps and enhance each others’ strong points. Given the enormous historical and cultural baggage that comes with both, and some basic differences in premise, this is of course easier said than done. For instance, the fact that local ecological knowledge explicitly combines both factual (‘what is’) and normative (‘what should be’) knowledge or opinions, is often considered by advocates of modern science as being problematic because they believe that they are ‘objectively’ dealing only with ‘facts’. But as is shown in successful attempts at combining various forms of knowledge, decision-making based on a mix of facts and values can not only be robust, but actually stronger than one based only on facts…and in any case it is disputed whether any policy decision can ever be free of value judgments. The more it is explicitly recognized that decisions involve a variety of ‘ways of seeing’, the more it will be possible to integrate, on a respectful plane, local ecological knowledge into policy-making. For instance, structured techniques used to facilitate inter-knowledge exchange for water use planning in Canada, demonstrated that both factual and value-based knowledge can actually help to improve decisions relating to environmental risk. 234


347. There are an increasing number of such initiatives at integrating local ecological knowledge into processes of gaining greater understanding of ecological issues and influencing policy. Combining the knowledge of indigenous peoples such as the Inuvaluit, with modern scientific understanding, was crucial to the ambitious Arctic Climate Impact Assessment brought out in 2004. Indigenous peoples are now conducting their own assessments in several regions of the world under the Indigenous Peoples Assessment of Climate Change process. In initiating this process, the United Nations University noted that: “Observations of ecosystem change by indigenous peoples are acting as a sentinel like warning system for climate change. More importantly, the long-term place-based adaptation approaches developed by indigenous peoples provide valuable examples for the global community of low-carbon sustainable lifestyle, critical to developing local adaptations strategies in the face of climate instability.” 234

348. Drawing from the above mentioned IMoSEB case study, examples of how traditional knowledge and expertise has been mobilised for decision making on biodiversity include the following: 234

a) Indigenous information networks, community traditional knowledge databases, and community traditional knowledge registers; 234

b) template agreements such as the Template Traditional Knowledge Protocol or the Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) Research Contract; 235

c) community protocols and codes relating to conducting research and intellectual property, and external codes for researchers, and legal agreements relating to access and benefit sharing; 235

d) Indigenous structures for co-management, and Indigenous community-based natural and cultural resource management programs; and 235

e) community-controlled and community-based collaborative research projects, and the creation of new institutions to govern research. 235


349. According to the authors of the IMoSEB case study, the diverse range in types of tools speaks to a parallel diversity in community needs, priorities, and capacities. Importantly, no one-size-fits-all solution will or can emerge for how traditional knowledge and western science can be brought together in a synergism founded on complementarity, which ultimately is based on mutual respect for difference. Common themes that emerge from the scan include: needs for access to and exchanges of information, needs for models and templates that have been tested on-the-ground, guidance on how to engage and disengage in ethical and equitable relationships (both within and outside of communities), needs to store and manage vast amounts of information in various forms and with built-in mechanisms for multilevel or tiered access and degrees of stringency in control of information flow. While some examples used illustrate the highest levels of community control achievable, most are premised on active participation and full and active representation, working and making decisions in collaboration, co-creating and co-managing new knowledge – and ultimately, sharing power. Perhaps beyond all other hurdles to mobilizing traditional knowledge and expertise for decision-making on biodiversity, is the inherent inequity in distribution of power that stands in the way of governments, academic scientists, policy makers and others seeking meaningful collaborations with Indigenous organisations and communities. 235

Key gaps 235


350. Though initiatives at giving local ecological knowledge a more central place in research and planning are increasing, there remain a number of key gaps that need to be urgently plugged. These include: 235

a) Such initiatives remain a tiny fraction of the practice in the formal world of research, planning, education, and decision-making, and need to be considerably increased in number and scope. 235

b) Their relative scarcity means that there is as yet no significant move to change the paradigms of formal systems in such a way that multiple knowledge systems and their varying philosophies/approaches are at their very core. For instance, there is probably no university in the world where teaching and research are completely or even predominantly based on such integrated knowledge. It is symbolic of this gap, that even the IPBES initiative is called ‘science-policy interface’, and does not centrally integrate indigenous peoples and local communities in its core processes. 235

c) Most such initiatives are at the level of research, education, and planning, but avenues for indigenous peoples and local communities to take part in decision-making remain extremely limited, especially when it concerns formal sectors of society and economy, or institutions of governance at national and international levels. Without such access to decision-making, the use of local ecological knowledge will remain marginal. 235

d) Policies to protect or encourage local ecological knowledge, though increasingly being adopted in countries and international instruments, are usually not accompanied by policies that protect the social, political, economic, and ecological contexts within which local ecological knowledge originates and flourishes. Without this, local ecological knowledge often remains as ‘museumised’ items that are available to admire (and appropriate for use in formal systems), but not as living, evolving systems. 235

Prerequisites or conditions to meaningful integration 235



351. Further integration of local ecological knowledge into the science-policy interface requires commitment of all relevant parties to at least the following: 235

a) Acknowledgement of, and support to, the need to ensure continuation of the social, cultural, economic and political contexts within which such knowledge thrives. This means the full recognition of the territorial, cultural, and political rights and responsibilities of indigenous peoples and local communities. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, provides a good basis for such recognition; such provisions need also to be extended to non-indigenous traditional communities. 235

b) Encouragement to oral forms of knowledge generation and transmission, even as the demand for ‘documentation’ gains ground, including through its promotion in modern institutions of learning. 236

c) Institutions and avenues for cross-fertilization between local ecological knowledge and modern science, learning from each other in respectful ways; this would include fundamental changes in formal education institutions to include ‘teachers’ from the indigenous and local knowledge systems, and changes in the curriculum and teaching methodologies to include local ecological knowledge and traditional means of knowledge transmission. 236

d) Safeguarding all the conditions of local ecological knowledge, and the rights of peoples and communities, in any moves to ‘document’ local ecological knowledge, including the requirement for free and prior informed consent from those whose knowledge is being documented. 236

e) Ensuring the IPR regimes do not allow for IPR claims on local ecological knowledge; moreover, comprehensively reviewing, with the involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities, all IPR regimes that promote monopolies and inequities in the use and transmission of knowledge, and bringing in forms of knowledge protection that are consistent with the values and cultures of all peoples. 236

f) Changing the discourse, e.g. using ‘knowledge’ in place of ‘science’, and avoiding stereotypic dichotomies such as ‘practical’ for local ecological knowledge and ‘theoretical’ for modern science. Amongst the first steps could be to rename the current process ‘knowledge-policy interface’ rather than ‘science-policy interface’! 236

g) Ensuring and facilitating the full and meaningful participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in national and international policy processes. 236

A.9. Overview of a range of indicator processes on for the global biodiversity-related agreements and other related agreements and programmes 237

Convention on Biological Diversity 237

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands 237

Convention on Migratory Species 237

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 237

World Heritage Convention 237

UN Convention to Combat Desertification 238

Millennium Development Goals 238

Streamlining European 2010 Biodiversity Indicators (SEBI2010) 238

Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme (CBMP) 238

African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) 238

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 238

A.10. The experience of indicators at the regional level – SEBI2010 239


1. Streamlining European 2010 Biodiversity Indicators (SEBI2010) is a pan-European initiative led by the European Environment Agency (EEA) to facilitate the development and uptake of a common set of biodiversity indicators to track progress towards the target of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 adopted by both the European Union and pan-European processes. Development of the indicator set involved a wide range of individuals and organizations contributing directly and through working groups, and has so far resulted in a technical report describing the indicators and how they are calculated and used, and a first assessment of progress based on the indicators. SEBI2010 has identified 26 indicators under seven focal areas, and not unsurprisingly there is considerable overlap with the content of CBD indicator framework. Indeed this was deliberately and actively worked towards so as to ensure a degree of coherence. 239

354. In a preliminary report, the working group considered that while the indicator-set has the potential to enable policy makers to evaluate the progress towards the 2010-target it is questionable whether on the currently produced indicators scientifically sound conclusions could be drawn. The working group considered that improvements were required to inform policy makers in a proper manner, and made the following preliminary recommendations in addition to a list of suggested short-term actions. 239

a) improve or extend the existing indicators and the databases underlying them to take account of additional species groups and additional genetic resources; 239

b) seek ways to make more effective use other existing data sources where data are collected in an harmonised way; 239

c) develop and improve indicators in those areas currently not properly covered, such as those addressing threats, use (goods and services, and sustainable use), ecosystem integrity and responses; and 239

d) extend monitoring systems to improve coverage and consistency, using harmonised standards and being appropriately quality controlled. 239


356. On interlinkages between the indicators: 239

a) build models of the major cause-effect relationship using the DPSIR framework in a concerted scientific manner; 239

b) make temporal scales, spatial scales, baselines, assessment principles and critical levels more coherent so that indicators have the potential to provide a more coherent picture when taken together; 239

c) determine critical levels in order to assess whether marine ecosystems, forest and agriculture are sustainably managed; and 239

d) ensure that those facilitating development of national and regional biodiversity research strategies address these issues. 239

357. The preliminary report goes on to say that indicators inform policy makers about the actual change in biodiversity and its use over time and space, and that in combination with models they are an indispensable tool for determining the major causes, their relative contribution, and finding cost-effective measures. Evaluation of the progress to the target is important, but using indicators as a continuous feed back to adjust and fine tune policies is of much higher value. They go on to say that while the cost of implementing their recommendations is high, the societal cost of policy inaction or wrong policies based on invalid information will be much higher. 240

358. Other working groups are reviewing communications, and biodiversity and climate change. 240

A.11. Strengthening the linkages between biodiversity indicators at the global and national scales 241


1. Two brief notes follow, the first an analysis of what has been said on indicators in the national reports submitted to the CBD by Parties, and the second a series of personal observations by someone who has been involved in running indicator workshops at national and regional levels. Both are included, despite a degree of overlap in the messages they convey, because they each illustrate the current situation from a different perspective. 241

Reports to the CBD on national level indicators 241


2. National governments recognise the need to develop their own indicator monitoring programmes, both for national biodiversity planning and for reporting against international commitments like the CBD 2010 Target and the MDGs. This is also encouraged by a number of decisions taken by intergovernmental processes. 241

359. A review of the available 3rd and 4th National Reports to the CBD suggests that national indicators have been adopted using the CBD framework as a guide, but designed to fit the specific context of a specific country. There is widespread recognition of the importance of national indicators and reference is made in both 3rd and 4th National Reports to a very wide range of indicators. These span all seven CBD focal areas, although overall there is a greater reference to indicators under three focal areas: status and trends of the components of biodiversity; threats to biodiversity, and; ecosystem integrity and ecosystem goods and services. 241

360. Despite much progress, there is a general perception that further development of national capacity to develop, monitor and report against agreed indicators is required in large parts of the world. National focal points for conventions like the CBD are often required to complete indicator-based reports without access to all of the necessary data (or the technical agencies capable of delivering it) to facilitate accurate, up-to-date, scientifically credible and comparable reporting. 241

361. A more detailed review of the 47 4th National Reports to the CBD available in June 2009, which asked specifically about indicators, suggested the following observations. 241

a) Parties are in different stages as far as the use of national indicators to specifically measure progress towards the 2010 target is concerned. Some indicated that they do not have national indicators; some indicated that indicators are being developed; some mentioned indicators in their report but no further detail or data were provided, some eluded to indicators in the report and presented information showing trends in status of biodiversity and ecosystems. Few Parties reported on the indicators with evidence of use. 241

b) Numerous Parties mentioned they have not developed national biodiversity indicators. Reasons for this include a lack of administrative and technical capacity, inadequate funding available to the government, and political instability meaning routinely monitoring indicators was not feasible. 241

c) The majority of Parties listed indicators that were in development. Quantitative indicator data was not often presented as evidence of change. Some Parties used simple (qualitative) scoring to show if there has been progress, no change or negative development with regard to specific global 2010 indicators. 241

d) The majority of developing countries blamed their inability to routinely apply indicators on lack of capacity, lack of consistent trend data, absence of ecological baselines against which change is measured and lack of established monitoring systems. “Marginalisation” of environmental ministries and limited knowledge on the definition of indicators to measure progress towards the 2010 CBD target also hinders progress. 241

e) Although there is often a vast body of national data available on various aspects of biodiversity in a country, many of the data sets are “one-off” studies, often covering only a portion of the country. As a result, it can be a challenge to find ways of integrating different data sets and making them comparable to produce time series statistics. 241

f) A lack of institutional responsibility and accountability for biodiversity survey and monitoring makes it very difficult for some countries to establish and verify biodiversity trends. Data ownership and management were common problems. Many government institutions do not have data management structures in place so that data and information is often ‘person-bound’ rather than ‘institution-bound’. 241

g) Sustaining good biodiversity monitoring systems over time is a major challenge in some cases, particularly after donors exit. 241

Strengthening the linkages between biodiversity indicators at the global and national scales – a personal perspective 242

362. The following is based on experience UNEP-WCMC has gained from leading two indicator-related GEF projects, and one project supported by the UN Development Account. The Biodiversity Indicators for National Use involved experience in Ecuador, Kenya, Philippines and Ukraine, and the ongoing 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership project (which has some national support components) and Building national capacity for policy-making and reporting on MDG-7 environmental sustainability and the 2010 Biodiversity Target project have so far involved regional workshops in Cambodia, Costa Rica, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand and Trinidad. 242

a) Global scale: The motivations for global-scale indicators are usually: for reporting on progress in achieving global targets; as a communication tool by interest groups to raise awareness of particular topics; and to support global-scale strategic planning and prioritisation. 242

b) National scale: The aims of national-scale indicator development commonly include: to aid the design and monitoring of conservation strategies; to assist the development of policies and management plans for commercially important biodiversity; and to raise awareness and actions for topics of importance to interest groups, including NGOs and academia. 242

a) Indicators must be seen as part of a process of understanding and managing biodiversity and the natural environment. They are not the start or the end points for analysis and decision-making, but information tools to help identify and understand important issues and to monitor progress. 242

b) Indicators for reporting and management decision-making should be designed in relation to a description of the desired state or behaviour of a process or issue. Ideally the definition of desired states and behaviours of an issue should be informed by conceptual models including both biophysical and socio-elements and their relationships. Conceptual models and indicators of their variables also form the basis of models for scenario analysis, to explore possible consequences of policy options. 242

369. While global biodiversity indicators are undoubtedly important, in order to best support national efforts, further development of the indicator frameworks for MEAs and other international processes with national implications should probably focus on strengthening the information for actions to implement those agreements and processes at the national level, with global scale reporting and analysis a vital but secondary objective. This will help ensure that not only are national needs directly supported, but that there is therefore a clear “interest” in maintaining the relevant data into the future. 243




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