Role of indigenous knowledge in the face of climate change

by Steffen Dehn

The third day of the Bonn Conference hosted a side event on indigenous peoples rights and mainly dealt with implementation gaps and how the Indigenous people platform (IP) can be used and operationalized.
The description of the session read as follows: “Indigenous peoples’ rights are increasingly being recognised and the decision of establishing an indigenous peoples’ platform contributes to policy coherence and implementation of the PA [Paris Agreement] preamble. However, the implementation gap on the ground is increasing.”

The speakers were mainly indigenous representatives that presented challenges in their country as well as their hopes when it comes to the involvement of indigenous people. All speakers stressed the importance of traditional knowledge not only for indigenous communities but also for the international community. Techniques and measures communities undertake worldwide have proven to be excellent means to adapt to changing environments over time one speaker pointed out. She highlighted how indigenous community have over time facilitated seed selection in an effort to end up with the plants that yield the most food in their given area.

Speakers accentuated that while traditional knowledge is already being recognized and appreciated on an international level like in the CBD working group on article 8 and the IPBES (Inter Governmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) the UNFCCC could support traditional knowledge more to diversify their work.

One of the main goals of the IP is to facilitate a change in the mindset and perception about indigenous people. Indigenous people are highly dependent on natural systems for things such as food, medicine and other daily needs but with the current speed of events triggered by climate change, people have a hard time to adapt.

One speaker pointed out the important roles women play for indigenous communities. She especially made a case for their crucial role in transferring the indigenous knowledge to the younger generation – women act as a knowledge hub for their communities. With this in mind she stressed the point how difficult it is for women to be part and participate in decision making. This practice doesn´t ensure that the best solution for all members of society are chosen. She also referred to the current internationally implemented mitigation and adaptation strategies as being a driver in undermining the indigenous women and their knowledge in regard to climate change.

The side event included with two very true statements made by the speakers. One of them was the following:

We can adapt to everything but we can´t adapt without our lands and nature!

The other statement stressed, that the international community should be confident in the knowledge of indigenous communities and reached out for a better recognition of indigenous knowledge within the scientific community of the west.

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