Bio-Cultural Diversity

It is no coincidence that areas of linguistic and ethnic diversity are also areas rich in biodiversity. Most of the world’s languages are spoken by indigenous and other tribal peoples in countries that harbour great biodiversity. When a language dies, we also stand to lose the local ecological knowledge and wisdom that reposes in that language.

IUCN seeks to support conservation conservation of the world's cultural diversity and of traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous and traditional peoples. To this end, IUCN works actively in international fora such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Traditional ecological knowledge has very important functions and offers fundamental contributions to biodiversity conservation. Among other benefits, it can provide a long-term perspective of ecosystem dynamics, based on ancestral contact and interaction with habitats and species. It has been also frequently documented that traditional peoples have developed sophisticated classificatory systems, in many cases producing more complete taxonomies than those of Western science. Traditional knowledge is a fundamental component of the cultural adaptation to natural conditions.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) embraces the importance of cultural diversity and traditional knowledge. The CBD's Article 8(j) on Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices calls on Parties to "respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge innovations and practices".

IUCN has passed a number of resolutions and recommendations relating to the means for communities to conserve, value, protect and apply traditional knowledge. IUCN is also concerned about the links of traditional knowledge, cultural diversity and intellectual property rights. The 1996 WCC passed Resolution 1.50 on “Indigenous Peoples, Intellectual Property Rights, and Biological Diversity” that called for “(…) respect for cultural diversity, including linguistic diversity, as a basic condition to maintain and protect indigenous knowledge (…) establishment of a process which facilitates the recognition of indigenous peoples knowledge as the intellectual property of its holder (…) recognition of the principle that use of the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous peoples and local communities be made with their approval and consultation, and that indigenous peoples and local communities share equitably in the benefits deriving from such use (…) establishment of national policies to ensure the promotion, recovery, systematization and strengthening of indigenous knowledge related to biodiversity with the prior informed consent of the peoples concerned”.

Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook Cover

Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook

Given the growing focus within CEESP and IUCN in general on the links between culture and conservation and between biodiversity and cultural diversity, CEESP members should be interested in the forthcoming book Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook, by Luisa Maffi and Ellen Woodley (to be published by Earthscan in February 2010, with IUCN sponsorship). …  

28 Jan 2010 | Downloads - publication