CEESP Indigenous & Traditional Knowledge Advisory Committee established

 The CEESP Chair has established an Indigenous & Traditional Knowledge Advisory Committee within CEESP. 

itkac.jpg Photo: "The Physician", Herb Kawainui Kane (Hawai'i)

The draft Terms of Reference for this Advisory Committee are to:

  • Refine and Finalise the Terms of Reference and Name of the Advisory Committee;
  • Develop an overview of how ITK is being framed in international processes - the achievements and gaps;
  • Propose key messages/interventions/visions that should be advocated by IUCN and CEESP about ITK in international processes; Provide expert advice to the whole of the Commission and to IUCN on ITK issues


CEESP receives regular requests for advice and input into a range of international processes where the role of indigenous and traditional knowledge is being discussed. Some of these processes are standard-setting and others involve on-going policy development. The role and contribution of ITK to sustainable development is an issue that has been the subject of intense activity at the global level (as well as national & regional) for well over 30 years (if not longer), and at the local level this has been a discussion ever since humanity was created.

As Chair of CEESP I have received consistent requests to appoint CEESP ‘Focal Points’ to all of these processes and have resisted doing so as I have not been convinced the investment indigenous peoples have contributed to date has been heard, acknowledged, valued or integrated into decisions/activities. At so many of these UN meetings, indigenous representatives are still asking for the right to speak.

From UNCED Agenda 21 to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention on International Trafficking in Endangered Species, World Intellectual Property Organisation IGC, the Millennium Development Goals, and more recently the Inter-Governmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the post-2015 Development Agenda, it is significant that indigenous and traditional knowledge have been included as important components in all of these processes and yet, has the overall status of the role of indigenous and traditional knowledge been acknowledged and implemented in meaningful ways? Will the discussion on TK that will happen soon in IPBES be informed by all that has been covered in these other processes? Has the global community progressed in its understanding of ITK?

A better approach to appointing CEESP Focal Points for each international process is for CEESP to convene a small team of experts in Indigenous and Traditional Knowledge to develop a comprehensive overview of the international landscape in which ITK is being discussed, suggest key messages that CEESP and IUCN should adopt; and, advise the Commission and IUCN on ITK issues. There is great value in having a group of colleagues to analyse, de-construct and debate issues. There is also value in not getting too involved in the details of processes but to keep sight of the ‘bigger picture’ issues and remain grounded in practical considerations.

The founding members of the Advisory Committee are: Fikret Berkes, Olivier Hammerlynck, Aroha Mead, Leonie Pihama, Peggy Smith. The Committee will be convened by Peggy Smith.

Work area: 
Social Policy
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