Establishment of a process to empower indi­genous people and their communities through measures …

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Establishment of a process to empower indi­genous people and their communities through measures …

  • to strengthen the active participation of indigenous people and their communities in the national formulation of policies, laws and programmes relating to resource management and other development processes that may affect them …

  • Involvement of indigenous people and their communities at the national and local levels in resource management and conservation strategies …

    The Declaration of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Rio 10) in Johannesburg in 2002 has once more stated the importance of indigenous peoples – “we re-affirm the vital role of indigenous peoples in the sustainable development”. Recognition of this role is reflected in the establishment of the Permanent Forum of Indigenous Peoples within the Social and Economic Council of the UN (ECOSOC). The Permanent Forum includes about a dozen persons, the representatives of the nominated states, including the officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, and the indigenous peoples from non-governmental organisations of all continents. At present one representative from Russia, Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga, vice-president of RAIPON, is elected to the Permanent Forum.

    The process of political recognition of indigenous peoples is strengthened by the raising awareness that it is highly important to involve local communities and apply their traditional knowledge for poverty eradication and sustainable development. International organisations and financial institutions are targeting the implementation of the Millennium Goals adopted by most of the states at the global summit of the World Bank in 2001. Fundamental values to be declared in this document include, among others, the tolerance, nature conservation and common responsibility. The main focus is on solving the economic, social and environmental problems, and in particular, on interconnectedness of these issues. Interdisciplinary interaction is a complicated task due to the different scales of problems to be solved at the local, regional and global levels. That is the reason why improvement of the management, its humanistic dimension – ‘good governance’ – becomes one of the new priority trends in the planning of the projects and programs.

    A specific example under this trend is the international project of Millennium Ecosystem Assessment covering all major ecosystems of the planet. In Russia this project is still in the initial phase, and the circumpolar region (Arctic ecosystems) is not yet considered in the subprojects. In general, the project is challenging a wide range of tasks, including the following:
    1. to provide the different users (including local communities) with the information on eco­system state, local resources and most rational ways of their utilisation and management;

    2. to evaluate the relation between the ecosystem state and well-being of the population (sum­ming up the ‘ecosystem services’);

    3. to involve the population into the ecosystem management at the local level.

    In contrast to previous research and mainly global assessments of the ecosystems, this project is focused on the uniqueness of ecosystems and practices of their use, in essence there is planned an inventory of the natural agricultural systems. It is connected with decreasing confidence of the local communities in the global political decision-making. In substance, the project objective is an enhancement of the local component in all estimations and in the process of ecosystem management. The representation of the indigenous peoples (Ms. Esther Camac from Costa-Rica) in the International Consultative Committee of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was envisaged from the project initiation. This committee accumulates information on subprojects, implemented by local and indigenous communities within the aforementioned project.

    On 17-20 March 2004 in Alexandria (Egypt) an International conference was organised under this project: “Bridging Scales and Epistemologies: Integration of Traditional Knowledge and Science in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment”. Many indigenous representatives from various world regions participated in the conference. The conference objective was to make the project outcomes accessible and useful for local communities (including indigenous peoples), as well as present the tools for the environmental and ecosystem monitoring with the local participation (indicators, interview, questionnaires, maps, reports, databases etc.).

    At the conference the bulk of the presentations criticised that local traditional knowledge was inadequately not considered in the global assessments. At the same time it was clearly stated that there is a lack of social conditions and institutions for consideration of such knowledge. For indigenous peoples the conference resolutions, as well as the subprojects’ outcomes are of high interest. They comprise the following issues:

    • case studies on integral (jointly with the local communities) ecosystem assessment, including the participatory system for such assessment;

    • application of traditional knowledge for sustainable development;

    • traditional knowledge in the biodiversity conservation;

    • introduction of a participatory system into the resource management;

    • simulation and models of ecosystem management on the basis of traditional knowledge;

    • ways and practices for traditional knowledge interpretation and promotion in international conventions and global assessments.

    The conference incorporated presentations of inter­esting pilot projects on the following themes:

    • how institutional barriers for participatory system introduction in the ecosystem management are to be overcome;

    • how ecosystem assessment by local population could add to or enrich the existing scientific evaluations;

    • how does local knowledge reflect or supplement the evaluation of the ecosystem actual degradation;

    • experience with adaptation to or mitigation of the ecological threats by local communities.

    The representatives of the indigenous communities have expressed their views on the integration of different types of knowledge in the following statements:

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    Establishment of a process to empower indi­genous people and their communities through measures …

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