ecosystem assessment by indigenous communities is distinguished by both emotional and spiritual dimensions and expression of their connection to the land;
indigenous communities have their own vision of the future and well-being, where economic, social, cultural and spiritual components constitute an entuty, a vision that differs from Western values;
indigenous communities are capable to react to the ecosystem changes and integrate (or successfully apply) scientific knowledge;
Western authors shall introduce the ethic approach into the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Project, because the ideology of ecosystem service evaluation might cause a threat to the system of values of indigenous communities, and the indigenous representatives shall be included into the team for the risk assessment;
the project is based on the ideology of the UN (and the member-states), what results in the priority assessment of the ecosystem goods and services instead of needs of people. This paradigm of the project shall be subsequently modified.
The conference recognised that public and private institutions, responsible for ecosystem management, are not yet holistic and multi-level and do not adequately reflect the interests of different actors. Significant work is needed on legal, institutional and capacity building issues. Recognition of local knowledge shall also be reflected in the global financial actions. Participation in the international project of Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is of high interest in case of further implementation of its subprojects on biodiversity conservation and sustainable development of indigenous lands.
Integration of traditional and scientific knowledge might also be implemented under the new project of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) on integrated ecosystem approach to conserve biodiversity and minimise habitat fragmentation in the Russian Arctic (ECORA). The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources has recently launched this project in cooperation with international partners. The ultimate goal of this project is to foster nature protection in the regions outside the existing protected areas network. This objective assumes the close interaction with the local population, which in the pilot regions Kolguev Island, Kolyma River Basin and Chukotkan Peninsula are represented by indigenous peoples. The representative of RAIPON is included in the ECORA Steering Committee, a very important action from the point of view of practical project implementation, because the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment project also aims at research and solution of the environmental problems intrinsically related to the socio-economic conditions.
Essentially topical to the ECORA project is the program on Ecological Knowledge in the Arctic Transborder Territories, which envisages environmental monitoring and is implemented with the participation of indigenous communities. The project period is 1996-2004. It covers Arctic regions in Canada and USA. Descriptions of the concept, methods and intermediate results are posted on the Internet.
Under the aegis of the Arctic Council a pilot project on “Conservation Value of Sacred Sites of Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic” was carried out in 2001-2002 jointly by the RAIPON and international organisations, the Arctic Council’s Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat (IPS) and the Working Group of the Arctic Council on Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF). Data from the final report on this project are available on RAIPON’s website. Namely two pilot areas in the Yamalo-Nenets and Koryak autonomous regions were investigated by indigenous peoples. 70 interviews were conducted with the Nenets elders in the Tazovsky district of theYamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, and 263 sacred sites were identified, described, and mapped. In the Olyutorsky district of the Koryak Autonomous Okrug there were 30 people (Koryak, Chukchi, Even) interviewed, and 84 sacred sites described and identified on the map. All sacred sites were registered and documented according to a standard questionnaire, which was personally filled in by indigenous interviewers at the meeting with each respondent. Audio and video records, as well as photos were taken. As a result, substantial information on sacred sites has been collected, a number of sites were visited and described in detail. Processed materials, archived records and findings, analysis of the available information sources and literature form the basis of the project report’s classification of the sacred sites. Recommendations for their protection at the local, national and international levels are given. In the amendments to the report, vast and diverse information has been published, although much significant material is not yet processed and published.
The methodology of these projects might be successfully used and applied for organising a training seminar, proposed by UNEP/GRID-Arendal to be held in St. Petersburg next year, on Community Based Nature Resource Management with particular attention to the problems and conditions in the Russian Federation.
The ecosystem approach has gained a greater significance since adoption of the Convention on Biodiversity Conservation (CBD) in 1998. The international community makes additional efforts to legitimise traditional knowledge in all programs, concepts, approaches, tools and action plans for biodiversity management (in particular, through implementation of the Decision 6.10 of the CBD Article 8, where indigenous peoples take part as principal executives via expert committees, elaboration of documents, pilot projects etc.). Activities under the Convention and its projects constitute a parallel processes of integration of traditional and scientific knowledge at different levels, mutually beneficial for all stakeholders.
In this context it is worth to mention several other initiatives of the largest international organisations. The Arctic Program of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has been implemented since the late 1990s. This program affirms the priority of the traditional knowledge of Arctic indigenous peoples along with its ecological value and significance. Arctic Strategy of the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN) also indicates the importance of aboriginal knowledge for nature protection and rational use of resources, as well as the need to integrate scientific and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples.
The World Bank has recently elaborated a new political document discussed and modified through the process of consultations with indigenous peoples. Though this policy document has been criticised for the insufficient use of indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge, it still serves as a good example of adjusting political strategy by a global financial institute in response to the needs of local communities. In spite of considerable indulgences in the application of declared environmental standards, it is expected that the practice of preliminary consultations on the World Bank projects with indigenous peoples will be maintained.
The Convention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and its article 169 in particular, is a fundamental document regulating rights of indigenous peoples and responsibilities of the state in ensuring their well-being and development. Unfortunately, the Convention is not yet ratified by the Russian Federation, therefore it is necessary to fight for the recognition of basic rights by available instruments. It is especially important to ensure the participation of the local population in the self-governance and decision-making at the local, regional and national levels.
In connection with the latter issue, RAIPON recently conducted a survey and collected data from over 400 traditional, indigenous settlements. The survey revealed that these settlements are extremely isolated from the ‘outer world’ and other communities. Accessibility of information and mass media are of high importance for local residents. The question on availability of mass media and authorities was answered as shown by the following table:
This evaluation clearly demonstrates that the opinion of local and indigenous people practically is not available for the decision-making process, and without public organisations able to champion interests of their members, these opinions cannot be taken into consideration by governments and power structures. The objective to enhance the potential and build the capacity of the existing non-governmental organisations is very important and actual.
Other instruments can also be used for the evaluation of local and traditional knowledge application.
On 23-27 June 2004 in Elista, capital of the Kalmykian Republic in Russia, there was held an international seminar on Traditional Knowledge and Modern Technology for the Sustainable Management of Dryland Ecosystems. This seminar made use of the UN Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD) for its practical work. The role of the indigenous knowledge is recognised in the Convention Article 18, which calls for the protection, promotion and use of traditional knowledge to combat desertification. At the 6 session of the UNCCD Conference (Havana, Cuba, 25 August-5 September, 2003) the parties had adopted the decision 16/COP.6 titled “Traditional Knowledge” with the intention to conduct a pilot research and to study experiences on application and protection of the traditional knowledge.
(% of settlements)
unavailable (% of settlements)
national (central) press
(% of settlements)
inaccessible (% of settlements)
regional administration, deputies and authorities
deputies of federal (national) level
The UNESCO Department on Ecological Sciences since 1971 has implemented the multidisciplinary program “Man and the Biosphere” (MAB), aimed at nature conservation, environmental research and harmonisation of the resources use.
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - Birlashgan Millatlar Taʼlim, Bilim va Madaniyat Tashkiloti), Birlashgan Millatlar Tashkilotining mahsus tashkilotlaridan biri boʻlib, ikkinchi dunyo urushidan soʼng, 1946-yil tashkil qilingan.
In this scientific program there has been established a global network of biosphere reserves with 440 protected sites in 97 countries. This network can be used for monitoring and as a polygon of the sustainable ecosystem management with the application of traditional knowledge and modern technologies. One of the MAB projects on sustainable management in the marginal drylands (ICARDA) with studies of the traditional practices and know-how has been implemented in 8 countries. In this project the local population is a principal participant defining, evaluating and raising awareness about the local systems of community resources management for the conservation of the biological diversity and ecological sustainability in order to overcome the negative social and environmental consequences. Methods of the evaluation are incorporated into the project design, comprising collection of information and its assessment according to the following three elements: