Indigenous Peoples Paving the way: UN COP 14 in Egypt

Thousands of participants from all walks of life, united by a passion for nature and culture, came together at the Nature and Culture Summit at the Conference of Parties 14 organised by the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity, to form an alliance devoted to saving life on earth, in all of its beauty and diversity.

COP 14 was held in November 2018, in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, a land of great cultural and natural heritage, a cradle of ancient civilizations, and the birthplace of irrigated agriculture;

With deep gratitude to the Government of Egypt and the indigenous and local communities of this ancient land, Slow Food’s participation at this Global event was led by its Indigenous Network’s Advisory Board Members Raja Rymbai (ITM Councillor for South East Asia) and Dali Nolasco Cruz (ITM Councillor for Latin America).

Throughout a series of addresses, Raja highlighted the value of the Slow Food philosophy and how integral it is for the conference and for our march towards safeguarding biological diversity on earth. In his key message during the conference, Raja explained that “An average human eats 7665 meals in a lifetime. 7665 decisions one makes with his or her choices of good, clean & fair food towards safeguarding our planet and biodiversity”.

Among the other topics raised:

  • Recognizing and building on the lessons learned from the Joint Programme between UNESCO and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity on the Links between Biological and Cultural Diversity (2010-2020);
  • Recalling the decisions made for the Muchtanbal Summit Declaration of December 2016; Malama Honua-Nature-Culture Journey of September 2016; Ishikawa Declaration on Biocultural Diversity of October 2016; Florence Declaration on the Links between Biological and Cultural Diversity of April 2014, all of which have explored and promoted the links between biological and cultural diversity for the resilience of ecosystems and landscapes, and the place of humanity within them;
  • Acknowledging initiatives by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to recognize the rights and participation of indigenous peoples through the establishment of a new membership category of IUCN Indigenous Peoples’ organisations;
  • Acknowledging that biological and cultural diversity are not only closely linked but mutually reinforcing, and that cultural elements are a fundamental part of the life and cosmological vision of indigenous peoples and local communities who work to build an intrinsic and balanced relationship between Mother Nature, human-beings and the Universe;
  • Considering that approaching biological and cultural diversity separately results in divergent and even conflicting agendas, and that such dual approaches have led to varying and sometimes competing interests within the same geographic location;
  • Emphasising that reversing the current trends in dramatic loss of biodiversity and the weakening of cultural diversity requires innovative approaches to bridge the artificial divide between biological and cultural diversity which persists in siloed sectoral practices, institutions, policy-making, management and interpretation;
  • Acknowledging that increasing awareness and knowledge of the links between biological and cultural diversity require collaboration through the sharing and adaptation of good practices on the inter-relationships between nature and culture;
  • Recognizing indigenous peoples and local communities as proponents of biological and cultural diversity, and the crucial role of indigenous and local community women in conserving nature and culture;
  • Emphasising that success in the vision of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Sustainable Development Goals necessitates the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities and recognition of their rights to territories, natural resources, customary sustainable use and their related traditional knowledge;
  • Recognizing the importance of normative instruments to protect the world’s biological and cultural diversity, including biodiversity-related conventions and culture conventions;
  • Reaffirming the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offer a framework to respect and recognize the rights of indigenous peoples to ensure and promote both cultural and biological diversity in the attainment of its Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Acknowledging the importance of a rights-based approach for the resilience of systems of life, good health, education and the use, management and conservation of natural resources;
  • Acknowledging the customary management of biodiversity, customary law, traditional knowledge and ways of life represented by customary procedures and biocultural community protocols;
  • Reaffirming the Paris Agreement’s acknowledgement of the value of traditional knowledge and local knowledge systems for climate change adaptation, and the stated need for the creation of a platform for a UN Framework Convention on climate change, local communities and indigenous peoples;
  • Recognizing the Local Biodiversity Outlook as a useful tool for the mobilization of traditional knowledge, innovations, technologies and practices, as well as participatory methodologies which help make the voices, actions and stories of indigenous peoples and local communities visible in national and international data sets and reporting;
  • Acknowledging that indigenous, traditional and local languages epitomize the links between cultural and biological diversity, as recognized by the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages (Resolution 71/178) in 2019;
  • Emphasizing that the full enjoyment of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food and water, depend on the services provided by ecosystems;

The Summit considered visions of futures – Living in Harmony with Nature; the contributions of community conservation and approaches that enhance biocultural diversity and relevant indicators, as well as human rights for thriving and resilient indigenous peoples, local communities and healthy ecosystems.

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