Exploring the link between culture and biodiversity – CBD COP13

Exploring the link between culture and biodiversity – CBD COP13

The important link between cultural and biological diversity was highlighted as part of the “Múuch'tambal” Summit on Indigenous Experience: Traditional Knowledge, biological and cultural diversity at COP13 today.

Among those speaking at the thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP13) were indigenous peoples and local communities from around the world, including Mexico, Japan, Chile, and the Solomon Islands.

It was an opportunity to share some of the many examples of the connections between culture and biodiversity across the world, including the comparison, as understood by the Naga peoples of northeast India, of the social visit of men to women to bees visiting flowers; and the 40 words for ‘snow’ used by the Sami of Sweden, such is the importance of it to their way of life.

Introducing the day’s event, Dr Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, executive secretary of the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity, said: “A great number of ecosystems we have in the world are under the control of indigenous peoples and local communities. An effort is required by the governments to better recognise the realities and support the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples – recognise their rights to land holdings, access and resources.”

Also at the podium was Jesús Guadalupe Fuentes Blanco, President of the Advisory Council of the CDI of Mexico, who spoke about the link between the beliefs about and physical elements of Mother Earth. 

“Mother Earth is unique,” he said. “The only one we have. The air we breathe – whether we’re indigenous or not indigenous.”

He said indigenous peoples saw the struggle for the global population to recognise Mother Earth as a living being, and argued for the way of life of most indigenous peoples and local communities to be better understood, recognised and supported.

“We do not want to live better,” he said. “We just want to live well, with dignity.”

Forest Peoples’ Programme, Joji Carino shared information on the CBD Plan of Action on Customary Sustainable Use of Biodiversity and how it could be used effectively by indigenous peoples and local communities.

She explained how biodiversity, customary sustainable use and traditional knowledge are intrinsically linked and that spiritual beliefs and values guide the care of territories and resources.

As the day began to draw to a close, Dr Yolanda Teran, from the Indigenous Women’s Network on Biodiversity, spoke about the repatriation of traditional knowledge.

She gave many examples of how beliefs and knowledge were replicated across traditional observances and everyday items. One tangible example cited was a checked black and white belt, part of the traditional dress of her peoples.

“Black means the land that is being used, and the white is land that is fallow, so it means the sustainable use of land.”

She spoke about how she learned these while studying as a young adult, and said the return of this knowledge to communities would not just help Mother Earth’s resources breathe again, but would signify the return of identity to indigenous peoples and local communities.