The recent sixth meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity's Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions (WG8(j)-6) took place in Montreal from 2-6 November 2009. Parties acknowledged the importance of customary sustainable use of biological resources by indigenous peoples and local communities and agreed that this should receive more attention in the implementation of the whole Convention. Indigenous participants were satisfied with the meeting's outcomes and commented that their timely input and preparations had paid off.
Article 10(c) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) states that Parties shall protect and encourage indigenous and local communities' customary sustainable practices in relation to biodiversity. In Montreal, part of the discussions on the revised Multi-Year Programme of Work on the Implementation of Article 8(j) and related provisions focused on the question of how implementation of article 10(c) could be improved.
Months before the Montreal meeting, indigenous organisations from Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela, Cameroon, Bangladesh and Thailand submitted case studies to the Secretariat providing information about customary practices and customary laws that guide sustainable use of natural resources. They also addressed obstacles and recommendations for effective implementation of Article 10(c) at national and local levels. These studies were produced between 2004 and 2008 based on community-based research and community mapping (see the links to the studies). The indigenous '10(c)-team' also provided additional insights and input into a CBD online discussion forum on Article 10(c), which the Secretariat used for preparing the draft recommendations for the Working Group. Consequently, the negotiations took a positive turn. One thing is clear: Article 10(c) will be in the spotlight during the next few years as it will be the focus of a major new component on Article 10 in the new Programme of Work on 8(j) and related provisions. Alongside this important decision, the Working Group also authorised the Secretariat to convene an international meeting on Article 10(c) to provide advice on the content and implementation of this new major component. Furthermore, it requested WG8(j)-7 (in 2011/12) to develop a strategy to integrate Article 10(c) as a cross-cutting issue into the Convention's programmes of work, beginning with the Programme of Work on Protected Areas. In their closing statement, indigenous peoples expressed their appreciation of the Parties' support of their recommendations. They said they were looking forward to sharing experiences concerning customary sustainable use and being fully involved in developing future work on 10(c) in the implementation of the Convention at local, national and global levels. (See the link to the full IIFB closing statement).
The indigenous and local community organisations involved in the 10(c) research and case studies also organised a side event, with the CBD Secretariat and Tebtebba, in which they shared and explained the significant challenges to effective implementation of article 10(c). The challenges included threats to customary sustainable practices through the lack of secure land and resource rights and lack of recognition of customary laws and institutions. The side event also highlighted the external threats to community lands from protected areas established without respecting indigenous peoples' and local communities' rights, as well as extractive industries, and the lack of application of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Further concerns were expressed about the intention to assimilate indigenous peoples through educational systems and the prohibition of use of indigenous languages in schools. These issues and challenges will certainly be fed into the process to develop a new component on 10(c) in the coming period.