The development of a MEB approach emerged through the planning, designing and implementing of the Guna Yala Dialogue science–policy–practice process in 2012. It was a collaboration between SwedBio and African Biodiversity Network (ABN), Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB), Fundación para la Promoción de Conocimiento Indígena (FPCI) and the NAPTEK programme at the Swedish Biodiversity Centre. The Guna Yala dialogue became a starting point for a network of experts across knowledge systems – a community of practice – who saw the need for the MEB approach in order to ensure equity and integrity in meetings across knowledge systems.

The Guna Yala Dialogue brought together representatives from a diversity of knowledge systems including Indigenous and local knowledge, social and natural science, as well as NGOs and policy makers. It took place at a pivotal moment the week before the meeting that established the IPBES in Panama city 2012, where respect and recognition of Indigenous and local knowledge was set as one of the guiding principles of IPBES. This created a window of opportunity for critical reflections and contributing new thinking to inform the future work of IPBES. During the dialogue, the initial ideas of a MEB approach were further developed and articulated, including the inherent problems involved when one knowledge system (often science) is used to validate the quality and legitimacy of another (i.e. Indigenous knowledge system). Essential principles for exchange across knowledge systems were identified: trust, respect, reciprocity, equity, transparency and free prior and informed consent for sharing.  

The need for further exploring and probing the MEB approach was obvious. A group of partners agreed to pilot the MEB, working closely with local communities to understand their perspectives and needs. The piloting partners were ABN with ICE, Kenya and MELCA, Ethiopia; FPP with FPCI, Panama; PASD Thailand, Tebtebba, Philippines and SwedBio . The partners engaged in a process with communities and developed the idea of “walking workshops”, for sharing and learning from each other’s experiences. 

The community of Haroberbabo, Gindeberet, in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, contributed to the piloting of the MEB since 2013, in collaboration with MELCA through a process based on participatory mapping to reconnect and reevaluate the relationship with their land and revive traditional ecological knowledge. The report Participatory mapping as a tool for mobilisation of indigenous and local knowledge and enhanced ecosystem governance in Ginderberet, Oroma region, Ethiopia presents the outcomes of this process.

In collaboration with Tebtebba, MEB piloting was also carried out in the Binablayan community, Tinoc, Ifugao, Philippines, during 2015 through the implementation of CBMIS of traditional farming systems (including agrobiodiversity, food and culture). The aim was to deepen understanding of the indigenous knowledge systems and practices in payew (irrigated rice fields) and inum-an (rotational farming system) management, and systematise the information. Additionally, a key aim was to support the Binablayan community in experimenting, and validating innovations based on their own knowledge and experience in relation to ecosystem governance, in order to find solutions towards a more sustainable governance and management of their biodiversity and other natural resources. The outcomes of this initiative are presented in the following report: Mobilizing indigenous knowledge, innovations and practices of the Kalanguyas farming systems in Tinoc, Ifugao, the Philippines.

During 2015-2016 the communities of Tharaka and Masinga in Kenya, in collaboration with ICE and ABN aimed to support communities in distilling, experimenting, validating and presenting their own knowledge and experiences related to ecosystem governance on their own terms, by zooming in on agro-biodiversity, food and culture based on earlier processes of eco-cultural mapping. The outcomes of the piloting are presented in the report: Reviving Indigenous and local knowledge for restoration of degraded ecosystems in Kenya.

The Hin Lad Nai community in Chiang Rai, Thailand contributed to piloting the MEB, in partnership with PASD, as part of the community’s ongoing work to document and create opportunities for learning about Karen natural resource management, traditional farming systems and associated knowledge, and its contribution to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, as a base for enhanced policy development and decision-making at local, national and international levels. The outcomes of the piloting are explained in the report: Mobilizing Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices in rotational farming for sustainable development.

In 2020-2021, a MEB approach was applied to the Indigenous Futures Thinking dialogue, which was held in collaboration with ABN and their partners Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE), Kenya; Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD), Ethiopia and GRABE-Benin, as well as SwedBio. This dialogue took on a hybrid (walking workshops in communities own territories, with virtual interactions amongst them) format, which allowed for further understanding how the MEB principles can be applied virtually. This process also involved the IPBES Technical support unit on Indigenous and local knowledge hosted by UNESCO and IPBES taskforce on Indigenous and local knowledge and the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network (BES-Net), as well as learning and exchange sessions with the Centres of Distinction on Indigenous and Local Knowledge (COD-ILK). Thanks to these conversations and dialogues, explored in collaborations and partnership since 2011, the MEB has received significant attention in the science-policy-practice community. Continued piloting and developing of the MEB approach is ongoing in communities as well as being tested in dialogues and processes where a diversity of knowledge systems meet based on equity and reciprocity, within IPBES, other science-policy arenas, and science-society collaborations.

The piloting partners met to sharing experiences and discussing implementation of a MEB approach in practice in two walking workshops. The first “International exchange meeting for mobilisation of indigenous and local knowledge for community and ecosystem wellbeing” was held in Hin Lad Nai, Chiang Rai, Thailand in February 2016. The workshop was hosted by PASD and IMPECT, and the Hin Lad Nai community. Elders and local community members from the piloting communities came together with practitioners and scientists from different disciplines to present their findings and jointly discuss implications and conditions of a MEB approach. This was followed up by a second walking workshop in March 2017 in Tharaka, Kenya, focusing on Mobilisation of indigenous and local knowledge for community and ecosystem wellbeing. This workshop was hosted by the Tharaka community and ICE, in collaboration with ABN and SwedBio, and participants from Kenya, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Thailand, Tanzania, Benin, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Sweden who came together. Many insights regarding the MEB emerged from these meetings, including a strong recognition that validation of knowledge needs to happen within knowledge systems, with insights and examples from a range of knowledge systems, and with possible relevance for synthesis and application of knowledge to policy development at national and global levels. The MEB has continued to be explored and developed in various multi-actor dialogue processes and used to inform dialogue methods in IPBES, including in the “Dialogue across Indigenous, local and scientific knowledge systems reflecting on the IPBES Assessment on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production”, or conflict resolution dialogues where justice and equity are particularly important to unravel structural imbalances in power, such as the “Global Dialogue on Human Rights and Biodiversity Conservation” that was held in Eldoret, Kenya in November 2017.

In the text above, you can find reference to a number of reports using a MEB approach. The approach has also been elaborated in a number of scientific publications, that can be found with open access here: