“Today for me, tomorrow for you” or Aini/Michá, is an expression used by the Aymara people of the Andes who have reciprocal systems for exchange between residents of the highlands and valleys, complementing each other´s needs. Many indigenous communities have traditions of collective action – “two or more people working cooperatively together towards a specific common goal”.

Collective actions by indigenous peoples and local communities, are creating important values not only for communities, but also for society at large, such as conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. This has been recognized under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). At the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP), the decision on Resource mobilization recognizes the role of collective action, and a framework proposed by Bolivia for conceptualization and measuring the contribution of collective action to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, and to report it in the CBD Financial Reporting Framework.

In light of this, SwedBio organized a Dialogue Workshop on Assessment of Collective Action in Biodiversity Conservation in Panajachel, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala between 11-13 June 2015. The Conveners were the Government of Guatemala through CONAP and the CBD Secretariat.

Participants from over 30 countries, representing different actors such as indigenous peoples and local communities, academics and government representatives gathered to discuss issues related to the value of collective action and its contribution to conservation and the sustainable use of biological diversity. A main topic was how these values can be visualized and accounted for in reporting – for example, the CBD Financial Reporting Framework – and through National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs)


Making values visible beyond economic measurements

The value of collective action and most ecosystem services, and the cost of their loss, are neglected by conventional economics, and hence also in decision making. For this reason we should find ways of valuing them. Bhutan, for example, is renowned for a development philosophy centered around Gross National Happiness (GNH), in which non-economic aspects of wellbeing are considered just as valid as economic ones for a good life. This has also been reflected in previous dialogues arranged by SwedBio – The Quito dialogues.


Collective Action plays a crucial role in achieving the CBD Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Indigenous peoples and local communities are familiar with the concept of collective action; it is at the heart of their livelihoods and worldviews. However, many traditional practices are disappearing. When new trends and lifestyles reach communities, and when people migrate to towns, practices are reconfigured to meet new needs. Participants talked about the importance of engaging elders and women along with the youth, to ensure transmission of knowledge between generations, through community activities as well as culturally adapted curricula in schools.


Collective action – methods and indicators for visualizing values

The various sessions of the dialogue showed examples of and methods for how valuation, and aggregation of data for reporting and visualization of collective action could be done. Valuing traditional knowledge on an equal footing to scientific knowledge in research, decision-making and reporting processes is key to enhancing recognition and respect, as well as for mobilising traditional knowledge. The Multiple Evidence Base approach, was presented as an opportunity for achieving this.

Methods for gathering data on collective action were exemplified by participatory mapping and GIS; bio-cultural community protocols; and Community Based Monitoring and Information Systems (CBMIS). Spatial mapping and modeling are quantitative techniques that can be scaled up to national level. In combination with satellite data, these methods can fill knowledge gaps where local data are lacking. A reflection was that methodological and ethical challenges always have to be considered, and Free prior informed consent (FPIC) has to be applied.

A highlight of the workshop was the fieldtrip to visit the indigenous Maya town of San Juan la Laguna where collective action is part of the fabric of daily life. Visitors observed traditional crab fishing whereby access is regulated through well functioning traditional collective management practices. A wetland plant called tulle (Typha domingensis, or Ch’upup) is vital in maintaining water quality, and also has important uses as fiber and structural material (for baskets and crafts), and for traditional medicine. All these are also collectively managed and shared.

Summing up the concrete insights from the workshop, participants suggested that the contribution of collective action to biodiversity conservation should be addressed and visualized under all the targets in the Strategic Plan, and not just under Target 20 for resource mobilization.

”This dialogue workshop has been a real example of an intercultural space. It has created new understandings and new ways forward for CBD implementation”, said Joji Carino, ibaloi from the Philippines, and Director of Forest Peoples Programme. ”Community-based monitoring and information systems will be critical for the reporting of collective action. Unless this is brought into the national framework, indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ best efforts will not be fully communicated and understood. Their own monitoring serves their purposes in important ways, but the information must also be shared in order to transform national frameworks”, she concluded.