After several years of negotiations, the Intergovnemnetal Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was finally established in April 2012. The platform aims to bridge the distance between science and policy and hopefully improve the understanding of biodiversity loss and how it affects human well-being.

A series of dialogues

In an attempt to bridge gaps between various knowledge systems, a series of dialogue seminars/workshops involving scientists, governments, indigenous peoples and local community representatives, international organisations and NGOs have been established.

Following up from a previous meeting in Jokkmokk (Sweden), a workshop was organised in the Panamanian indigenous autonomous region Comarca Guna Yala.
The workshop, entitled Knowledge for the 21st Century: Indigenous Knowledge, Traditional Knowledge, Science and connecting diverse knowledge systems (pdf, 8.8 MB), was held 10-13 April and was convened by the Resilience and Development Programme (SwedBio), in collaboration with the Swedish Biodiversity Centre and the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity. Fundación para la Promoción del Conocimiento Indígena (FPCI) in Panama hosted the workshop.

The seminar fuelled the optimism that various stakeholders would contribute to and enrich the work of the IPBES.
Respect, reciprocity and cultural diversity
One of the first outcomes of the Panama workshop was a set of reflections that was brought onward to the Second Plenary Session of IPBES.

Respect: It is understood that all knowledge systems have their particularities and there should not be a supremacy of one knowledge system over another. Trust needs to be generated between the different parties to allow the exchange of knowledge systems to be effective and fruitful.

Reciprocity: The principle of reciprocity needs to underline sharing between knowledge systems. Complementarities of the different knowledge systems has been recognised as a way forward.

The inter-relation between biological and cultural diversity: Since time immemorial indigenous peoples have demonstrated how this relation generates and maintains biodiversity and ecosystem services. It is a relation where biodiversity is not at the service of mankind, but mankind is one element in a complex network.

Full and effective participation
Workshop participants also called for the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities at all levels in IPBES. For this to happen, a funding mechanism must be created in order to enable an effective dialogue between diverse knowledge systems within IPBES.

Finally, the international human rights framework must also be respected, including the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as lessons learnt from the process regarding the Nagoya protocol.

“The workshop outcomes informed the IPBES meeting and bolstered the openness and support for indigenous knowledge and diverse knowledge systems in the work of IPBES,” says Joji Carino from the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity, one of the co-organisers of the Panama workshop.