Day 10 - February 17, 2004
After a morning of further preparations for the delivery of the community messages at the dinner on Thursday, Marcelino Apuran spoke representing Capitania del Alto y Bajo Izozog (CABI) in Boliva. CABI is an organization that represents the indigenous Izoceno-Guarani people. Their work includes securing land rights and creating a National Park and Integrated Management Area.
Following Marcelino, Zelealem Tefera presented the work of the Guassa-Menz Natural Resource Management Initiative in Ethiopia. Located in the Ethiopian highlands, the group works to preserve local species and the traditional land tenure system. Farmer's associations work together to sustaniably use local grasses and manage the land.
Next, His Royal Highness Fon Ngum and his associate Bongeh Jerome presented the work of the Itoh Community Graziers C.I.G. The sustainable integrated farming project located in Itoh, OKU Subdivision in the Northwest Province of Cameroon works within one of the world's few high altitude forest ecosystems. The project has 60 local beneficiary families who work as a cooperative to reduce poverty and preserve biodiversity by seeking alternative solutions to crop farming and livestock rearing.
The last community presentation of the day was by Assane Seiny and Moustapha Maman who are here representing the Ecole Instrument de Paix in Niger. This NGO founded in the Niger River area has found a way to use water hyacinth compost and products to improve income and food security for three villages. The water hyacinth is naturally environmentally destructive as it doubles its population every 12 days. Once large mats of root develop other aquatic plants are crowded out, submerged plants are shaded and fish are starved of oxygen.
Dialogue: National Delegates and Community Representatives
Facilitators Jason Spensley and Ivy Wong opened the dialogue between country delegates and community participants. Chief Edwin Ogar gave a statement as a representative of Africa. He commented that the right to traditional knowledge is of primary concern and should be recognized by the government. Also, he noted that there is little government support and called for greater information sharing.
Speaking on behalf of the Asian community, Rukmikini Toheke from Indonesia thanked the delegates for coming to the dialogue and called for greater government support not only once communities are a success, but also as they strive for success. She added that local groups have conservation knowledge that needs to be shared.
Representing Latin America Ezequiel Talaga from Columbia spoke on the subject of knowledge that cannot be found in books, that is only held in the traditions of local people. He stated that he would continue to fight in defense of mother earth and hopes to use this opportunity to learn from the successes of other communities throughout the world. He stated that local communities should not be the object of development, but should be allowed to work collectively and equitably with the government.
A Swedish delegate addressed concerns at tow levels: what is being discussed at the COP7 and the relevant positions of Sweden, and secondly at the level of what can be done practically. As a member of the European Union (EU), Sweden is required to conform to a collective view. The role and importance of Traditional Knowledge is one of the primary subjects discussed. Sweden treats biodiversity as a biological resource and as such integrated conservation efforts into larger projects and tries to maintain significant stakeholder involvement. In addition to capacity building, Sweden emphasizes direct management.
From a Colombian delegate it was expressed that community, ethnic and traditional rights are of primary importance. In establishing protected areas and parks, the government strives to involve indigenous people if they are present in the area. They are still developing ways in which protective measures for biodiversity can be better addressed in government projects, but a compromise is sometimes necessary.
The representative of the Zambia delegation wanted to express the progress that has been made in regard to article 8(j). There are two new laws in Zambia, one instigated in 1998 the other 1999, that have institutionalized the role of local communities and provides for local resource boards.
From Ecuador, the delegation expressed that communities are the branches of the tree. Much progress has been made in the realm of protected areas and increased community involvement in such projects. The government is working hard to broaden the knowledge of local communities so that management can be better allocated to local groups.
Karen Brown, representing the Canadian delegation, spoke of the history of the Canadian government in engaging indigenous people in decision making. Canada has several indigenous government delegates who are present at the COP7 in the Indigenous Peoples Forum. Many parks were established in collaboration with indigenous communities. Important on the agenda today is the preservation of cultural diversity and the new endangered species law.
The delegate from Thailand emphasized that communities are not only stakeholders, but also right holders. It is their right to be involved in what is happening to their environment. We all need to recognize the role of the community and the rights that are embedded in the constitution of Thailand. Laws passed, such as in the case of biosafety regulations, have always upheld community rights.
Representing Zimbabwe, a delegate expressed that we often speak of things we don't know. We also often speak theoretically. We need more community voices, more community knowledge that was lost during colonialism, and more incentives for stakeholders.
Speaking on the diversity and multiculturalism of many countries, a delegate from Bolivia called for the end of marginalization of indigenous communities. Thus far, Bolivia has worked hard to uphold the rights of indigenous people in the establishment of national parks.
A Brazilian delegate expressed that concordance has been reached with other countries that biodiversity conservation must be upheld and actively worked towards. We must take advantage of this decision within the COP to adjust positions so that they are better in line with local beliefs. We need to emphasize traditional knowledge so that indigenous people hold autonomous rights to knowledge.
The representative from the Namibia delegation emphasized that indigenous cultural biodiversity is part of our global advantage. Local management is a huge part of that struggle to preserve local culture. We should also focus on economic advantage programs and the link to community and wildlife conservation.
Equator finalist representative, Samnao Pedkaew, as translated by his Thai government delegate, expressed appreciation for government support of local communities. We all have different needs; in Thailand we have wetlands and have worked to preserve them. He proposed a planning strategy that works with local communities so that the action plan can be appropriately tailored to local needs. Biodiversity keeps the world alive and we all must work to preserve it.
Ana Lucy Bengochea, representing local communities in Honduras, stated that we all have enthusiasm to conserve biodiversity, but local communities are not priority in the government. We need our own initiatives so that something gets done now.
Speaking for communities in Malaysia, Hasim Hamid from Sabah, expressed that now is the time for our voice to be heard. We have done much to protect traditional knowledge and traditional beliefs. We have this knowledge to contribute.
Gladman Chibememe from Zimbabwe emphasized that success stories are many times a result of partnerships as he has had in his community. A biodiversity agenda is being developed by the government and communities have been invited in his region, but there is still an issue of poor management that needs to be addressed.
Donoto Bumacas from the Philippines sang a welcome song and pointed out that we are all different, and we express ourselves differently in the Community Kampung. We need more opportunities such as this to share.
An Equator Prize finalist from Columbia expressed that it is true that the government of Columbia has worked to improve community involvement in conservation, but not everywhere. Only particular projects in the central area have had this component. There is still room for improvement.
Karen Brown concluded the session by saying that no country is perfect in managing indigenous rights and biodiversity conservation including Canada. We need to continue hearing what local communities have to share and the views of indigenous people.
The day concluded with a night reception on Biodiversity Policy.