Traditional knowledge refers to the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities. Developed from experience gained over the centuries and adapted to the local culture and environment, traditional knowledge is transmitted orally from generation to generation. Traditional knowledge is mainly of a practical nature, particularly in such fields as agriculture, fisheries, health, horticulture, and forestry.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) has established a working group specifically to address the implementation of Article 8(j) and related provisions of the Convention. Traditional knowledge is considered a ‘cross-cutting’ issue that affects many aspects of biological diversity, so it will continue to be addressed by the COP and by other working groups.
As part of a programme of work addressing the commitments embodied in Article 8(j) and other provisions of the Convention dealing with traditional knowledge, governments and contracting parties have undertaken:
- to establish mechanisms to ensure the effective participation of indigenous and local communities in decision-making and policy planning;
- to respect, preserve and maintain traditional knowledge relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity;
- to promote its wider application with the approval and involvement of the indigenous and local communities concerned; and
- to encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilisation of such traditional knowledge.
Governments and contracting parties have established the working group to make concrete proposals on how to translate all of these commitments into reality.
The group’s main tasks include developing guidelines:
- to ensure that indigenous and local communities obtain a fair and equitable share of the benefits arising from the use and application of their traditional knowledge;
- to ensure that private and public institutions interested in using such knowledge obtain the prior informed approval of indigenous and local communities;
- to regulate how impact assessments are carried out regarding any proposed development on sacred sites or on land and waters occupied or used by indigenous and local communities; and
- to assist governments in the development of legislation or other mechanisms to ensure that traditional knowledge, and its wider applications, is respected, preserved, and maintained.