International Coordinator, Indigenous Peoples Biodiversity Network
ALEJANDRO ARGUMEDO is a K'echua from Peru. He holds an agriculture degree from McGill University, that was followed by service with CUSO in Ecuador. He is Executive Director of the autonomous international NGO, Cultural Survival Canada. Under his leadership, CS Canada separated from its parent body and set up an all indigenous international Board of Directors, and refined its mission to focus more closely on the connection between cultural and biological diversity. The work is particularly concentrated on indigenous peoples' traditional resource rights, and ways to advance these within international fora such as the Convention for Biological Diversity. Argumedo is coordinator for the Indigenous Peoples' Biodiversity Network (IPBN), for which CS Canada is the coordinating office, and is a member of the steering committee and advisory group for the Indigenous Knowledge Programme of the IPBN. He has been accorded a leadership position in international fora and has written prolifically. He serves on numerous boards and advisory councils of groups which work for indigenous peoples.
Growing international awareness on the erosion of indigenous peoples' knowledge and its importance for biodiversity conservation and development makes it crucial that contentious and complex issues related to its conservation and promotion be addressed. Indigenous peoples and their knowledge and practices have been recognized as responsible for the maintenance and nurturing of most of the world's biological diversity. Indigenous innovation systems have provided the world with numerous medicines, food crops, industrial products, etc. More importantly, however, indigenous knowledge is crucial for the livelihood and survival of indigenous cultures as distinct peoples. In this context, it is imperative that processes dealing with the protection and promotion of indigenous knowledge involve the holders of such knowledge. In fact, such processes should not only involve indigenous peoples at all levels, but more importantly they should be defined and be led by indigenous peoples themselves.
Currently, indigenous peoples have an incomplete understanding of the issues surrounding the global debate on biodiversity and indigenous knowledge. Negotiations in this area include matters related to the protection and promotion as well as the sharing of benefits derived from the use of such knowledge. All these issues have found a crossroads in the current debate about the ownership and control of genetic resources and the associated indigenous knowledge. Legally and in terms of policy, these issues are being shaped within the current negotiations taking place at various international fora. Of particular importance to indigenous peoples is the work of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Indigenous peoples have been largely disconnected from the CBD process. This is due to the lack of a consistent mechanism in the CBD process for indigenous peoples to participate and contribute to the fullest possible understanding of the many values and uses of biodiversity. This vacuum is curtailing the appropriate development of strategies and policies for the in-situ conservation of Mother Earth's riches. Biodiversity is crucial for the survival of indigenous peoples; consequently, they have the greatest vested interest in its conservation and in the protection and development of effective tools (such as their knowledge and practices) for the conservation and sustainable utilization of biodiversity and its components. Therefore, their participation and input into the CBD process is crucial for the achievement of the Convention's objectives.
To rectify this void, the Indigenous Knowledge Programme has developed an independent and open process aimed at ensuring the full participation of indigenous peoples, particularly of those living within biologically important areas, in addressing key ecological, economic, social, cultural and institutional issues related to protection and promotion of indigenous knowledge and practices associated to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.
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