Biocultural Community Protocols

Biocultural Community Protocol

Natural Justice has been integrating legal empowerment with endogenous development processes to support the development and use of biocultural community protocols (BCPs). Indigenous peoples and local communities have been using BCPs in many different ways to increase their capacity to drive the local implementation of international and national laws related to their ways of life. BCPs can catalyze the consolidation and communication of core ecological, cultural, and spiritual values and customary laws relating to traditional knowledge and resources, as well as collective action based on community-defined priorities, visions, and plans. They can help communities to engage with outsiders according to their own terms and conditions on a range of issues such as land rights, access and benefit sharing (ABS), protected areas, REDD, and payments for ecosystem services.

The process of developing a BCP involves reflection about the inter-connectedness of various aspects of a community’s way of life (such as between culture, customary laws, practices relating to natural resources management, and traditional knowledge) and may involve resource mapping, reflecting upon governance systems, and reviewing community visions and development plans. It also involves legal empowerment so community members can better understand and engage with the international and national legal regimes that regulate various aspects of their lives. Within the ABS framework, for example, communities may want to evaluate its research priorities, on what terms they would engage with potential commercial and non-commercial researchers wanting to access their traditional knowledge, what the procedures relating to free, prior and informed consent must be, and what types of benefits they may want to secure.

By articulating the above information in a biocultural community protocol, communities assert their rights to self-determination and improve their ability to engage with other stakeholders such as government agencies, researchers, and project proponents. These stakeholders are consequently better able to understand the community, including the extent of their territories and natural resources, their biocultural values and customary laws relating to the management of natural resources, their challenges, and their visions of ways forward. By referencing international and national laws, Indigenous peoples and local communities affirm their rights to manage and benefit from their natural resources. They are also better placed to ensure that any activities on their territories or areas occur according to their customary laws and self-determined plans and priorities. Overall, BCPs enable communities to affirm their roles as the drivers of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in ways that support their livelihoods and customary ways of life.

For more information about the local activities being undertaken through the regional initiatives on biocultural community protocols, please read about our work in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Our latest reports from the Regional Initiatives on BCPs are from the inception meetings in April 2011:

For more information about some of the experiences and lessons learned through the regional initiatives, please visit the dedicated website at Natural Justice has also contributed to a UNEP-hosted database of community protocols from organizations and Indigenous peoples and local communities around the world.



Bio-cultural Community Protocols: A Community Approach to Ensuring the Integrity of Environmental Law and Policy (Natural Justice and UNEP, 2009)
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African Bio-cultural Community Protocol Initiative Inception Meeting: Working towards the Legal Recognition of Bio-cultural Community Protocols within National Policies (Natural Justice, 2011)
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Towards a People’s History of the Law: Biocultural Jurisprudence and the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (Bavikatte and Robinson, 2011)
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Exploring Bio-cultural Community Protocols in the Sri Lankan Context: A Report of an International Consultation and Training-of-Trainers Workshop (Natural Justice, 2010)
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Exploring Bio-cultural Community Protocols in the Indian Context: A Report of a Training Workshop (Natural Justice, 2010)
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Meeting of the Representatives of African Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities and Community-based Organisations on Bio-cultural Community Protocols (Natural Justice, 2010)
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Biocultural Community Protocols: Articulating and Asserting Stewardship (Moving Images & Natural Justice, 2012)
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Recognising Customary Rights (LPP, LPPS and Moving Images, 2009)
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Maldhari Biocultural Community Protocol Photo Story (Sahjeevan & Natural Justice, 2012)
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Latest Publication

Biocultural Community Protocols: A Toolkit for Community Facilitators
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Community Protocols

Images from our work in Africa, Asia, and the Americas
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