Recognizing the Rights of Communities and Knowledge Holders in Climate Change Adaptation – UNFCCC COP21 Side Event

Ms. Swiderska, Dr. Reid, Mr. Argumendo, Dr. Song, Dr. Castro, Dr. Traynor & Mr. Le Fleur (Photo: Matt Wright/IIED)

During the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (30th November – 12th December), the Adaptation Committee released its 2015 Overview Report “Enhancing Coherent Action on Adaptation 2012-2015”, the publication provides information on adaptation to Parties and the broader adaptation community. Within the report the Adaptation Committee recommends that Parties underline the importance of indigenous and traditional knowledge (I&TK), and encourage their integration into National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). They suggest, one way that this integration can be supported is through enhancing the accountability and enforcing implementation of existing laws, rules and procedures dealing with I&TK and practices thus ensuring recognition of the rights of communities and holders of I&TK and practices throughout the adaptation process.

Natural Justice’s Dr. Cath Traynor’s presentation entitled “Indigenous Knowledge in Climate Change Adaptation: Recognition of the Rights of Communities and Knowledge Holders” spoke directly to this issue. Dr. Traynor was part of a panel on the NJ, GTA, IIED co-hosted Side Event “Supporting Poor, Vulnerable, and Indigenous Communities”, 7th December, 2015. Dr. Traynor introduced preliminary findings of the “Empowering Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge Systems Related to Climate Change Adaptation and Intellectual Property Rights” OCSDNet project, these included reflections on the university research ethics procedures, which although they seek to ensure the protection of and consent from human subjects, at the same time secures power relations, between ‘expert’ researchers who are seen to produce knowledge and vulnerable subjects who produce mere data. Efforts towards more open and collaborative research needs to understand these complex tensions that shape, and are shaped by, knowledge production and engage critically in the ethics procedures themselves. To ensure that community rights are recognized in adaptation, community-researcher contracts have also been developed, their purpose is to ensure that community intellectual property in adaptation is controlled and protected in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and South African Policies and Laws. Mr. Reino Le Fleur, Indigenous Griqua youth representative and Community Co-Researcher on the OCSDNet project, then shared his experiences and his plans for connecting youth with I&TK of their elders, a linkage which in some communities in South Africa is being lost due to the historical dispossession of lands, and the negative impacts of colonisation, apartheid and globalisation upon traditional livelihoods.

During the Side Event, Ms. Krystyna Swiderska (IIED), Mr. Alejandro Argumento (ANDES) and Dr. Yinching Song (Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Chinese Academy of Science) discussed the importance of biocultural heritage in adaptation practices and highlighted 5 key actions and the benefits of farmer to farmer seed networks.

Dr. Carlos Potiatra Castro (University of Brazillia/GTA) then shared experiences from the development of the Bailique Community Protocol, Brazil. The process entailed integrating customary norms and internal governance structures into the protocol, consideration of national and international legislation as it applies to the communities and public policies that they have a right to access. To date, the process has resulted in land regularisation, and empowerment of the communities to negotiate with external actors. The community protocol approach is highly relevant to landscape scale mitigation and adaptation programmes and projects and could also contribute to REDD+ as a recent Policy Brief illustrates (search for “BCPs” here).

Dr. Hannah Reid (IIED) then summarised a study that aimed to quantify the funding for local adaptation activities against ten principles intended to guide good ‘quality’ funding allocations. Projects scored well in terms of effectiveness, flexibility and sustainability but poorly on transparency, accountability and urgency.

The session drew to a close with questions from the audience, which included asking how a community is defined, and the pro’s and con’s of an I&TK database, and a wrap-up from Mr. Delfin Ganapin (UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programme). Presentations and related materials can be found on the UNFCCC Side Events webpage, search for the “Natural Justice” adaptation session held at 15:00-16:30 hrs, Monday 07 December, 2015.

17 December 2015


Climate Change, Community Protocols, Governance of Lands and Natural Resources


South Africa

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