Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges (TKs) in Climate Change Adaptation

Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges (TKs) in Climate Change Adaptation


Tulalip Tribes, USA

Starting in the late 1980s, biopiracy or misappropriation of indigenous biocultural heritage and traditional knowledges related to genetic resources and biodiversity grew into a global issue. This led to a number of significant policy and legal measures to advance respect for and the protection of traditional knowledges and associated biodiversity.  For example, the Convention on Biological Diversity promoted national laws and policies and the International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE) Code of Ethics provided guidance on working with the traditional knowledges and biodiversity utilized by indigenous peoples. One development has been the creation of community biocultural protocols to help manage the process of obtaining the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples and local communities. These developments are relevant to mainstreaming traditional knowledges in climate change adaptation, but there has been inadequate work to transfer the lessons learned. There are many significant benefits to indigenous engagement in climate change adaptation initiatives, but there are a number of risks as well. Fundamental to FPIC is that in any consent process, there much be a balanced assessment of risks as well as benefits of any proposed project, program, intervention or action. Traditional knowledges occupy a spectrum of cultural sensitivity, from sacred and secret knowledges to those in daily use and shared widely. Knowledges commonly have a spiritual dimension with norms of appropriate use. Some knowledges have been closely held within communities ""since time immemorial,"" while other forms are widespread and may be shared openly.  Given the sensitive cultural nature of traditional knowledges and their circulation, there are a number of potential risks of knowledge sharing and knowledge co-production. These include moral hazard from misuse of the knowledges, misappropriation, the lack of benefit sharing and harms from the misapplication of shared or co-produced knowledges. The benefits include improving adaptation at a landscape and regional level to more effectively prevent or mitigate climate impacts, the incorporation of scientific knowledge that can improve on traditional practices in often novel and unprecedented circumstances, and spreading indigenous worldviews and epistemologies that promote stewardship and a sustainable way of life to prevent continuing and  future harms. This presentation will present the Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges (TKs) in Climate Change Adaptation developed by the Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup (CTKW) that reviews over 20 existing research protocols developed by indigenous peoples and local communities, and presents some practical guidance on procedures to promote respect, build trust and ensure reciprocity in the development of research and collaborative relationships.



Full time policy analyst for Tulalip Natural Resources. I work on policy issues from the local to international level. I have participated in negotiations related to traditional at the Convention on Biological Diversity since 1996, the World Intellectual Property Organization since 2000, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services since 2012. At Tulalip, I also work on climate change adaptation with a focus on traditional knowledge and research ethics and protocols. I am helping to organize a regional and national tribal phenology network, and starting a phenological observation project at Tulalip, with linkages to a tribal college network and involving youth, elders and community members. I have contributed to the formation of a 17 member tribal group that has developed ethical guidelines for the use of traditional knowledge in adaptation. I maintain a global database of adaptation measures (67,000+), climate change impacts (30,000+) and references of published and grey literature, and network and organizational information that has over 6,000 entries on indigenous climate change impacts, mitigation and adaptation measures, in addition to biodiversity, biocultural diversity and heritage, and related issues. This database is being prepared to go online in the next year.

I am a full-time policy analyst for Tulalip Natural Resources. I have worked on TK, biodiversity and climate change issues since the early 1990s. I have worked with indigenous peoples, and in the last 7 years been nominated as a lead negotiator at the Convention on Biological Diversity, IPBES, World Intellectual Property Organization and the Nagoya Protocol. I work on climate change law and policy issues from the local to international levels, and am involved in numerous local and regional networks. I am starting a phenology and TK project at Tulalip, and linking it to a regional and national tribal college network. I maintain a database of over 67,000 adaptation measures, 30,000 climate change impacts, and thousands of bibliographic sources, organizations, and projects related to climate change adaptation, with a focus on indigenous adaptation to climate change.

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