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Indigenous and Local Knowledge: a Major Novelty of IPBES


Zsolt Molnár
Berta Martín-López


Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) are the main users and caretakers of nature and its contributions to people over large areas of Europe and Central Asia. Their understanding of nature, drivers, futures and policies can help developing more relevant actions and policies and acknowledging indigenous rights. While national or global stakeholders might have a particular interest in the conservation of nature, indigenous and local communities may be more concerned by long-term sustainable use, and the enhancement of the cultural heritage, and the ‘health’ of their living environment.
IPBES has developed and applied a conceptual framework, an integrated valuation approach and a strategy and guidance that integrates information from different knowledge systems (cf. Tengö et al. 2014), including indigenous and local knowledge (ILK). As IPLCs retain within their knowledge systems an inter-generational memory of fluctuations, trends and exceptional events in relation to the local environment, they can contribute importantly to understanding ecological processes of change and their drivers.
Gathering of ILK and integrating it within the assessment was a major challenge. Therefore we organized a dialogue workshop between ILK holders and assessment authors to help this integration (Roué, Molnár 2017). We also prepared a content analysis of ILK-holders narratives on biodiversity and ecosystem services which allowed to (i) identify some beneficial nature’s contributions to people that were not assessed as an ecosystem service in former National Ecosystem Assessments and to (ii) gain confidence about the status and trends of specific nature’s contributions to people when the evidence based on available published literature was low (Díaz et al. 2018).
Regardless the final output of the assessment, the consideration of ILK can contribute to overcome the existing power asymmetries between scientific knowledge and ILK in science-policy interface. In fact, the consideration of ILK as equally useful as scientific knowledge can foster procedural justice in decision-making regarding management of nature and nature’s contributions to people. We hope that taking ILK into account will help increase also the efficiency of nature conservation and the long-term sustainable use of biodiversity.

Díaz, S., Pascual, U., Stenseke, M., Martín-López, B., Watson, R.T., Molnár, Z., Hill, R., Chan, K.M.A., et al. (2018) An inclusive approach to assess nature’s contributions to people. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.aap8826
Roué, M., Molnár, Zs. (eds.) (2017): Knowing our Lands and Resources: Indigenous and Local Knowledge of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Europe and Central Asia. Knowledges of Nature 9. UNESCO: Paris, 148 pp.
Tengö, M., E. S. Brondizio, T. Elmqvist, P. Malmer, M. Spierenburg (2014): Connecting diverse knowledge systems for enhanced ecosystem governance: the multiple evidence base approach. Ambio 43: 579–591.