The interconnectivity that exists between global biodiversity and cultural diversity1 highlights the importance of preserving indigenous languages. (see Figure 18.2)2 Biodiversity hotspots and high biodiversity areas are home to 70 per cent of all languages on Earth, many of them endemic.3 Indigenous languages contain a wealth of traditional ecological knowledge, including of species unknown to Western science,4 and of practices crucial to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. However data compiled by UNESCO, based on the degree of transmission between generations 5 and used in GBO-4, indicate that at least 43 per cent of languages are in danger of disappearing.
Land-use change and land tenure in territories of IPLCs
Traditional knowledge and customary sustainable use have been evolving over millennia. Their continued evolution can best be secured if they are nurtured, practised and transmitted in the daily lives of IPLCs in their territories and lands. Land-use change and secure land tenure in these territories and lands are therefore critical indicators for the achievement of Target 18. A recent report states that up to 2.5 billion people depend on community-based management systems based on customary tenure rights (see Figure 18.3); of these, some 370 million are indigenous and 1.5 billion are dependent on forests.
Traditional occupations are a key source of livelihoods and income for many IPLCs, and also provide multiple biodiversity benefits.6 They are tailored to their natural environments and have been developed over generations as sophisticated knowledge-based practice systems. They encompass a variety of activities such as hunting, fishing, collecting wood and non-timber forest products, agriculture, aquaculture, livestock-keeping, and practising traditional healing and traditional crafts and skills.
Data provided by 17 respondents from 13 countries about their own communities for a recent rapid assessment by Forest Peoples Programme point to a decline in the practice of traditional occupations in half (50 per cent) of the communities, but an increase in other communities (31 per cent) (see Figure 18.4) . In 20 per cent of communities there was significant variance between different occupations: some are declining, others increasing. The data indicate that the role of the government can be decisive in the survival of traditional occupations (for example through promoting them in school curricula and creating supportive legal frameworks and policy environments). Furthermore, certain traditional occupations are negatively affected by the loss or degradation of biodiversity in communities’ territories, or by climate change impacts.7
Integration and safeguarding of traditional knowledge and practices at the national level
The main vehicle for integration of traditional knowledge and practices into national implementation is through IPLCs’ participation in the updating and implementation of NBSAPs and in the compilation of national reports. Information on this has already been given under Target 17 and at the beginning of this target, and shows that levels of participation are poor.
More positively, 35 Parties have established National Focal Points for Article 8(j) and related provisions.8. Among them, Guatemala has set a good precedent by designating both a government representative and an indigenous representative as the national Focal Point.