Building peace in the minds of men and women

Indigenous Knowledge and Science Policy

Interface with global science agenda

Indigenous knowledge and the interface with the global science agenda

Since the 1999 World Conference of Science, the LINKS programme has worked in collaboration with the global science community towards support for a new and complementary relationship between science and other knowledge systems.


A Rio+20 thematic session on indigenous knowledge on 13 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro.​​​​​

"We, the Indigenous Peoples, walk to the future in the footprints of our ancestors"

In Rio in 1992, Indigenous Peoples voiced their commitment to a sustainable future rooted in the knowledge and worldviews of their Elders. For the first time, the Rio ‘Earth Summit’ provided global recognition of the importance of local and indigenous knowledge, in particular through the Rio Conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and most recently the Cancun Agreements of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). During the two decades since Rio, indigenous knowledge has been debated in numerous international fora. Recognition has spread beyond issues of biodiversity and intellectual property to natural disaster preparedness, impact assessment, food security and climate change mitigation & adaptation. Today, in a context of accelerating ecological, socio-economic and political change, Indigenous Peoples continue to engage the global community in innovative actions that extend, beyond recognition, to joint action between scientists and indigenous peoples to co-produce new knowledge in the face of emerging challenges.

As part of the contribution to Rio+20, Climate Frontlines convened a plenary thematic session on Indigenous Knowledge at the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development on 13 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro.


Building upon the outcomes of the Planet Under Pressure session on Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Futures (London, 28 March 2012), this session of the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development panel considered how global environmental governance has been and continues to be transformed by an expanding engagement amongst local and indigenous knowledge holders, the scientific community and decision-makers. Indigenous panelists analyzed status and trends in the framework of the Rio Conventions, while case studies will consider enduring challenges and emerging issues with respect to knowledge protection, transmission and innovation. The panel also explored the increasing collaborative engagement of indigenous and scientific knowledge holders in the equitable co-production of new knowledge to inform innovative solutions to complex sustainable development challenges.

Session Structure

Background and Objective of the Session by co-chairs Douglas Nakashima, UNESCO and Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, Brazilian Academy of Sciences and the Third World Academy of Science


  • Joji Carino, TEBTEBBA (Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education), Philippines. Ms Carino will provide her views on indigenous peoples' achievements in intergovernmental biodiversity agreements (CBD, Ramsar), drawn from her years of actively working in these processes.
  • Jennifer Rubis, Climate Frontlines coordinator, UNESCO. Based on her experiences in the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change, Ms Rubis will discuss the participation of indigenous peoples at the UNFCCC, IPCC and emerging issues.
  • Roberto Marin, Asociación de Capitanes y Autoridades Tradicionales Indigenas del Pira Parana (ACAIPI), Columbia. Conhecimentos tradicionais e pesquisas locais para o manejo do território de Yurupari (noroeste amazônico). Traditional Knowledge and local research for the management of the Yurupari territory (northwest Amazon).
  • Jaqueline Evangelista Dias, Articulação Pacari, Brazil. Farmacinhas Comunitárias: laboratórios culturais para a salvaguarda da medicina tradicional praticada por comunidades locais e povos indígenas do bioma Cerrado, Brasil / Community Pharmacies: Cultural laboratories for safeguarding traditional medicine as practiced by local communities and indigenous peoples of the Cerrado, Brazil.
  • Myrna Cunningham Kain, Member, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Executive Director, Centro para la Autonomía y Desarollo de los Pueblos Indígenas (CADPI), Nicaragua. Ms Cunningham will speak on indigenous knowledge transmission through the formal education system and a network of indigenous universities.

Dialogue with Audience

Launch of UNESCO-UNU publication Weathering Uncertainty: Traditional Knowledge for Climate Change Assessment and Adaptation

More information on the speakers.

More information on the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development.