Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO's commitment to biodiversity

Local, indigenous and scientific knowledge

Mobilizing existing natural and social science, new technologies, and indigenous and local knowledge can inform us about the drivers of biodiversity loss and effective approaches to recovery, resilience and behavioural change. However, despite the availability of sufficient knowledge to halt biodiversity erosion, there are still gaps in knowledge and data regarding the trends and drivers for many ecosystems and species. Efforts to gather accurate data to develop scenarios and models are hindered by many obstacles, especially capacity gaps. These include unequal national science capacity, lack of availability of skilled experts and funding, gender bias, lack of interdisciplinary collaboration, lack of understanding of which information to collect to facilitate appropriate decision-making, and weaknesses in data sharing between institutions and countries.

  • Interdisciplinary research and data sharing is needed to enhance understanding of biodiversity decline, and to identify policy responses that take into account science, sociology, economic paradigms and cultural norms.
  • Monitoring data are generally missing for most marine habitats and species. In addition, there is a lack of understanding of how biodiversity contributes to ecosystem services, especially in marine systems.
  • Science capacity is not equally developed around the globe. This significantly impacts the ability of decision-makers to obtain accurate data and guidance on biodiversity risks and opportunities.
  • A best available knowledge approach can help compensate for knowledge gaps by drawing on complementary knowledge systems, including citizen science, new technology tools, and the mobilization of indigenous and local knowledge.


UNESCO's role in addressing knowledge gaps


IOC and ocean biodiversity

The world’s oceans remain one of the least under-stood and most important ecosystems on earth. In 1961, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)   of   UNESCO   created   the   International   Oceanographic  Data  and  Information  Exchange  (IODE) programme ‘to enhance marine research, exploitation  and  development,  by  facilitating  the  exchange  of  oceanographic  data  and  information. IODE draws on biodiversity data from the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). With over 50 million species observations provided by over 600 institutions worldwide, OBIS has become the world’s most comprehensive database on the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in  the  ocean,  and  supports  various  international  processessuch as the identification of ecologically or biologically significant marine areas under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Working with indigenous and local knowledge

Indigenous  and  local  peoples  are  often  well  positioned   to   observe   and   understand   local   ecosystems.  Accordingly,  indigenous,  traditional  and  local  knowledge  systems  constitute  one  of  the  largest  bodies  of  human  knowledge  about  biodiversity   and   ecosystems.   However,   these   knowledge  systems  are  rarely  recognized  as  resources for understanding, monitoring and managing  biodiversity.  The  Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS)  programme  works  to enhance the recognition and use of indigenous knowledge  within  biodiversity  assessments.  This  includes  work  on  a  series  of  reports  on  indigenous  and  local  knowledge  which  are  designed  to address knowledge gaps in the IPBES regional assessments and pollinators assessment.

Participatory science: Sandwatch

For over 18 years, UNESCO’s Small Islands and Indigenous  Knowledge  Section  has  worked  with  national  governments,  non-governmental  organizations,  schools  and  regional  offices  to  establish  the Sandwatch coastal monitoring system in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other coastal countries. Given that many countries have a limit-ed number of scientific researchers or constrained scientific  capacity,  Sandwatch  is  instrumental  in  bridging these gaps by promoting additional and complementary   knowledge   systems,   including   citizen  observation,  data  capture,  participatory  use of GIS and citizen science instruments.

World Heritage State of Conservation Information System (SOC)

The  World  Heritage  State  of  Conservation  Information System (SOC) is one of the most compre-hensive  monitoring  data  systems  of  any  interna-tional  convention.  Since  1979,  the  Convention’s  Reactive monitoring process has produced 3,627 conservation  reports  on  566  World  Heritage  properties  in  144  States  Parties.  This  online  tool  enables  the  assessment  of  the  state  of  conser-vation  of  World  Heritage  and  the  conducting  of  comprehensive  analyses  of  threats  to  identify  potential trends over time.