By Joan Jamisolamin, Deputy Executive Director for the Philippines and Mekong Operations, The Samdhana Institute
Recognition, respect, protection and fulfillment of Indigenous Peoples rights, specifically to their Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSP), to maintain their relevance in addressing social and environmental issues and in building a rights-based sustainable future! This was the resounding call of the participants in the Regional Forum on the Role of Indigenous Knowledge in Rights-based Sustainable Development held last 08-09 October 2019 in Jogjakarta, Indonesia.
The Regional Forum was attended by 116 participants, mainly Indigenous communities/ organizations representatives from Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia, Timor Leste and Taiwan. Presentors shared their experiences and ongoing initiatives in documenting and promoting Indigenous Knowledge in community education, health, asserting indigenous women’s rights, adopting to and addressing climate change, strengthening community resilience, advocating for food sovereignty, and in the governance and management of indigenous territories. The Forum also tackled the various challenges faced by communities and organizations in bringing Indigenous Knowledge to formal policies. Indigenous organizations have also maximized opportunities arising from the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals programs, and the national investigations on human rights cases to push further the call on Indigenous peoples rights and protection.
The participants of the Regional Forum
Key personalities provided the context and overview on Indigenous Knowledge: Ms. Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur and Executive Director of Tebtebba Foundation, Ms. Rukka Sombolinggi (Secretary General), Ms. Mina Susana Setra, Ms. Devi Anggraini and Pak Abdon Nababan all of Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN), and Mr. Gam Shimray, Secretary General of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP). The panel presentations were given by various Community Leaders/ Representatives, Indigenous Peoples organizations and local NGOs on how Indigenous Knowledge mainly shapes and is practiced in relation to: Culture, Values & Identity, in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals; advocacy on Food Sovereignty, Mining & Extractive Industries, and Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience. The panel of reactors who shared their thoughts on how to promote respect and understanding of indigenous knowledge in different sectors were from the agro-industrial sector, from media, from the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, the Asia and Pacific representative to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN EMRIP), from the donor sector and from a national human rights institution. Ms. Marjorie Pamplona of the Forest Foundation Philippines highlighted how they, as a donor organization, recognize that respecting Indigenous Peoples rights is a key component in the work of conserving and protecting forests. In the Philippines, about 40% of the remaining forests are inside the ancestral domains of Indigenous Peoples. Forest Foundation Philippines supports the initiatives of Indigenous Peoples and in building local capacities so that they continue to protect the forests. They also support advocacies on the value of Indigenous culture in the care of the environment and for indigenous communities to remain in their identity.
One key point coming from the presentations and workshops was the importance of consolidating data and information of Indigenous Peoples population across Southeast Asia region. To be able to clearly show evidence of the contribution of indigenous peoples in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals, the data needs to be there. Together with that is establishing an effective system to document indigenous knowledge and practices, at the local level and at the regional level to ensure that knowledge is preserved for and transferred to the younger generation, and to foster exchanges. Participants also underscore that policies and mechanisms to protect indigenous knowledge are very important.
With climate change as a reality, and acknowledging the high vulnerability of Indigenous communities in the region, Indigenous Peoples, including the youth envision a future of resilience. There is need to support collaborative work between communities, the academe, and even from the private sector to increase the capacities of communities and the indigenous women and the youth in practicing sustainable framing, asserting food sovereignty and accessing funds and resources.
Throughout the two days, the event was a rich exchange of insights and experiences, and a dynamic marketplace for inspiration in developing community products and collaborating to further strengthen the local initiatives and regional efforts in bringing forward Indigenous Knowledge, especially to Government including National Human Rights Institutions, the private sector, in the media, and in the academe.
The Regional Forum was jointly organized by The Samdhana Institute, Komisi National Hak Asasi Manusia (KomNas HAM), Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN) and Tebtebba Foundation, in collaboration and with funding support from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Norweigan International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI), and the Forest Foundation Philippines.