The Convention on Biological Diversity recognizes the dependency of indigenous peoples and local communities on biological diversity and their unique role in conserving life on Earth. This recognition is enshrined in the preamble of the Convention and its provisions. Under Article 8(j) of the Convention, Parties have undertaken to respect, preserve and maintain the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous peoples and local communities relevant for the conservation of biological diversity and to promote their wider application with the approval of knowledge holders and to encourage equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of biological diversity. Furthermore, because of its relevance to the work of the Convention, considerations relating to the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities are also being incorporated in all the programmes of work under the Convention.
Working Group on Article 8(j) and related provisions was established in 1998 by the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-4). At its fifth meeting in 2000, the COP adopted a programme of work to implement the commitments of Article 8(j) of the Convention to enhance the role and involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities in the achievement of the objectives of the Convention. Significant work has been accomplished as part of the Work Programme on Article 8(j). In this regard, Parties to the Convention adopted several voluntary guidelines, including:
- The Akwé: Kon Voluntary Guidelines for the Conduct of Cultural, Environmental and Social Impact Assessments Regarding Developments Proposed to Take Place on, or which are Likely to Impact on, Sacred Sites and on Lands and Waters Traditionally Occupied or Used by Indigenous and Local Communities;
- The Tkarihwaié:ri Code of Ethical Conduct to Ensure Respect for the Cultural and Intellectual Heritage of Indigenous and Local Communities;
- The Mo'otz Kuxtal Voluntary Guidelines for the development of mechanisms, legislation or other appropriate initiatives to ensure the “prior and informed consent”, “free, prior and informed consent” or “approval and involvement”, depending on national circumstances, of indigenous peoples and local communities for accessing their knowledge, innovations and practices, for fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of their knowledge, innovations and practices relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and for reporting and preventing unlawful appropriation of traditional knowledge;
- The Rutzolijirisaxik Voluntary Guidelines for the Repatriation of Traditional Knowledge Relevant for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity;
- The Glossary of relevant key terms and concepts within the context of Article 8(j) and related provisions.
These guidelines are intended to provide a collaborative framework ensuring the full involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities in the assessment of cultural, environmental and social concerns and interests of indigenous peoples and local communities of proposed developments. Moreover, guidance is provided on how to take into account traditional knowledge, innovations and practices as part of the impact-assessment processes and promote the use of appropriate technologies.