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Indigenous and local knowledge in IPBES


IPBES recognizes that indigenous peoples and local communities possess detailed knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem trends. This knowledge is formed through their direct dependence on their local ecosystems, and observations and interpretations of change generated and passed down over many generations, and yet adapted and enriched over time. Indigenous peoples and local communities from around the world often live in remote areas, interacting with nature and managing resources that contribute to society at large. They also suffer directly from the pressures of expanding agriculture frontiers and commodity production, such as mining, logging, and energy. They are often better placed than scientists to provide detailed information on local biodiversity and environmental change, and are important contributors to the governance of biodiversity from local to global levels.

This commitment was first outlined in Deliverable 1(c): Procedures, approaches and participatory processes for working with indigenous and local knowledge systems for the work programme of 2014 to 2018. This commitment has now been renewed in Objective 3 (b) “Enhanced recognition of and work with indigenous and local knowledge systems”.

Our work

Recognising the importance of indigenous and local knowledge to the conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems as a cross-cutting issue relevant to all of its activities, IPBES established a task force on indigenous and local knowledge systems and agreed on terms of reference guiding its operations implementing this deliverable. Much of IPBES' work with indigenous peoples and on ILK has been coordinated by the Technical Support Unit (TSU) on Indigenous and Local Knowledge, hosted by UNESCO.

Key activities and deliverables include:

  • The development and implementation of the "approach to recognizing and working with ILK in IPBES", which was formally approved by the Plenary at its fifth meeting in 2017 
  • Development and implementation of methodological guidance for recognizing and working with ILK in IPBES
  • Development and implementation of a "participatory mechanism", a series of activities and pathways to facilitate the participation of IPLC in IPBES assessments and other activities
  • Organizing ILK dialogue workshops for the assessments, most recently for the assessments on sustainable use of wild species, values of nature and invasive alien species  
  • Publishing regional and pollination dialogue workshop reports
  • Development of an ILK library of materials as a resource for IPBES authors 
  • Development of a roster and network of experts to support the Platform’s work


In decision IPBES-7/1, the Plenary extended the mandate of the existing task force on ILK in order for it to work on the implementation of objective 3 (b) "Enhanced recognition of and work with indigenous and local knowledge systems” of the rolling work programme of IPBES up to 2030. The Plenary also requested the Bureau and the MEP to constitute the task force in accordance with the revised terms of reference.  The terms of reference for the task force on indigenous and local knowledge in the IPBES work programme up to 2030 (set out in Annex II to decision IPBES-7/1 in May 2019) are as follows:

A. Responsibilities

The task force on indigenous and local knowledge will oversee and take part in the implementation of objective 3 (b) of the rolling work programme up to 2030, “Enhanced recognition of and work with indigenous and local knowledge systems”, and act in accordance with relevant decisions by the Plenary and its subsidiary bodies, including by: building on lessons learned in the implementation of deliverable 1 (c) of the first work programme; supporting the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel in implementing the approach to recognizing and working with indigenous and local knowledge in IPBES; and guiding the secretariat, including the dedicated technical support unit, in supporting the Panel in implementing the approach.

B. Membership

The task force will comprise up to 14 members covering the five United Nations regions, including: (a) up to 4 members of the Bureau and the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel; (b) members of expert groups of ongoing IPBES assessments and of other relevant task forces; (c) representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities; (d) representatives of qualified national, regional and international scientific organizations, centres of excellence and institutions, including experts on indigenous and local knowledge, known for their work and expertise on issues related to the mandate of the task force; and (e) recognized individual experts on matters related to the mandate of the task force.

Members other than those from the Bureau and the Panel will be selected according to the procedures for the preparation of IPBES deliverables. The term of office of these members will expire at the end of the third session following their selection, with the possibility of re-election. The selection of members should reflect the need for continuity in the work of the task force.

At the discretion of the co-chairs of the task force and following consultation with the Bureau, a limited number of additional experts on indigenous and local knowledge systems and representatives of indigenous and local organizations may be invited to participate in the task force as resource persons.

C. Modus operandi

The task force will be co-chaired by members of the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel and/or the Bureau. The task force will work through face-to-face meetings, web-based meetings and other electronic interactions. Products of the task force will be reviewed by the Panel and the Bureau and forwarded to the Plenary for its information and consideration, as appropriate. The task force will foster collaboration with strategic partners and collaborative supporters under the guidance of the Bureau.

The task force will be supported by the secretariat, including a dedicated technical support unit.