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Sustaining Cultural and Biological Diversity in a Rapidly Chaning World: Lessons for Global Policy

WGF Sponsored Conference

American Museum of Natural History, New York City

PUBLICATION: Pretty, J.B. Adams, F. Berkes, S. Athayde, N. Dudley, E. Hunn, L. Maffi, K. Milton, D. Rapport, P. Robbins, E.J. Sterling, S. Stolton, A. Tsing, E. Vintinner, and S. Pilgrim. 2009. “The Intersections of Biological Diversity and Cultural Diversity: Towards Integration.” Conservation and Society 7(2):100-112.

Final Report

From April 2-5, 2008, the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation convened the symposium “Sustaining Cultural and Biological Diversity in a Rapidly Changing World: Lessons for Global Policy" (see website http://symposia.cbc.amnh.org/biocultural/). The symposium was held at the Museum, and was organized together with IUCN-The World Conservation Union/Theme on Culture and Conservation, Terralingua, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation with major support and organizational assistance from The Christensen Fund. The purpose of the symposium was to help synthesize the knowledge that has accumulated about the interactions between linguistic, cultural, and biological diversity, to advance theory and practice, and to apply these findings in the international policy arena. The symposium brought together leading scientists; practitioners; members of indigenous, tribal, and local communities; NGOs; the public sector; media, and others versed in relevant fields to create a platform for analysis and dialogue across disciplines and cultures to help forge a vision for sustaining biological and cultural diversity. The program consisted of nine talks or presentations, fifteen panel discussions, a poster session, and informal "ubuntu" gatherings to further promote the exchange of ideas and to encourage networking. Some 350 participants from 40 countries took part, and an additional 537 attended via a live webcast.

Six background "white papers" or primers were produced that served as briefing documents noting studies and trends to date and laying out recommendations for global policy. Drafts of these papers are available on the symposium website (http://symposia.cbc.amnh.org/bioculturallbackground.html). Authors are currently reviewing these, incorporating comments from the symposium. In addition, video archive files of the plenary presentations and audio files of the entire event will be available for downloading from the symposium website. Another unique element of the symposium was the "Voices from Around the World" project, a collection of experiences and insights, sounds and images that explore the links between nature and culture. The CBC invited people to pose a series of questions within communities around the world (from Inuvik to Rome to Tierra del Fuego to the Bronx). Interviewers were encouraged to capture voices and, if possible, faces and a sense of place, via audio and video recordings, or with still photos to accompany text. The Voices project will continue to grow as a presence on the symposium website in the next few months. The symposium's website will expand the symposium's reach, and will serve as an archive for each of the talks and panel discussions, which will be made available as MP3 audio files and in QuickTime video/podcast format. This will enable and encourage dialogue among off-site groups and conference participants on an ongoing basis. Outreach efforts will broadcast the availability of this resource to individuals, institutions, and agencies in order to encourage continued dialogue. In addition, symposium organizers and presenters are collaborating to create an edited volume on the symposium's presentations and commissioned articles as appropriate. The CBC is also in discussion with the editors of several peer-reviewed journals interested in featuring articles on selected themes from the symposium.

From its earliest inception, the symposium's Steering Committee recognized the importance of generating outcomes relevant to major international bodies and institutions concerned with biodiversity conservation, culture, language, and traditional knowledge, and to linking those outcomes to other relevant activities. Currently, several members of the Steering Committee have completed two resolutions to present at the Fourth World Conservation Congress in Barcelona this coming October. In addition, Steering Committee members will be convening an Aliance workshop at this meeting to extend the dialogue begun at the symposium and develop constituencies that will aid in the development of related policy and practice. The governments of Spain and Catalonia have requested that the theme of cultural diversity playa prominent role in discussions at the Congress. Similar presentations by symposium representatives took place at the Seventh Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (New York, May 2008).