Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Common Peoples Rights
About this eBook
The denial of human rights and fundamental freedom is not only an individual and personal tragedy but also creates conditions of social and political unrest, sowing seeds of tension and violence within and between societies and nations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, clearly states that respect for human rights and human dignity is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world . The development of international human rights must be seen as yet another feature of the increasing maturation of humanity. The continued development and emphasis on human rights is, likewise, a pre-condition for our continued advancement and progress. Human rights also include an understanding that basic social, economic and cultural rights, such as the right to basic necessities such as food, shelter, and health care , also stem from the understanding that the benefits of medicine, science and technology, the products of agriculture, and the knowledge that is imparted by education come from a collective process of evolution that has led to the creation of our present day civilization. The fruits of civilization are the birth right of all, and steps to promote and protect human rights should keep this understanding clearly in the foreground. India, the world s largest democracy, has a long tradition of grassroots participation, from the independence movement earlier in last century to the well-established and widespread network of community groups, non-governmental organizations and associations of today. Its mosaic of racial, cultural and ethnic groups is governed by the democratic institutions of a secular state, and its robust and active media contribute to open and lively political dialogue. India s strong economic growth in the 1990s has brought prosperity to millions of people. The benefits, however, have not been distributed evenly. Ethnic minorities, rural and tribal populations, women and other disadvantaged groups lag-behind-economically, politically and socially. Historically speaking, India has an ancient tradition in almost all walks of life, although much remains yet to be done in the matter of introducing improved scientific technology and organization to enhance productivity and ensure viability. Again, given the state of enlightenment and mental inertia among the rural folk, the adoption of innovations, the only pragmatic way out seems to lie in the direction of opting for a innovative middle course of synthesizing modern scientific technology with those aspects of indigenous know-hows and practices which are compatible with the Knowledge System of indigenous communities as being increasingly utilized to identify useful species and methods for preservation, processing and application of those species. Growing interest in bioprospecting and harvesting of indigenous knowledge IK have led to popular unrest among indigenous communities because once bits of knowledge have been removed from the local in situ system, they lose control over information as mechanisms are not enough to protect this right. The potential of IK both for expanding scientific technical knowledge and for empowering its owners are overwhelming.
Indigenous agricultural and experimental knowledge gained global recognition through the United Nations Conference on Environment and Education in 1992, as well as through documents such as the World Conservation Strategy of International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in 1980 and Brundtland Commission, Our Common Future and World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. IK is the local knowledge knowledge that is unique to a given culture of society. IK contrasts with the international knowledge system generated by universities, research institutions and private firms. It is the basis for local level decision making in agriculture, health care, food preparation, education, natural resource management, and a host of other activities in rural communities. It is the information base for a society, which facilitates communication and decision-making. Indigenous information systems are dynamic, and are continually influenced by internal creativity and experimentation as well as contact with external systems. The knowledge system is usually not found in written form and it transmits from generation to generation through word of mouth. Its categories, construct and content differ from those of modern