Consultation with Indigenous Peoples on UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science

As a part of a series of thematic consultations for building a global consensus on Open Science, UNESCO organized an online meeting on January 15 to take stock of Indigenous peoples’ perspective on Open Science.

In view of developing a standard-setting instrument on Open Science, UNESCO is leading an inclusive, transparent and consultative process. In this process, inclusiveness of diverse knowledge systems and knowledge holders is essential, and the first draft of the Recommendation is based on the broad inputs provided by stakeholders from all regions and groups.

Considering the great importance given to the creation of a productive relationship between Open Science and Indigenous Knowledge Systems, the consultation with Indigenous Peoples brought together 120 participants from 50 countries, including indigenous scholars and academics, members of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), members of different initiatives such as the Forest Peoples Programme, the Global Indigenous Data Alliance, the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity, and the drafting committee of the CARE principles for Indigenous Data Governance.

In the current draft text of the Recommendation, inclusiveness is among the core values and guiding principles for Open Science, highlighting the respect for cultural and knowledge diversity as the foundation for sustainable development. Fostering open and robust dialogue with indigenous peoples and local communities, and diverse knowledge holders is the way forward for contemporary problem-solving and transformative changes.

Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO

During this consultation, participants shared their views on challenges and opportunities for linking indigenous and local knowledge systems with the Open Science principles and the areas of actions suggested in the first draft of the UNESCO Recommendation. The core discussion focused on the respectful recognition of indigenous knowledge along with formal science and the educational systems, in line with the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to govern and make decisions on the custodianship, ownership, and administration of their knowledge, as well as their right to refuse participation in scientific practices.

Participants acknowledged the alignment of the draft Recommendation with the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international instruments relevant to Indigenous knowledge and data. While there was an appeal for strengthening the indigenous knowledge and education system, concerns about the use of indigenous knowledge out of its context were raised. The discussions pointed out the need for rebuilding trust, despite the historical issues of indigenous peoples, as the initial step towards strengthening the dialogue between different knowledge systems.

The comments and recommendations shared in this meeting will be taken into account in the revised version of the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, which will be examined by an intergovernmental special committee meeting on 6-12 May 2021. The draft approved by the special committee will be submitted to Member States in August 2021, with a view to its adoption by the General Conference at its 41st session in November 2021.

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