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The Convention on Biological Diversity and Indigenous Peoples

On March 14-29, 2022, the Convention on Biological Diversity's third meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation will be taking place in Geneva, Switzerland. Cultural Survival's Indigenous Rights Radio took the opportunity to interview Indigenous leaders about the Convention and about how Indigenous Peoples are involved in the implementation of this important international, multilateral treaty. 

Listen to our podcasts. 

In this podcast, we hear from Lucy Mulenkei (Maasai), who tells us about the history of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the involvement of women in the CBD process, and more. Lucy Mulenkei is the Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network. 

In this podcast, we speak to Jennifer Tauli Corpuz (Kankana-ey Igorot), who explains why the CBD is so important to Indigenous Peoples. Jennifer Tauli Corpuz is a lawyer by profession and is the Global Policy and Advocacy Lead at Nia Tero.


In this podcast, we speak to Mrinalini Rai (Rai) about gender and women's rights at the CBD.  Mrinalini Rai is Director of Women4Biodiversity.


In this podcast, we hear from Joji Carino (Ibaloi), who tells us more about the International Indigenous Peoples' Forum on Biodiversity's involvement in the CBD. Joji Carino is Senior Policy Adviser at Forest Peoples Programme. 

How do Indigenous Peoples' rights tie into the Convention on Biodiversity? In this podcast, Preston Hardison answers this question. Preston Hardison has served as an assistant and negotiator at the CBD, the Nagoya Protocol, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Convention on Biological Diversity?

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is an international, multilateral treaty that was initially signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and later became active on December 29, 1993. The Convention came about as a response to growing concern about the state of biodiversity globally and is meant to serve as a practical and legally-binding framework for nations’ commitment to sustainable development. The Convention understands biodiversity to mean the diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems; such holistic framing of the CBD thereby weaves humans and our basic needs into the health and resilience of ecosystems. The Convention is the first time in international law that the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity is referred to as “a common concern of humankind.” 

In linking conservation efforts to the economic goal of using biological resources sustainably, the Convention sets out three main objectives: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. 


What is the history of the Convention?

The CBD grew out of the Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity, which was first convened by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in November 1988 in order to respond to international concern for biological diversity. Following the  Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity, the Ad Hoc Working Group of Technical and Legal Experts was formulated in May 1989 in order to develop an international legal instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. This group later evolved into the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, which, on May 22 1992, successfully produced the Nairobi Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Less than a month later on June 5, 1992, the Convention was introduced at the UN Conference on Environment and Development, also referred to as the Rio Earth Summit, and for the following 364 days remained open for signature. By June 4, 1993, 168 parties had signed the Convention, allowing it to enter into action at the end of 1993. To date, 196 parties have signed and ratified the Convention. 


How does the CBD work?

The CBD acts as an international legal framework to uphold nations’ commitments to biodiversity. Every two years the governing body, referred to as the Conference of the Parties (COP), meets to assess progress in the implementation of the Convention, provide policy guidance, adopt programs, and review the achievement of Convention objectives. 

In addition to the COP, there are also auxiliary governing bodies such as the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice, (SBSTTA), and the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI). Composed of government representatives with expertise in relevant fields, as well as observers from non-Party governments, the scientific community, indigenous peoples and local communities, and other relevant organizations, the SBSTTA is responsible for providing recommendations to the COP on the technical and scientific aspects of the implementation of the Convention. Meanwhile, the SBI is responsible for reviewing progress in implementing the Convention and identifying strategic actions to enhance implementation. 

Aside from the COP and the SBSTTA and SBI, there are also ad hoc working groups established by the Convention to deal with specific issues as are seen necessary. Such ad hoc working groups are generally open for participation by all Parties as well as observers.

How is the CBD relevant to Indigenous Peoples?

The CBD is relevant to Indigenous Peoples because it recognizes the dependence of many Indigenous Peoples on biological resources and acknowledges the contribution of traditional knowledge for both conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. In recognizing Indigenous Peoples and their traditional knowledge as key components in the pursuit of the CBD objectives, it is accurate to say that all the articles of the CBD are relevant to Indigenous Peoples. Nevertheless, the Convention specifically highlights Indigenous Peoples in the Preamble, Article 8(j): Traditional Knowledge, Article 10(c): Customary Sustainable Use of Biodiversity, Article 17: Exchange of Information including its Repatriation, and Article 18(4): Technical and Scientific Cooperation including Indigenous and Traditional Technologies. Furthermore, on June 15, 2017, the Executive Secretary invited Parties, other Governments, relevant organizations, and Indigenous Peoples, and local communities to contribute to the development of the process for the preparation of the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework.

What CBD articles specifically mention Indigenous Peoples?

Preamble: “The Contracting Parties, Recognizing the close and traditional dependence of many indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles on biological resources, and the desirability of sharing equitably benefits arising from the use of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices relevant to the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components;”

Article 8(j). In-situ Conservation: “Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate: Subject to its national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices; “

Article 10(c). Sustainable Use of Components of Biological Diversity: “Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate: Protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use requirements;”

Article 17. Exchange of Information: “The Contracting Parties shall facilitate the exchange of information, from all publicly available sources, relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking into account the special needs of developing countries. Such exchange of information shall include exchange of results of technical, scientific and socio-economic research, as well as information on training and surveying programmes, specialized knowledge, indigenous and Traditional Knowledge as such and in combination with the technologies referred to in Article 16, paragraph 1. It shall also, where feasible, include repatriation of information;”

Article 18. Technical and Scientific Cooperation:  “The Contracting Parties shall, in accordance with national legislation and policies, encourage and develop methods of cooperation for the development and use of technologies, including indigenous and traditional technologies, in pursuance of the objectives of this Convention. For this purpose, the Contracting Parties shall also promote cooperation in the training of personnel and exchange of experts.”

How can Indigenous Peoples utilize the CBD?

A fundamental principle of the Programme of work for Article 8(j) is the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in the work of the CBD. The main mechanisms of participation are the following:

  • Registration at the CBD meeting, under the category of “indigenous peoples and local community” 
  • Participation in all meetings of the CBD, including the ad hoc open-ended Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions 
  • Capacity-building activities with a focus on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions 
  •  The Voluntary Fund Mechanism to facilitate the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities representatives

Indigenous People can access more detailed information regarding these mechanisms of participation under Section 1.8 Participatory mechanism for indigenous peoples and local communities under the Convention and its Protocols in the CBD Training Manual (see links below for English and Spanish versions). 

Training manual in English

Training manual in Spanish 

The following guidelines are further stipulations listed under Article 8(j)

  • 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;


To learn about the CBD more visit: