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Sustainable Development and Environmental Change

UN Photo/Gill Fickling
Over the past years climate change has forced water shortages, particularly severe in the indigenous Wayuu's arid territory in northeast Colombia

In the face of global environmental change and its emerging challenges and unknowns, it is essential to have access to the best available information and knowledge. While science contributes significantly to understanding earth systems, social systems and their interactions, there is growing awareness that scientific knowledge alone is inadequate for solving the emerging environmental crises. The knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities – often referred to as local, indigenous or traditional knowledge – is now recognized as essential, alongside science, for developing effective and meaningful action world-wide.

Indigenous knowledge is already seen as pivotal in fields such as agroforestry, biodiversity conservation, natural resource management, traditional medicine and sustainable development. Indigenous communities are also being increasingly recognized as important source of knowledge for climate change assessment and adaptation.

Most recently, The Future We Want, the outcome document of the high-level Rio+20 Summit, underlined the important contributions made by indigenous knowledge to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, as well as their relevance for social well-being and sustainable livelihoods.

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