The five day conference, which is being attended by about 1,500 delegates from over 50 countries including Ghana, would share stories, knowledge, cultural experiences and ideas on how to better manage ecosystems, protect the environment and support sustainable livelihoods.
Speaking at the opening, Mr Tony Burke Environment Minister of Australia, said the aim of the network seeks to better conserve biological diversity and the sustainable use of natural resources, improve social cohesion and increase economic opportunities and alleviate poverty.
He traced the beginning of the network from a fishing journey with Mr Wayne Bergmann, Chief Executive Officer of Kred Enterprise in the Buccaneer Archipelago in Western Kimberley of Western Australia, where the idea was discussed.
“Our strategic plan to conserve the natural resources initially ignored the local people but it did not work, however, recognizing their inclusion later on has helped in gaining the resource that was lost”, he said.
He acknowledged the support and cooperation of the leadership of indigenous Aboriginal people of Australia and called on other countries to jointly manage conservation efforts with the local people to ensure efficiency and better economic returns.
Dr Braulio F. de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said initiatives such as the WIN which recognized and thrives on local knowledge and actions was the surest method to achieve the Aichi target by the UN.
The Aichi target, he explained, seeks to reduce direct pressure on biodiversity and promote its sustainable use.
Dr Dias said traditional knowledge was the most efficient method of conserving the environment and called on governments to adopt such an approach.
Ms Eleen Ravin, Manager, Equator Initiative at the United Nations Development Programms, said WIN’s commitment to promoting local and indigenous knowledge and experience was a value closely shared by the Equator Initiative, and by UNDP as a whole.
“Although there are synergies between the vision of the Equator Initiative and that of the World Indigenous Network we see WIN as additional opportunity to build on our experience of working to connect local and indigenous land and sea managers,” she said.
Ms Ravin said UNDP recognised community-based approaches seriously because it could help nations to advance people-centered development solutions.
She said sharing similar values regarding the importance of utilizing local and indigenous knowledge was a tool for addressing some of the most pressing development and environmental issues facing the world today.
By Albert Oppong-Ansah