Kiana Baker-Sohn

Student, University College Utrecht, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

This Agenda Knowledge for Development recognizes that the strengthening of local knowledge ecosystems is crucial to the achievement of an inclusive global development agenda. In this understanding, it is my conviction that indigenous peoples and their distinct knowledge systems must be acknowledged and emphasized.

Common to indigenous peoples, regardless of their global location, are varying degrees of dispossession and colonization, as well as the loss of culture, land, health and wellbeing. This extends to their distinct knowledge systems. Further commonalities extend to unfavourable epidemiological patterns of disease. Indigenous people across continents suffer from infectious disease, malnutrition, obesity, severe non-communicable diseases, mental health, and alcoholism disproportionately to the non-indigenous communities in the same regions. Findings from the State of the world’s indigenous peoples. Volume on Indigenous peoples’ access to health services (UN, 2009) underscored the dire global health realities of indigenous communities. Of paramount importance is how these findings connect to the marginalization of indigenous knowledge systems. 

Thus, the strengthening of knowledge partnerships must extend towards frameworks of indigenous and scientific knowledge. In achieving the Agenda’s goal of protecting and maintaining intellectual heritage in local knowledge ecosystems, steps should be taken to deconstruct the power underlying the dominance of scientific knowledge in global structures and societies. Global structures and institutions are increasingly recognizing indigenous knowledge, and are seeking its application into scientific knowledge systems. In strengthening local knowledge ecosystems and partnerships, however, indigenous voices in academic, political, healthcare and research institutions must be valued, promoted, and sought after. Otherwise, the application of indigenous knowledge into dominant knowledge frameworks, without conscious inclusion of indigenous peoples into knowledge societies, is appropriation. Furthermore, to fully embrace a culture of equitable knowledge sharing, both knowledge systems should be combined to create new knowledge frameworks, that ultimately respect the integrity of indigenous peoples and their knowledge systems.