The Cusco Declaration was drafted at the 11th ISE Congress held in Cusco, Peru (2008) and was adopted by the ISE membership at the 12th ISE Congress in Tofino, British Columbia, Canada (2010).
In June 2008 more than 500 representatives of local communities, Indigenous peoples and scholars met in Cusco, Peru under the auspices of the International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE). Their aim was to review common concerns 20 years after the First International Congress of Ethnobiology and its 1988 Declaration of Belém.
From our diverse but united perspectives we find that biocultural diversity is in a state of deepening crisis, and the negative trends noted in the Declaration of Belém continue: disappearing ecosystems, species extinctions, cultural disruption and destruction. Despite these interrelated crises, emerging trends of cultural and biological resilience, resurgence and re-diversification give us hope that we can develop creative solutions. We stress that these efforts must be led by Indigenous peoples, traditional societies and local communities, and must occur through respectful partnerships with other actors, including scientists, scholars and research institutions.
The Importance of Indigenous and Local Peoples and their Initiatives:
We affirm that Indigenous peoples, traditional societies and local communities continue to make major contributions to the creation and maintenance of the biocultural diversity and vibrant landscapes which are crucial for the well-being and happiness of all humanity, and the existence of all life on Earth. We therefore alert all to the value of making significant investments, on people’s own terms, in local institutions and in education. New intercultural schools and universities are needed to transmit and further develop Indigenous knowledge and cosmologies on agriculture and the management of natural resources, as well as Indigenous peoples’ own definitions of well being. This is vital for people to realize their rights and responsibilities and deal better with the external and internal forces destroying individual and collective biocultural heritage worldwide. By redressing the balance of power in this way, partnerships of mutual respect become possible, enabling these issues to be heard by both the global public and the powerful institutions that need to change. We can also create collaborative ventures able to tackle problems previously beyond reach, such as climate change, the food and energy crises, the loss of biological and cultural diversity, biopiracy, the negative impacts of new biotechnologies, and the privatization of land and natural and genetic resources. All of these have intensified since the 1988 Declaration of Belém. The proliferation of genetically modified seeds is a primary concern genetic contamination of land races is irreversible and could well lead to their disappearance
Adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
We celebrate the adoption, in September 2007, of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“the Declaration”) as the culmination of decades of struggle. The Declaration establishes international minimum standards for the respect, protection and fulfillment of Indigenous peoples’ rights, and their rights to own, control, develop and enhance their lands and cultures, and it recognizes their distinctive spiritual relationships with their territories. We endorse and adopt the Declaration and call on the ISE to do so too. We will apply the Declaration in all that we seek to do collectively and individually, and will back appropriate efforts to hold governments and other institutions accountable for its full implementation. We note the Declaration’s founding principle of free prior and informed consent as a baseline for all efforts by external agencies to intervene in Indigenous communities for purposes of research, development and governance. We also note the fundamental importance which the Declaration gives to culture, natural resource rights, customary law and autonomy in governance. Furthermore we shall continue to actively support the efforts of Indigenous peoples to pursue their own development paths, rooted in their spiritual, cultural, livelihood and ecological values. We firmly believe that the spirit and principles of this Declaration will be invaluable to all peoples.
Expanding Participatory Forms of Knowledge Creation:
Twenty years ago the ISE embarked on the challenging and essential task of decolonizing the process of research with Indigenous peoples, traditional societies and local communities. By valuing all kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing, and by respecting the rights of the guardians of biocultural heritage, significant advances can be achieved both in understanding, and in creating a richer future for, our planet. We are still striving for truly collaborative research and exploring how best to link research with transformative action, as well as to secure wider local understanding of and contributions to the Code of Ethics. However, we certainly know enough to now call on the wider community of scientists, governments, universities, NGOs, Indigenous peoples and local communities to review our Code of Ethics adopted in Chiang Rai, Thailand in 2006. and the experiences of our members and partners, and to join us to strengthen and spread such efforts more widely in research, policy and practice. We also celebrate the ever-increasing degree to which Indigenous scholars and communities are undertaking research on their own terms and we call on ISE to work towards nurturing increasingly healthy partnerships between scholarly institutions and such local efforts.
Backing Self-Determination and Vibrant Livelihoods:
We are heartened by the fact that even as the impoverishment and marginalization of local communities continues worldwide, alongside the destruction of ecosystems, it is clear that strong movements of renewal, cultural pride, decisive initiative, and resistance to destructive forces of development and trade are widespread among Indigenous peoples and traditional societies. Furthermore, dominant cultures are slowly changing their attitudes to Indigenous and human rights and to the value of diversity. The ISE will continue to work in a responsive way to local values, peoples and struggles; we shall refocus our research and knowledge dissemination to further support and drive these changes. We call on ISE members and partners to document and imaginatively share widely best practices and positive outcomes from work of this kind. Efforts to maintain vibrant livelihoods rooted in cultural values and healthy ecosystems are particularly necessary at this time as Indigenous peoples and others are increasingly affected by the expansion of globalization, commodification and resource extraction/depletion.
Broadening the Scope and Application of Ethnobiology:
We call on the ISE to expand efforts to include in its membership and work all peoples and regions of the world, all kinds of ecosystems, and all types of interactions between cultures and the environment. This may mean giving greater attention to coastal and marine systems, urban and peri-urban contexts, the impact of migration, declining interest amongst younger generations in maintaining traditional cultures, and the relationships between humans and animals.