Contributed by Edmond Dounias, Congress Coordinator
The 2012 ISE Congress was organized in four complementary and interconnected components:
- a scientific colloquium;
- side events open to the general public;
- educational projects carried out by pupils throughout the region; and
- an indigenous forum.
More than 700 delegates (scientists, students, members of civil society, policy makers, journalists, and representatives of indigenous peoples, traditional societies and local communities) registered for the Congress. There were 75 different nationalities represented. Over 5 days, 250 oral communications along with 140 posters were presented in 42 panels. Of the 42 panels, 17 have specific editorial projects (a book, final report, or special issue in a scientific journal) for their proceedings. A significant fraction of the presentations that will not be published in proceedings are shared on the congress website.
Two keynotes were given in the plenary session just after the opening ceremony. The first was by Mrs. Monique Barbut, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility, and the second by Mrs. Meriem Bouamrane of the Man and Biosphere programme of UNESCO.
The delegates were also offered the possibility to attend a Congress tour on Wednesday, May 23rd. There were six destinations offered, covering a wide range of topics and situations, and revealing the astounding diversity of environments nearby Montpellier. Each tour included gastronomy discovery and tasting of local products.
A public of several thousand persons attended the various events scheduled during the days and evenings of the week-long Congress. During five days, thanks to a multitude of intercultural encounters organized in diverse public spaces in Montpellier’s historical city center, the city and its surroundings vibrated to the rhythm of the Congress.
Day and evening attractions were proposed in various public spaces of the city (parks, squares, plazas, galleries, terraces of bars and restaurants, museums, conference rooms…): 4 concerts, 6 round-tables, 11 films+debates, 12 conferences, 15 exhibitions, 6 shows (theater, dance…), 7 animated stands, and a forum of NGOs (18 stands on the esplanade).
Three fairs were also organized as side-events of the Congress:
- The Biodiversity Days (May 24-25) of the city of Montpellier;
- The fair of the producers of local products from the French network of MAB UNESCO reserves (May 25)
- The fair of the French Federation of producers of medicinal, aromatic and tinctorial plants (May 24-25)
Organization of all the events for the general public was coordinated by the NGO Forêts Tropicales Humides: Avenir [Tropical Rainforests: Future].
The organizing committee of the Congress dedicated a lot of energy in having the youth actively involved. More than one year before the Congress was held we addressed a call for projects to all the schools of the Languedoc-Roussillon Region.
The goal of the call was to encourage teachers to undertake a study during the academic year 2011/12 and to present the results of their study during the Congress. More than 80 projects were submitted and nearly half of them were carried out successfully. This component of the Congress was coordinated by the NGO Racines de Terriens [Earthling Roots], and benefited from financial support from the Languedoc-Roussillon Region and the General Council of the Gard Department. The component mobilized the participation of 822 pupils through 41 selected projects. There were 35 schools that participated: primary schools (16%), secondary schools (31%), general high schools (34%), professional high schools (6%), and 1 agricultural school (3%). The projects also involved 55 teachers, 25 scientific supervisors and 5 independent consultants.
The topics covered by the projects were diverse: food, taste and dislikes (12%), agriculture and society (27%), territories and landscapes (17%), gardens and urban nature (10%), plants in the wild (15%), international solidarity and equity (7%), and medicine and medicinal use of plants (5%). The forms adopted to present the results of the projects were also diverse: 8 films, 8 formal oral presentations with PowerPoint shows, 7 scenic performances (theater, spectacle), 14 interactive stands, 14 exhibitions, 3 audio reports, and 1 blog.
The 2012 ISE Congress was held one month before the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (20-22 June 2012). It provided an important meeting ground for people to come together to share experiences and ideas and formulate action plans. In Cusco (2008) under the leadership of Alejandro Argumedo, the current Co-Director of the Global Coalition, the ISE began hosting an Indigenous Forum as an integral part of its congresses. The inaugural Indigenous Forum resulted in the Indigenous Forum Declaration. In Tofino (2010) the Indigenous Forum followed a fairly loose format of pre-determined facilitated gatherings and then ended in a plenary where a Hul’q’umi’num elder led a Ts’lhnuts’umaat, a Coast Salish traditional teaching about being “the whole family”.
Following on the adoption of the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) at the ISE Congress in Tofino, Canada (May 2010), the ISE developed the concept for the 2012 Indigenous Forum around exploring how the UNDRIP could be broadened into actionable steps.
The Forum ran as a parallel stream during the Congress. It was hosted by the house of International Relations and was co-organized by the ISE and the French NGO Biodiversité: échanges et diffusion d’expériences (BEDE).
The following themes were explored as part of the Indigenous Forum:
- Participatory Research, Dissemination and Advocacy: The View From the Indigenous Forum
- Sacred Sites and Their Custodians: Building Resilience to Deal with the Threats of Climate Change, Extractive Industries and Loss of Ancestral Territories
- Using Bio-Cultural Protocols to Implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and Multi-lateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) at the Local Level for Sustainable Development
- Indigenous Resource Management: Customary Practice and Contemporary Management