The ISE Code of Ethics has a long history of development, dating back to the origins of the Society when the Declaration of Belém was made by the delegates who attended the first congress in 1988.

The development of the ISE Code of Ethics involved hundreds of individuals from many different cultures and backgrounds and from all regions of the world. The efforts were led by Darrell Posey until his death in 2000, and then resumed under the guidance of Ethics chair Kelly Bannister from 2004 – 2011 and has continued under the joint guidance of Ethics Program Co-chairs Kelly Bannister and Gleb Raygorodetsky until present. The Code of Ethics was finally completed and adopted in 2006, with the addition of an Executive Summary and Glossary of Terms in 2008.

In keeping with a 4-year cycle of review and renewal for the Code that was agreed to in 2006, a review of the Code is currently in progress. Initial discussions took place at the 2010 Congress, and the Ethics program Co-Chairs continued to work with ISE members who expressed particular interest and expertise to advise on minor modifications that would retain the Code as the consensus “aspirational” document while achieving the following goals:

  • update language to make externally consistent with key international law and policy (to the extent deemed necessary);
  • update language to make internally-consistent (i.e., address contradictions between certain principles); and
  • simplify language to the extent possible to assist in translation from English to other languages.

Valuable input relating to language translation was received from members who were actively involved in translating the Code and related documents into Spanish and French. Recommended changes were not implemented in the 2010-2012 term due to disruptions within the Society. The work resumed in 2012 and proposed updates were brought before members for ratification in conjunction with the 2016 congress.

Historical time line (based on available information):

1988 (Belém) The first International Congress of Ethnobiology in Belém, Brazil led to the Declaration of Belém.
1990 (Kunming) Nearly 700 participants crafted the Kunming Action Plan that established the “Global Coalition for Defense of Biological and Cultural Diversity.”
1992 (Mexico City) The ISE formalized its membership by producing guidelines for membership, education and training. An Ethics Committee was established as part of the Global Coalition and chaired by Darrell Posey (ISE President 1990-1992), with a specific mandate to develop a Code of Conduct for the ISE.
1994 (Lucknow) The Ethics Committee held open hearings on the Code of Conduct. An initial draft was circulated to members and subsequently presented for discussion during to the U.N. Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva. During the Congress, Brent Berlin (ISE President 1988-1990) organized a Global Task Force to develop adequate education and training for ethnobiologists and ethnoecologists.
1996 (Nairobi) An estimated 90% of the 350 delegates participated in open sessions to discuss a draft Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct.
1998 (Aotearoa) A pre-Congress ethics workshop with 40 participants was held at Pakiri Marae and led by Darrell Posey (with support from Maui Solomon, Dave Stephenson and Kelly Bannister). It resulted in the completion of first half of the Code of Ethics (14 principles), which was adopted at the ISE General Assembly. The second half (guidelines/practices) and completion of Code of Ethics were deferred until the 2000 congress.
2000 (Athens, GA) A process to complete the second half of the Code of Ethics did not take place. Instead, a special session of the Ethics Committee was organized during the congress to debate issues related to bioprospecting projects involving resources and knowledge of Indigenous communities. Extensive discussion and debate took place. Agreement was made to call together a Crucible type group to debate these important topics and to formulate a policy statement, with Darrell Posey and Alejandro Argumedo as designated organizers.
2001 Darrell Posey’s death.
2004 (Kent) A “Deliberative Dialogue on the ISE Draft Guidelines for Research” was organized by Kelly Bannister as a special congress session to review the status of the draft guidelines, to confirm that a mandate still existed to complete the Code of Ethics and to seek input on process and substance of the revision. Speakers included Maui Solomon, Graham Dutfield, Will McClatchey and graduate student Julie Velasquezrunk. The combined Board position of Director of Global Coalition and Ethics Committee Chair was split into two positions. Maui Solomon continued as Director of Global Coalition and Kelly Bannister became Ethics Chair.
2006 (Thailand) Web-based feedback was received over 2 years, leading to a 3-day pre-Congress workshop (co-organized by Kelly Bannister and Maui Solomon) with 32 participants from 15 countries, and special in-Congress working session (organized by Kelly Bannister) that resulted in further revision and ultimately the completion of the Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics was unanimously adopted at the General Assembly, with the condition that an Executive Summary and Glossary of Terms be added.
2010 (Tofino) A special congress session (organized by Kelly Bannister) on the Code of Ethics took place to begin discussing proposed revisions. Speakers included Dave Stephenson, Sarah Holcombe and Jerzy Koopman.
2011-2015 Gleb Raygorodetsky was appointed as a Co-Chair of the Ethics Program in 2011.  Kelly Bannister and Gleb Raygorodetsky continued work with ISE members and sister societies in on- going review of the ISE Code of Ethics.
2016 (Kampala) A proposed revision to the ISE Code of Ethics was brought before members for ratification, in conjunction with the 2016 Congress. The new version will be formally adopted by the ISE and replace the current version on the website when 2/3 of members have ratified it.

The ISE thanks the hundreds of individuals and many organisations that contributed to the creation of the Code of Ethics over its decade-long development process.  Special thanks to participants of the 2006 Pre-Congress Ethics Workshop:

ISE Ethics Pre-Congress Workshop, Thailand, 2006.

Michele Andersen, New Zealand Maria Pia Macchi, Italian in India
Alejandro Argumedo, Peru Susannah McCandless, USA
Kelly Bannister, Canada Jack Miller, Canada
Ruei-Lin Chen, Taiwan Verna Miller, Canada
Yi-Shyr Chung, Taiwan Patricia Navarrete, Colombia
Mana Cracknell, New Zealand Jeanine Pfeiffer, USA
Richard Donaldson-Alves, Thailand Michelle Reid, Canada
Sisilia Dun, Indonesia Nanda Singh, Nepal
Pablo Eyzaguirre, Italy/Chile Maui Solomon, New Zealand
Idah Faridah, Indonesia Yuba Subedi, Nepal
Ojok Miriam Fiona, Uganda Yeremias Uril, Indonesia
Lahwy Icyh, Taiwan Ana Vivaldi, Argentina
Christine Kabuye, Uganda Mary Walingo, Kenya
Shiang-Pei Kuo, Taiwan Felice Wyndham, Canada
Tsui-Han Lai, Taiwan Yuswantoro, Indonesia
Yih-Ren Lin, Taiwan Khaled Zaman, Bangladesh