the interconnection cultural diversity and biodiversity

The interconnection between Cultural Diversity and Biodiversity – Insights from May’s 21 event

What is the interconnection between Cultural Diversity and Biodiversity? Why is it important to address biodiversity issues taking into account the importance of cultural diversity? What’s the role of Human Rights? How can we individually contribute to their protection?

These are some of the questions addressed by Alejandro Fuentes, Pernilla Malmer and Claudia Ituarte-Lima, our panelists during this event.

Read more about this theme following our Librarian Lena’s books tips here.

Cultural Diversity and Biodiversity are interconnected

Alejandro Fuentes started with a question to the panelists : How to make sure to protect this ‘incredible piece of knowledge’ and human culture Indigenous people have regarding the preservation of nature?

This movie shed light on “the interplay between human culture and nature”. It is an example of knowledge, values and culture which are getting lost.” Pernilla Malmer

Pernilla Malmer
answered the question by recalling that the Convention on Cultural Diversity does recognize Indigenous People and local communities knowledge and practices as well as their values. “What is mainly important to maintain this, is the right to land” she added. Claudia Ituarte-Lima completed this answer by highlighting the importance of the right to a healthy environment “recognized very widely in different Constitutions, secondary laws, [and] regional instruments.” It indeed provides us an understanding of the connexion of substantive elements including the element of healthy and sustainably produced food and other procedural elements such as information and public participation.

We all depend on healthy ecosystems : the air we breath, the food we eat, the water we drink, all depend on a healthy environnement.” Claudia Ituarte-Lima

What are the instruments contributing to the protection of cultural diversity and biodiversity?

Alejandro highlighted that “The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity by UNESCO recognizes the unique values of all cultures. All cultures have a unique value as long as they respect Human Rights. That is the message of the Convention.”

For Claudia, a first element of answer is the increasing awareness of the interconnection between cultural diversity and biodiversity. Moreover, we need to adopt a multi-level approach. Indeed, “we can not  be thinking only in terms of the very localised reality  because that reality if being affected by other regional, national trends.” We also should take into account the linkages between the relevant Conventions and International Human Rights Law through lawsuits. One of the issue here though, might be the lack of implementation of Human Rights Law at national levels.

Later on, the compatibility between clashing cultures came onto the conversation. How can we find common grounds and a balance which could allow these cultures to coexist?

Environmental and human rights defenders could be the ones building bridges and make sure that Indigenous cultures get the right visibility and appreciation in the mainstream community, Pernilla and Alejandro agreed.

“I think what is critical to find these common grounds is that you have a power balance.” Pernilla Malmer.

Indigenous People are critical to both cultural diversity and biodiversity

This panel discussion also highlighted the importance of including Indigeneous People in policy-making and the preservation of their rights to land and self-determination. Indigenous people are “critical for the protection of biodiversity both as managers of it and as environmental rights defenders“, Pernilla stressed.

“What we called wilderness is for [Indigeneous communities] their cultured land.” Pernilla Malmer

What about all of us, as individuals?

For the panelists, while we can’t do it all as individuals we still have a role to play. We can all nurture our connection with nature, buy local products and more generally have a closer look at our consumption.  This way, we can all contribute to the protection of biodiversity. “We can’t just sit down and wait for the States to do everything” as Claudia said.

“It is our collective interaction, it is our collevtive initiative  which can make it a thriving world for everyone, including nature.” Claudia Ituarte-Lima


To conclude, preserving cultural diversity as well as biodiversity is and will be the role of both States and individuals. In order to do so, International Human Rights Law and human rights standards can be an efficient tool.

Learn more about this event and the panelists here.

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