Indigenous peoples and many local communities have unique protocols,
procedures, rules, and regulations (referred to as ‘protocols’) that regulate
their interactions within and between communities and with the territories and areas upon which they depend. Protocols provide clarity to community members about rights, responsibilities, and appropriate behaviour. Respecting and acting according to community protocols helps ensure social cohesion and reinforces customary laws, values, and decision-making processes.
Communities are increasingly engaging with external actors such as government agencies, researchers, companies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). However, external actors often do not understand customary protocols and governance systems because they are codified in ways specific to each community, culture, and location. Failing to respect community protocols, whether intentional or not, can lead to conflict, deterioration of otherwise constructive relations, and negative impacts on the environment.
To address this issue, Indigenous peoples and local communities have begun to document and develop their protocols into forms that can also be understood by others. They are using them to ensure that external actors respect their customary laws, values, and decision-making processes, particularly those concerning stewardship of their territories and areas. They are actively seeking recognition of customary systems of governance and management, including traditional knowledge and practices, and their roles in the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and ecosystem adaptation. Many are referring to these instruments as ‘biocultural community protocols’.
Biocultural Community Protocols: A Toolkit for Community Facilitators (the Toolkit) is intended to support communities to secure their rights and responsibilities and strengthen customary ways of life and stewardship of their territories and areas. It is directed primarily towards facilitators from the communities themselves or from supporting organizations with whom they have long-standing and positive relationships.
The Toolkit consists of four parts:
Part I (Español) is intended to help community facilitators understand and effectively use the Toolkit. It introduces the Toolkit and what biocultural community protocols are and how they are being used around the world. It provides guidance on using the Toolkit, including considerations of understanding the community and the role of the facilitator. It also provides an overview of a number of key methods and tools to choose and adapt as appropriate in each local context.
Part II (Español) provides guidance on documenting and developing a biocultural community protocol. It references key methods and tools from Part I and suggests guiding questions for the appropriate documentation of aspects of the community’s ways of life, consolidation of a protocol, and development of strategies to put the protocol into practice.
Part III (Español) provides guidance on using a biocultural community protocol. It suggests a number of ways to engage with external actors, raise awareness with communities and the broader public, engage in key decision-making processes, negotiate with external actors, and prevent and resolve conflict.
Part IV (Español) provides guidance on reflecting on processes and changes to date, reporting back to the community and to external actors, and revisiting and revising the protocol and associated strategies and plans.
The Toolkit is intended for use in conjunction with the dedicated website www.community-protocols.org. The website contains a wide range of supplementary multimedia resources that will be added and updated over time, including:
- Legal resources such as e-learning modules on key legal frameworks that relate to Indigenous peoples, local communities, and their territories and areas;
- Short films, slideshows, and photo stories;
- Key publications, including reports, articles, books, magazines, and journals;
- Networking opportunities; and
- Links to existing community protocols from Africa, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas.