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The Manukan Declaration
of the
Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network
Manukan, Sabah, Malaysia, 4-5 February, 2004


We, the Indigenous women, who have come together in Manukan, Sabah to prepare for the deliberations of the 7th Conference of the Parties (COP 7) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity February 9-20, 2004 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, issue this declaration on behalf of our respective organizations, communities and Nations.

We note with alarm that since the beginning of the Convention on Biodiversity, there continues to be a decline in the world’s biological diversity. We also note the increase in corporate control of biological resources, and a proliferation of policies that facilitate biotechnological development of resources taken from our territories.

Indigenous women play a major role in environmental conservation and preservation and have done so throughout our histories. We are the holders of Indigenous knowledge and have primary responsibility to protect and perpetuate this knowledge. Our weaving art, music, songs, our dress, knowledge of agriculture, hunting and fishing, are examples of some contributions to the world. We are the children of Mother Earth, and to her we are indebted. Our ceremonies recognize her and we return our children’s placentas to her. She also holds the remains of our ancestors.

Indigenous women continue to affirm our cultures, histories, views of creation and ancestry, our views of life and the world, and ways of being. These life-ways are essential to the continued perpetuation, promotion, and development of the world’s biodiversity.
Indigenous women ensure the health of our Peoples and environments. We maintain a reciprocal relationship with Mother Earth, as she sustains our lives. Indigenous Peoples have developed our own health systems, and Indigenous women are the fundamental conservers of the diversity of medicinal plants, so frequently used from the moment of our conception

Indigenous women stand firmly upon our rights to self-determination. Our rights to self-determination are fundamental to the freedom to carry out our responsibilities in accordance with our cultural values and customary laws.
We also note the importance of work still to be done by States to honor treaty obligations made with Indigenous peoples. Many treaties contain specific obligations for States to guarantee Indigenous rights to protect the flora, fauna, lands, foreshore, fisheries, seas and lakes.

As Indigenous women, our priority is to protect our rights over our traditional knowledge and biological resources, which must be preserved and protected for future generations. Any decisions regarding the use and protection of our traditional knowledge and biological resources must respect the rights of Indigenous peoples.
We bring to your attention these key areas of concern:

Indigenous Women as Knowledge Holders
Indigenous women are holders of environmental, spiritual and cultural knowledge, wisdom and experiences that play an integral role in the transfer of this knowledge, wisdom and experience to younger generations

Our traditional Indigenous knowledge systems long predate Western systems of education or property rights regimes, and have a right to exist free from external interference and in their own integrity.

Non-Indigenous education systems are negatively impacting Indigenous knowledge and lifeways. Indigenous peoples have a right to protect, develop and perpetuate their own educational systems that are consistent with their cultural and spiritual values as an integral aspect of self-determination.

As Indigenous women, we recognize that these languages are fast disappearing and this threatens the maintenance and continuance of our knowledge. We urge governments to support our efforts to maintain the use of our languages through culturally-based and appropriate educational systems.

Indigenous women oppose the imposition of databases and registries of Indigenous knowledge as mechanisms required for the protection of Indigenous knowledge.

Indigenous Women and Biodiversity

Indigenous knowledge systems and the diversity of life within our territories are collective resources under our direct control and administration.

Indigenous women play a key role in the protection and maintenance of the biodiversity in diverse ecosystems including forests, dry and sub-humid, inland waters, marine and coastal, mountains regions. Our lifeways, our artistic expressions, are dependant on and the bounty of the land. Any erosion of biodiversity can irreversibly impact our cultural heritage.

Medicinal knowledge of Indigenous women is widespread and in their vast expertise, they are our widwives, spiritual leaders, healers, herbalists, botanists and pharmacists. Their knowledge, use and control of these medicinal plants must be protected from external research and commercialization efforts.

We oppose technologies and policies such as the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) regimes that violate Indigenous Peoples’ rights to maintain our traditional knowledge, practices, seeds and other food related genetic resources

We are opposed to the introduction of genetically engineered life-forms, and genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs) which pose serious negative impacts to Indigenous peoples food security, health, environment, and livelihoods;

Indigenous Women and Health

Indigenous women acknowledge that the womb is every person’s first environment and that the state of the health of this sacred environment is intrinsically related to and dependent on the health of the waterways, air, earth, plants and animals.

The poor health status of Indigenous women is intimately linked to their access to traditional medicines, practices and the health of ecosystems. For example, in the Arctic region, Indigenous women’s milk has the highest levels of PCBs and mercury in the world due to the trans-boundary travel of persistent organic pollutants and their bioaccumulation and magnification in the food chain.

Indigenous women are also the primary food producers for their communities and environmental pollutants threaten food security, cultures and life-ways.

We recognize that Indigenous knowledge has greatly contributed to food security and many medicines used in the world. We oppose any efforts for external parties to commercialize and benefit from the enclosure of our knowledge and resources.

Indigenous Women and Industrialization

Industrial projects including, but not limited to, mining, logging, hydroelectric projects, nuclear power and waste, toxic dumping, agri-business expansion, commercial fisheries, tourism development and war devastate our lands, destroy our economies, and threaten our survival within our territories.

Power in the government in many countries is largely concentrated in the hands of the industry lobby so they have an opportunity and advantage to make decisions about environmental problems. We need instruments to ensure the participation of Indigenous peoples in the decision-making processes related to industrial developments and environmental policy.

Indigenous Women and Protected Areas

Indigenous communities have been and continue to be expelled from their lands and to be victimized by the despoilment of their lands and sacred sites, on the pretext of the establishment of protected areas and national parks. We demand that our rights be restored and that these acts, which violate our human rights and the rights of women, cease immediately. We also call for adequate compensation for all the past wrongs inflicted by the establishment of protected areas.

Indigenous Women and Trade and Globalization

Indigenous women strongly oppose the appropriation and commodification of their knowledge, ceremonies, songs, dances, rituals, designs, medicines and intellectual property. Any acquisition, use or commercial application of Indigenous women’s intellectual, cultural and spiritual property must be in accordance with their prior informed consent and customary laws.

Intellectual property regimes must be prevented from asserting patents, copyright, or trademark monopolies for products, data, or processes derived or originating from the biodiversity or knowledge of Indigenous peoples.

We affirm that natural life processes and prior art and knowledge are clearly outside the parameters of IPR protection and therefore eliminate IPR protections over any genes, isolated genes, or other natural properties or processes, for any life forms, or knowledge derived from Indigenous knowledge.

The advancement of free trade policies through international and regional free trade agreements, state laws, and policies is allowing an increase in the exploitation of Indigenous peoples knowledge and resources.

We oppose the trade policies that impose the Western legal frameworks upon us and fail to recognize our rights to maintain and implement our systems of management based upon customary law.

Indigenous Women and Conflict and Militarization

Indigenous women have been severely affected by colonialism, armed conflict, displacement and enforced removal from their communities, discriminatory laws, lack of laws or lack of enforcement of laws.

In regions where conflict is rife, Indigenous women are the first victims of the destruction of biodiversity. Dependant on and linked to their lands, but displaced as a result of war, they are unable to provide for the needs of their families. We therefore call upon the international community to support our call for immediate peaceful resolution of conflicts.

We recall previous declarations, conventions, and decisions that affirm the rights of Indigenous peoples to the full and effective participation in international fora that impact our lives:

Recalling the Charter of the United Nations, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights affirm the fundamental importance of the right of self-determination of all peoples, by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development;

Recalling decision VI/10, Article 8(j) and related provisions “emphasizing the need for dialogue with representatives of indigenous and local communities, particularly women for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity within the framework of the Convention.”

Noting …"the vital role of Indigenous Peoples in sustainable development" as affirmed by the political declaration of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, 2002 in paragraph 25; and,

Affirming other international instruments and mechanisms that ensure our participation and contribution within the discussions, such as:

The Rio de Janeiro Declaration on the Environment and Development (in particular Principle 22), the Agenda 21 (in particular Chapters 11 and 26); the Convention on Biological Diversity (in particular Article 8 (j) and related provisions); the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Statement on Forest Principles and IPF/IF/UNFF; Convention 169 of the ILO on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, among others;

Further recognizing, that at the close of the UN Decade on Indigenous Peoples, some progress and gains have been achieved, however, much still needs to be done.


We, therefore, call upon the Conference of the Parties to include the following recommendations in the final decisions of the COP7, as follows:

We encourage the development of instruments that prevent the expropriation and commercialization of our knowledge and biological resources

Affirm that natural processes and prior art and knowledge are clearly outside the parameters of IPR protection and therefore eliminate IPR protections over any genes, isolated genes, or other natural properties or processes, for any life forms, or knowledge derived from Indigenous knowledge.

Parties must declare an immediate moratorium on the development, cultivation, and use of genetically modified seeds, plants, fish and other organisms.

Request the Parties reaffirm paragraph 23 of its decision V/5, in light of the continued lack of data on the potential negative impacts on Indigenous Peoples and in line with the precautionary approach.

Parties ensure Indigenous women are free to implement their own practices and institutions to ensure food sovereignty.

Scientific research, and any bioprospecting activity, conducted without the full consultation and prior informed consent of the impacted Indigenous populations must be halted and be handled in a comprehensive and protective manner.

States take immediate action to urgently work to stop the introduction of alien or invasive species which threaten the health of our traditional territories and food sources.

With the knowledge that contaminated ecosystems threaten the very survival of our Peoples, Indigenous women strongly request that governments ratify and implement the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

States ensure decisions protect and promote the development of sui generis systems based upon customary law.

States ensure intellectual property rights regimes are not imposed upon Indigenous knowledge, biodiversity, and customary management systems.

Ensure that any benefit sharing regime protects the rights of Indigenous peoples to prior informed consent as principle parties when their knowledge or resources are impacted, and further protect their rights to deny access and refuse participation.

Parties must insure national legislation reflect and be consistent with the standards established by the CBD.

Decisions must recognize and reflect the intrinsic link between Indigenous knowledge and biodiversity.

The Secretariat, in its outreach and capacity building activities, should specifically target the full and effective participation of Indigenous women.

All decisions must recognize and protect the fundamental premise that Indigenous peoples are rights holders with proprietary, inherent, and inalienable rights to our traditional knowledge and biological resources.

Respectfully submitted by the following participants:
African Indigenous Womens Network (Kenya)
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact
Asociaciòn Napguana (Panama)
Asociaciòn Regional Aborigen del Dikes (Costa Rica)
Canadian Indigenous Biodiversity Network (Canada)
Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinerios (Bolivia)
Concerned Women Action for Peace (Sudan)
Hadzabe Survival Council (Tanzania)
Ilaratak Lorkomerey (Tanzania)
Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism (US)
Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat on the CBD (Canada)
Nga Wahine Tiaki O Te Ao (Aotearoa)
Na Koa Ikaika O Ka Lahui Hawai`i (Hawaii)
National Aboriginal Health Organization (Canada)
Onissons-nous Pour la Promotion de Batwa/Uniproba
Programme D’Integration and de Developpent on Pouple Pygmee ou Piop_Kiyuss
Tebtebba Foundation (Phillipines)