the latest meeting on the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity
here in Montreal, the participants recommended that the guidelines
for cultural, environmental and social impact assessment be called
the Akwé:kon Guidelines.
meeting, which took place in December, finalized a draft recommendation
on guidelines that would help protect Indigenous communities from
development that would take place on, or which are likely to impact,
sacred sites and lands and waters traditionally occupied or used
by Indigenous and local communities.
the United Nations names such documents after the city where they
are drafted, such as the Kyoto Accord, Bonn Guidelines on Access
to Genetic Resources, or the Montreal Protocol on Substances that
Deplete the Ozone Layer, 1989. The participants, many of whom were
Indigenous representatives from around the world and government
delegates, wanted to give an Indigenous title to the guidelines
since they mainly impact Indigenous Peoples.
were proposed, such as the Kahnawake Guidelines or the Kanienkeh
Guidelines, but concern was expressed that consultation with the
communities involved had not taken place and it would not be proper
to appropriate these names without permission. So other words were
considered. Since the Mohawk language can be difficult for the different
peoples of the world to pronounce, a simple name was sought.
the objective of the Convention on Biodiversity was to protect the
environment, the suggestion was to use the word for 'all of creation.'
However, that would have been a very long phrase in Mohawk. So an
alternative was to use the word 'akwé:kon' which means 'everything.'
Although akwé:kon would need another word after it in proper
Mohawk, using the English word guidelines to follow akwé:kon
would suffice. So the name Akwé:kon Guidelines was proposed
and accepted. It is understood that the phrase means guidelines
of everything in Creation.
loves the name," said Paola Deda, Program Officer with the
Secretariat for the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). "It is
new and refreshing. Not a single government objected to the term
and I can't foresee anyone trying to change it at COP 7."
seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention
on Biological Diversity (COP 7) will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
this February 9-20. It will focus on the issues of Biodiversity
in mountain ecosystems, the role of protected areas in the preservation
of biological diversity and the transfer of technology and technology
cooperation. The draft Akwé:kon Guidelines will be presented
at this meeting for ratification.
guidelines are a comprehensive set of rules for governments and
'other parties,' meaning corporations, to conduct impact studies
on any development that will affect Indigenous communities.
specifically, the purpose of these Guidelines is to provide a collaborative
framework within which Governments, Indigenous and local communities,
decision makers and managers of developments can:
Support the full and effective participation and involvement of
Indigenous and local communities in screening, scoping and development
Properly take into account the cultural, environmental and social
concerns and interests of Indigenous and local communities, especially
of women who often bear a disproportionately large share of negative
Take into account the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices
of Indigenous and local communities as part of environmental,
social and cultural impact-assessment processes, with due regard
to the ownership of and the need for the protection and safeguarding
of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices;
Promote the use of appropriate technologies;
Identify and implement appropriate measures to prevent or mitigate
any negative impacts of proposed developments;
Take into consideration the interrelationships among cultural,
environmental and social elements.
guidelines go onto a lengthy list of definitions, procedural considerations,
types of impact assessments, studies and other considerations.
is important to point out that these guidelines are voluntary only,
and are not binding to anyone.
would like these guidelines to be binding. However, they are still
an important step in protecting Indigenous communities from unscrupulous
development," said Earl Stevenson of the Peguis First Nation
in Manitoba. "It has been a long, hard fight to get these kinds
of protections. Our purpose for participating is to make sure our
concerns are taken into consideration. This is a baseline or starting
point for discussions with governments, businesses and anyone who
wants to start projects on Indigenous lands.
will help Indigenous Peoples in developing countries like in South
America. It is a basis for changing legislation in many countries,
guidelines would encourage governments and developers to consult
Indigenous Peoples before embarking on large projects such as mining,
logging, Hydro-Electric dams, etc., which would affect Indigenous
communities. For instance, if Canada followed these guidelines,
perhaps the Oka Crisis would not have occurred.
Mohawk People should be proud that a Mohawk word is used to name
these guidelines," said Mattias Åhrén, a Sami
and a member of the Swedish government delegation. "The guidelines
are worthy of such an honour."
full draft of the Akwé:kon Guidelines, 28 pages, is available
on our website soon at www.easterndoor.com.