Social justice for traditional knowledge holders will help conserve Europe's nature

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  • Zsolt Molnár
  • Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares
  • Christoph Schunko
  • Irene Teixidor-Toneu
  • Ivan Jarić
  • Isabel Díaz-Reviriego
  • Cosmin Ivascu
  • Dániel Babai
  • László Sáfián
  • Pål Karlsen
  • Huxuan Dai
  • Rosemary Hill

Biodiversity of European cultural landscapes is threatened by land abandonment and intensification. While the conservation benefits of traditional management practices have been long acknowledged, recognition of traditional knowledge started only recently in Europe. Respect for the holders of traditional knowledge (TK holders) themselves lags even more behind, often leading to social injustices. Social injustices towards TK holders span from disrespect and misrepresentation, invisibility, misunderstanding, economic and political vulnerability, unethical collaborations, rights violations, disconnection, uncontextualized education to lack of inclusivity – leading to neglect of TK holders in conservation science, policy and practice. Resolving these social injustices would benefit both people and nature. Benefits of resolving injustices include better cooperation in conservation management, mutual understanding, improved representation and participation, increased respect, economic and legal security, strengthened land stewardship, better tradition-based conservation innovations, and more appropriate management regulations. Best practices are presented to inspire ways to foster recognition for TK holders and their knowledge, worldviews and values, promote the inclusion of plurality of values and voices in the media and school curricula, encourage meaningful participatory decision making, mobilise strategies to re-design and decolonize financial support mechanisms, decrease bureaucratic loads, and promote TK holder-led conservation activities. Supporting TK holders and keeping traditional land management practices alive should be considered as a social justice imperative of great strategic importance for long-term social-ecological resilience in Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110190
JournalBiological Conservation
Publication statusPublished - 01.09.2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
At least three funding instruments provide major financial support for biodiversity conservation in the EU: the Structural and Cohesion Funds (SCF), the LIFE programme, and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). We suggest revising such funding mechanisms to better integrate and recognize the contributions of TK holders to the conservation of Europe's cultural landscapes. In particular, the new CAP launched in 2023 introduced a number of reforms in key policy areas. These reforms place a greater priority on fairness for farmers, and on good agricultural and environmental conditions. For instance, it has been recommended that 25 % of all direct payments will be allocated to eco-schemes, providing stronger incentives for climate- and environmentally-friendly practices. Such eco-schemes focus on a common list of action areas defined at the EU level, and are used to support practices such as organic farming, agro-ecological practices, precision farming, agro-forestry or carbon farming, as well as animal welfare improvements. Concerted actions of TK holders, scientists, NGOs, and other decision-makers are needed to bring in the perspectives of TK holders into the preparation process (starting in autumn 2023) of the strategic documents that provide the basis for reforming these funding mechanisms by 2027 (e.g. changing the rules of allocation, the process of administering the funds, and the range of participants included). In parallel, as changing these large structures is relatively slow and difficult due to political dynamics at the EU level, changes need to be initiated at the national level implementation of these EU funds.

Funding Information:
Zs.M. was funded by the HORIZON-CL6-2022-BIODIV-01-09 project, D.B. by the Momentum Program of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences ( MTA Lendület_2020-56 ), and Á.F.-Ll. through a Ramón y Cajal research grant from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation ( RYC2021-034198-I ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023