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Spaces for local voices? A discourse analysis of the decisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity

Louisa Parks

Keywords: indigenous peoples; local communities; Convention on Biological Diversity; traditional knowledge; participation; discourse analysis

This article discusses the existence and shape of a discursive space for local and indigenous voices in the arena of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Critical literature on global environmental governance argues that dominant or hegemonic discourses shape international-level decision making on environmental protection, and delimit the boundaries of possible policy choices. These discourses are identified by such scholarship as reflecting a dominant worldview stemming from a capitalist view of value and a dichotomous view of nature as separate from culture, which precludes discursive spaces for worldviews based on different conceptions of value and more holistic views of nature as inextricably bound up with culture. Such worldviews are often held by indigenous peoples and local communities considered to be crucial in protecting the environment and natural resources. The present article aims to contribute to this debate by looking in detail at decisions of the parties to the CBD, which is an arena argued by some to be more open to local and indigenous voices. The article presents a discourse analysis of the CBD's decisions since its creation and up to its most recent meetings held in late 2016. The analysis applies the arguments of the critical literature to the decisions of the CBD in order to investigate how far they conform to the critical view of them, or whether, and if so to what extent, they host spaces for local and indigenous voices.

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