Gonzalo Oviedo is the person every conservationist dreams of sitting next to at a dinner party. He hails from Ecuador and has worked and traveled pretty much everywhere from the remotest part of the Galapagos Islands to the most northerly corner of Russia. IUCN's Senior Advisor for Social Policy, we caught up with Oviedo to ask him about his tireless work with Indigenous Peoples.
What’s the best IP project you have seen put together?
"There are many excellent projects with Indigenous Peoples. One of my main areas of attention, because of my old-time interest in education, is inter-generational cultural connections. Indigenous peoples in most cases (as everyone in the world) are undergoing rapid cultural change, with the good and the bad effects of it. How indigenous children and youth experience their own culture – their traditional knowledge, practices and institutions? How do they embrace them? Will they continue with their value systems? These are questions that I am not alone in wondering about – they are the questions that I often hear from indigenous elders, who greatly worry about the future of their cultures. In this context, some of the projects that I remember and value most are projects focusing on the youth. In a remote forest area of Southeast Asia, a project organized periodic “forest expeditions” bringing together the elders - traditional experts in forest-related knowledge, with groups of youth who were normally attending schools (where they don’t learn about traditional knowledge). Over a week or so, the “forest expeditions” were a living school on traditional forest knowledge, and an opportunity for transmission of values and inter-generational bonding. In central Africa, a project works with young indigenous Bayakas to help them “reconnect” with their cultures, take pride of them and enhance their capacity to interact with the broader society – I follow this project with great interest. I really think these experiences speak to the future of indigenous cultures, and we should be doing more of this." – Gonzalo Oviedo