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Third World Network

    The Third World Network has made significant contributions to the environment and development debate at the international level. It provides an independent and alternative voice for the South, framing much of its arguments within a North-South perspective. It is very effective in its lobbying efforts, particularly in international fora.   -CO  

The Third World Network (TWN) is an international network of organizations and individuals involved in development issues, the Third World and North-South affairs. TWN was set up in 1984, and is a non-profit, independent organization. It has a collaborative relationship with the Group of 77 and the South -South Centre in Geneva. TWN seeks to bring about a greater articulation of the needs and rights of peoples in the Third World; a fair distribution of world resources; and ecologically and socially harmonious development. Its activities include organizing seminars and workshops, conducting research into economic, social and environmental issues of the South, and publishing books and journals.

Its publications include SUNS Bulletin, Third World Economics, Third World Resurgence and Third World Network Features. TWN also provides a platform from which to represent Southern interests at international fora. It has offices in Penang, New Delhi, Montevideo, Accra, Geneva and London.

    ‘Experts in international public organizations who have been closely following the recent developments in biodiversity negotiations warn that if the Convention [on Biological Diversity] comes into force, industrial country governments would take legislative measures to enable the patenting of genetic materials presently located in gene banks in their countries. 

   Much of these materials had been collected from developing countries by international agricultural research institutes, and two-thirds of all seeds collected in gene banks are in industrial countries or are stored in international research centres controlled by Northern countries and the World Bank.’ 

From: Shiva, V. 1993. Monocultures of the Mind: Perspectives on Biodiversity and Biotechnology. Zed Books, London and Third World Network, Penang.


  • Ruth McCoy, Third World Network,  228 Macalister Road, 10400 Penang, Malaysia;  Tel. +60.4.2293511, Fax +60.4.364505,  e-mail twn@igc.apc.or


World Rainforest Movement

    WRM has become one of the major global voices for indigenous peoples, especially in the area of biodiversity conservation, peoples’ rights in environmental issues (such as access to parks and protected areas), and commmunity-controlled processes of development. Recently they have led in the debates on Farmers’ Rights within FAO and in the defense of indigenous peoples against unauthorized patents and inadequate benefit sharing and protection in global trade issues.   -DAP

    The World Rainforest Movement (WRM), formed in 1987, is an international network of citizens  groups involved in efforts to conserve the world’s rain forests. WRM seeks to assist this process by working to secure the lands and livelihoods of forest peoples and supporting their efforts to defend the forests from inappropriate development projects. WRM coordinates international campaigns at various levels to challenge such projects and to promote popular alternatives. The Penang Declaration, published in 1989, sets out the vision of its members. WRM supports the production of various books and other publications, including Biodiversity: Social and Ecological Perspectives (published in 1991 with Zed Books) and The Struggle for Land and the Fate of the Forests (published in 1993 with The Ecologist and Zed Books). 

    WRM runs the Forest Peoples Programme to chart the forest peoples’ responses to the tropical forest crisis. This program has three main goals: to help create an effective global network of forest peoples; to document real and practical examples of community-based, sustainable forest management; and to counter top-down planning and official solutions to the deforestation crisis, which deny local people a decisive voice about resource use in their areas. The Movement includes rain forest and ecological groups in forest countries such as Brazil, Congo, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Uruguay and Venezuela as well as groups in Australia, Europe, Japan and North America.   

    ‘Even though many indigenous peoples want to exchange forest products and have been trading and bartering for centuries, encouraging marketing of the rainforest without considering the issue from indigenous peoples’ perspectives can have serious consequences. Indigenous peoples have an economy which is controlled by their social relations and fits within their cultural framework. Trading and exchange would traditionally take place within this context with production decided and determined by the community. 

If indigenous people enter the market economy on their own terms this can continue. However, once the demand from outside begins to determine production, this can quickly surpass the priorities of a subsistence and self-sufficient economy. The result is that the community ends up as an effective “wage-labourer” for the demands of consumers in the North. 

In the past, this had terrible effects on the indigenous population. The rubber boom, the highways of Brazil, and the Peruvian Amazonian colonisation plans of the 1980s all had devastating effects on indigenous peoples by attracting them into a market economy over which they had no control. Indeed, the rubber boom, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Amazonian Indians, was portrayed at the time as a form of sustainable development.’ 

From: Gray, A. 1991. The impact of biodiversity conservation on indigenous peoples.  Pages 59-76  in V. Shiva, editor, Biodiversity: Social and Ecological Perspectives.  World Rainforest Movement, Penang and Zed Books, London.


  • World Rainforest Movement,  International Secretariat, 228, Macalister Road,  10400 Penang, Malaysia; Tel. +60.4.373511, Fax +60.4.364505,  e-mail wrmpen@peg.apc.org
  • Marcus Colchester, Forest Peoples Programme, 8 Chapel Row, Chadlington OX7 3NA, UK; Tel. +44.1608.676691, Fax +44.1608.676743, e-mail wrm@gn.apc.org  


World Council for Indigenous Peoples

    The WCIP is one of the largest international organizations in terms of its worldwide representation and scope of interest in issues affecting indigenous peoples.   -DAP

    The World Council for Indigenous Peoples was established in 1975 in order to promote the rights and needs of these peoples. The Council seeks to achieve this by giving indigenous peoples a voice at international fora, and through improving communication and information exchanges. The Council focuses on issues related to the environment and intellectual property rights, and works for the improvement and implementation of international declarations and agreements. The Council holds an International Conference of Indigenous Peoples every four years. 

    ‘...the primary elements which determine indigenous identity relate to the history, territory and world view of Indigenous Peoples. At the level of an individual indigenous people, language is a key determining factor. As media of communication, indigenous languages work to make feelings and ideas known, provide a concrete link with history and facilitate the continuation of the histories of peoples. Language penetrates the daily life of peoples, and opens the door to other determining elements of identity, working to pass on customs and traditions, as well as a distinct way of looking at the world.’ 

From: Anonymous. 1994. Report on the VII International Conference of Indigenous Peoples, 3-10 December 1993, Guatemala.


  • Rodrigo Contreras, Executive Director,  World Council for Indigenous Peoples,  100 Argyle Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario,  K2P 1B6, Canada;  Tel. +1.613.2309030, Fax +1.613.2309340


.Indigenous Peoples’ Biodiversity Network

    IPBN is the largest indigenous organization in the world to be specifically working on issues of biodiversity and human rights. Their large network is efficient in channeling basic information about such processes as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention on Desertification. They also follow - and advise their members to take action on - issues such as Farmers Rights in FAO and the role of traditional farmers in the revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources (IUPGR). Currently they are articulating indigenous strategies and responses for the Third Conference of the Parties of the CBD (Buenos Aires, November 1996).    -DAP

   The Indigenous Peoples’ Biodiversity Network (IPBN) is an association of indigenous peoples from all regions of the world who are working for the common interest of nurturing biological diversity for the benefit of indigenous peoples and all humankind. The IPBN was established by indigenous peoples who were observers at the First Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Convention on Biological Diversity in October 1993. Since then, membership has grown steadily, as has IPBN’s presence within international fora. 

    In November 1995, during the Second Conference of the Parties to the CBD, IPBN members established an international Indigenous Knowledge Programme (IKP) to support indigenous peoples’ efforts to protect and promote local knowledge systems and practices. This program supports research, policy development, networking and community development projects initiated and implemented by indigenous peoples on matters relating to indigenous knowledge, biodiversity conservation and issues of intellectual property. 

    In the future, the IKP will also support indigenous peoples’ participation in multilateral fora and facilitate capacity-building through an internship program. This initiative is supported by Cultural Survival Canada, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).


  • Alejandro Argumedo, International Coordinating Office, IPBN,  or Andrea Lindores, Indigenous Knowledge Programme Administrator,  c/o Cultural Survival Canada, 200 Isabella, Suite 304, Ottawa,  Ontario K1S 1V7, Canada; Tel. +1.613.2375361, Fax +1.613.2371547,  e-mail ipbn@web.apc.org


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