BIREME Bulletin n° 87

G20: WHO highlights the importance of traditional knowledge for Health and the Bioeconomy

Photo: Audiovisual G20 Brazil.

The G20 is developing a set of principles on Bioeconomy, an economic model based on the sustainable use of renewable biological resources to generate goods, services, information, and energy. The second meeting of the G20 Bioeconomy Initiative, held in Brasília from 7 to 9 May, 2024, focused on the dialogue between traditional knowledge and modern science. The World Health Organization (WHO) contributed with a health perspective, reaffirming the importance of traditional knowledge and traditional health practices in accelerating health and well-being for all.

The Bioeconomy Initiative is being led by Brazil, which holds the presidency of the G20 in 2024. This working group is structured around three thematic axes: science, technology, and innovation; sustainable use of biodiversity; and the role of bioeconomy in promoting sustainable development. Two further in-person meetings will be held in Manaus, in June, and in Rio de Janeiro, in September. The high-level principles on Bioeconomy resulting from this series of meetings will be incorporated into the Leaders’ Declaration to be launched at the G20 Summit in Rio de Janeiro, in November 2024.

WHO Perspective on Health and Bioeconomy

At the G20 Bioeconomy Initiative meeting in Brasília, WHO was represented by Dr João Paulo Souza, Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information of the Pan American Health Organization (BIREME/PAHO). In his interventions, João Paulo reiterated WHO’s perspective linking health and well-being with bioeconomy, biodiversity, and traditional knowledge. “The G20 is developing principles for a transition towards a more sustainable economic model. In this context, we emphasize the significant value of health for the economy as a whole, and vice versa, with even greater importance for sustainability-driven economic models,” he said. João Paulo also highlighted the need to preserve and protect traditional knowledge and advocated for the implementation of Intellectual Property policies as an additional strategy for the sustainable development of local communities preserving knowledge heritage and biodiversity.

During the meeting, Dr João Paulo Souza presented WHO’s work on traditional, indigenous, complementary, and integrative medicines, including the new WHO Global Strategy on Traditional Medicine and the WHO Global Traditional Medicine Centre. João Paulo also highlighted PAHO’s historical role in this area, particularly the contribution of BIREME, which since 2019 has been developing the Virtual Health Library on Traditional, Complementary, and Integrative Medicine of the Americas (VHL TCIM Americas). Based on this work, WHO has commissioned BIREME to develop the WHO Global Traditional Medicine Library. “Traditional knowledge is key to accelerating the discovery, evaluation, and use of valuable resources found in biodiversity. It is therefore essential to conserve biodiversity and traditional knowledge and to develop a mechanism through which indigenous peoples and local communities can benefit. In this context, Traditional Knowledge Libraries can make a difference” emphasized João Paulo.

The upcoming meetings of the G20 Bioeconomy Initiative will be held on the following topics and dates: Sustainable use of biodiversity for the bioeconomy (Manaus, June 17-19); Bioeconomy fostering sustainable development in its three dimensions – social, economic, and environmental (Rio de Janeiro, September 9-11).

About the G20

The Group of Twenty (G20) is a forum for international economic cooperation focusing on issues such as health, trade, sustainable development, agriculture, energy, the environment, and climate change. The G20 gathers 19 countries (South Africa, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, South Korea, United States, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, United Kingdom, Russia, and Turkey) and two regional bodies: the African Union and the European Union. The G20 Presidency is currently held by the Brazilian government.

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