Indigenous Peoples and the Institutionalization of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Greenland

Frank Sowa


According to the neoinstitutional theory of the world polity, peripheral societies switch to the complete institutional apparatus of modern social organization. The system of the United Nations leads to the expansion of legal “global models,” for instance global models of how to perceive nature and indigeneity. As rational actors, peripheral societies follow global models, which appear as given “scripts,” to gain recognition. As a local peripheral society, Greenland develops in a manner influenced by global formal structures. Hence, the impact of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) has been immense: First, environmental management and environmental protection institutions and organizations have been established in line with the global model of nature. Second, the Greenlandic Inuit have been recognized as an indigenous people possessing traditional ecological knowledge (global model of indigeneity). Hence, the CBD adopted the image of the “noble eco-savage” living in harmony with nature, an image that the Greenlandic Inuit later reproduced themselves. However, the institutionalization of the CBD is not without contradictions.

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