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Professor Jan Slikkerveer petitions for worldwide local development at the World Culture Forum in Indonesia

The president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has personally invited Jan Slikkeveer, professor of Ethnobotanical Knowledge Systems in Developing Countries, to give a lecture during the World Culture Forum. The Forum will be hosted in Indonesia from 24 to 27 November.

Prof.dr. Jan Slikkerveer

Indonesian initiative

The international World Culture Forum, aimed at development based on local knowledge especially in rural areas of developing countries, is the first of a series of similar meetings. The Indonesian president initiated the World Culture Forum after a debate in the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in June 2013. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasised the importance of local knowledge for sustainable development. Local knowledge should have a prominent position in the Post 2015 Development programme of the UN.



Slikkerveer was invited because of his area of specialisation: traditional ecological knowledge and sustainable development, which will also be the topic of his lecture. The professor calls his specialisation ‘ethnoscience’ because it is of relevance to different industries, such as medicine, agriculture, environment and the preservation of bio-cultural diversity. Slikkeveer incorporated these theories into the Leiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme (LEAD).

Halting development and poverty

After World War Two a process of socio-economic developments took place in the new independent states in the Third World. Modern knowledge and techniques started to dominate the existing local structures, especially in rural areas. Over-exploitation, the disposal of natural sources and the loss of local knowledge and techniques increased the problems the rural population faced, such as poverty, hunger and ecological deterioration of the area. The recent process of globalisation worsened the local population’s situation.


There has been a reversal in thinking about development in recent times as Ban Ki-moon’s speech in June demonstrates. For decades, Slikkerveer has been petitioning for recognition and revaluation of local knowledge and for this to be integrated into global knowledge systems. He has based his opinions on the belief that this knowledge is the basis for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty. Development, in such a way that the local population benefits from it in the long term, is all but impossible without recognition and implementation of local knowledge. Slikkerveer was, and still is, active in Asia (for instance in Indonesia and Singapore) and Africa (Tanzania and Kenya), and also closer to home in Greece.


Slikkerveer established a number of interdisciplinary programmes – in collaboration with the Universitas Padjadjaran in Bandung, Indonesia – in the field of medicine and ethnobotany during the 1980s. Since then, the integration of micro financing has also become a topic of interest. In 2005 and 2011, Slikkerveer also received awards in 2005 and 2011 for his work in Indonesia. 

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