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New decisions boost the support of indigenous peoples’ rights in conservation

September 19 2016

Photo: Colectivo Sinestesia/ IUCN
Earlier this month at the World Conservation Congress (IUCN) in Hawaii, state, government and civil society members adopted key decisions boosting support for indigenous peoples’ rights. IWGIA welcomes these recent resolutions strengthening the presence and role of indigenous organisations in the IUCN.

One particularly important decision taken by the IUCN Members’ Assembly in Hawaii was to create a new category of membership for indigenous peoples’ organisations, which indigenous representatives present at the Congress welcomed and endorsed. Other five decisions were also adopted in relation to:

  • Recognising, understanding and enhancing the role of indigenous peoples and local communities in tackling the illegal wildlife trade crisis
  • Enabling the Whakatane Mechanism to contribute to conservation through securing communities’ rights (territories and resources of indigenous peoples and rural communities)
  • Affirmation of the role of indigenous cultures in global conservation efforts
  • System of categories for indigenous collective management areas in Central America
  • Safeguarding indigenous lands, territories and resources from unsustainable developments

“This decision is historical because is the first time in IUCN’s history that a new membership category has been established and it marks a turning point for the inclusion and full participation of Indigenous peoples in all aspects of IUCN's work”, said Aroha Te Pareake Mead, Chair of IUCN's Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP).

Also at the Conference, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Victoria Tauli‑Corpuz, presented her report on how conservation policies impact indigenous communities and their rights. The report documents how conservation policies impact directly indigenous communities and their rights. Threats to protected areas include “extractive industries, logging (both legal and illegal), expansion of agribusiness plantations, and mega-energy and infrastructure projects which are undertaken without obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples who are directly affected”, reported the Special Rapporteur.

World Heritage sites: Different examples of conservation policies that affect indigenous peoples’ rights

For the preparation of the Special Rapporteur’s report, IWGIA submitted valuable documentation on the issue of World Heritage and Indigenous Peoples Rights (See IWGIA’s Submission to UNSRIP Victoria Tauli-Corpuz below).

Of the more than 1,000 areas designated as World Heritage sites under UNESCO’s 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention), a large number (close to 100) incorporate or affect the lands, territories or resources of indigenous peoples. There are numerous World Heritage sites in indigenous peoples’ territories where indigenous peoples are completely excluded from management and decision-making and that are managed in ways that are harmful to indigenous peoples and their livelihoods and highly inconsistent with the standards affirmed in the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Concrete examples of the establishment of World Heritage sites that resulted in violations of the rights of indigenous peoples are: Lake Bogoria National Reserve (Kenya), Sangha Trinational (Congo, Cameroon and Central African Republic), Western Ghats (India), Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Tanzania) and Kaeng  Krachan Forest Complex (Thailand).

There are also cases where the World Heritage Convention has been instrumental for the recognition, respect and fulfilment of the rights of indigenous peoples, like in the Laponian Area in Sweden.  IWGIA’s contribution also documents the cases where the World Heritage nominations were undertaken by indigenous peoples themselves: Pimachiowin Aki (Canada) and Kakadu National Park (Australia). 

Here you can read and download the decisions adopted at the Congress: