Traditional settlement of indigenous people, Perak, Malaysia.
Photo: ©Suzillco Suki/Shutterstock

Call for an alternative model for conservation

Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists and experts criticize the outcomes of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, calling for an alternative conservation model that focuses on the rights und needs of Indigenous peoples.

“The IUCN manifesto recommends a business-as-usual approach, which has utterly failed to stop the loss of biodiversity or the destruction of the natural world. And they back the 30x30 plan”, criticizes the NGO Survival International.

In a Manifesto released immediately before the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September 2021, participants of the congress to decolonise conservation “Our Land, Our Nature” in Marseille, France, supported by Minority Rights Group, Rainforest Foundation UK, and Survival International among others, called for a total halt to new Protected Areas that exclude Indigenous and local communities. They now express their disappointment at the outcomes of the congress.

Instead of putting 30 per cent of the earth’s surface under protection by 2030, they call for an alternative model for conservation, a model that takes a human rights- and justice-based approach, putting Indigenous peoples at the centre. The cheapest and best-proven method for conservation is to support Indigenous land rights as much as possible, they say.

Any conservation projects taking place must always obtain the free, prior and informed consent of any local or Indigenous peoples – where this is not possible, no conservation projects should be carried out, according to Survival International. The pivotal questions to put to the Indigenous Peoples before beginning a Conservation Projects should hence be: How can we support you to protect your forest? and How can we help protect your rights? Survival International says. 

In the Marseille Manifesto: a people’s manifesto for the future of conservation signatories demand:

- that governments “fully respect, protect and uphold Indigenous peoples’ land and forest rights, respect collective customary land and forest use by local communities, to ensure protection of that land in accordance with their wishes” as the primary means of protecting the world’s biodiversity

- “Governments and conservation organisations must acknowledge the huge toll that strictly protected conservation areas have taken on the lands, livelihoods and rights of many communities worldwide; they must make concrete plans for reparations of past wrongs, including through transferring control back to the historical and local guardians”

- “High income countries… must cease funding conservation programmes which destroy local people and livelihoods, including by failures of FPIC, irrespective of whether this is intentional or not.”

Ines Lechner, Rural 21

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