Enlarging protected areas could displace hundreds of millions
128 environmental and human rights NGOs and experts warn that a United Nations drive to increase global protected areas such as national parks could lead to severe human rights violations and cause irreversible social harm for some of the world’s poorest people, the organisation Survival International reported on its website in early September 2020.
In May 2021, the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) is set to agree on a new target to place at least 30 per cent of the Earth’s surface under conservation status by 2030. This ‘30 x 30’ target would double the current protected land area over the coming decade.
However, concerns about the human cost of the proposal as well as its efficacy as an environmental measure are growing as in regions such as Africa’s Congo Basin and South Asia nature protection has become increasingly militarised in recent years, Survival International points out. They state that a series of recent exposés have revealed how communities continue to be forcibly displaced and dispossessed to make way for protected areas and are facing severe human rights violations by heavily armed anti-poaching agents.
In a letter to the CBD Secretariat, the NGOs warn that as many as 300 million people could be affected unless much stronger protection is assured for the rights of indigenous peoples and other traditional landowners and environmental stewards. Among the NGOs are many African and Indian organisations.
Environmental groups have also stated that ‘fortress conservation’ found in much of the Global South is failing to prevent the rapid decline in biodiversity, citing how typically heavy-handed enforcement can turn local people against conservation efforts and could actually hasten environmental destruction.
Any further increase in protected areas, they argue, must first be preceded by an independent review into the social impacts and conservation effectiveness of existing protected areas.
Read more and download the letter to the CBD Secretariat at Survival International website