AboutZoos, Since 2008


Indige­nous Peo­ples greatly out­per­form Govs and NGOs in con­serv­ing pro­tected areas

pub­lished 14 July 2018 | mod­i­fied 14 July 2018

New find­ings released on 27 June in Oslo sug­gest Indige­nous Peo­ples and local com­mu­ni­ties dra­mat­i­cally out­per­form other man­agers, con­serv­ing lands and forests for a quar­ter the cost of pub­lic and pri­vate invest­ments to con­serve pro­tected areas.

Manu National Park PeruManú National Park, Peru.
The Manu National Park is part of the trop­i­cal Andes bio­di­ver­sity hotspot, the world’s most bio­log­i­cally rich and diverse region. The park is con­sid­ered one of the most impor­tant jew­els in the crown of Peru’s National Net­work of Nat­ural Areas Pro­tected by the State (Sis­tema Nacional de Áreas Nat­u­rales Pro­te­gi­das por el Estado — SINANPE). Its con­ser­va­tion and pro­tec­tion, there­fore, is a pri­or­ity for the National Ser­vice of Nat­ural Areas Pro­tected by the State (Ser­vi­cio Nacional de Áreas Nat­u­rales Pro­te­gi­das por el Estado — SER­NANP).
Image credit: Corey Spruit, licensed under the Cre­ative Com­mons Attri­bu­tion 2.0 Generic license.

The new report, of which the results are pre­sented on the web­site Cor­nered by Pro­tected Areas, co-​authored by Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on the Rights of Indige­nous Peo­ples Vic­to­ria Tauli-​Corpuz and the Rights and Resources Ini­tia­tive (RRI) was released as for­est researchers here revealed a spike in defor­esta­tion that threat­ens efforts to reach global cli­mate goals.

If we are to save the world’s forests and pre­vent a cli­mate cri­sis, Indige­nous Peo­ples and local com­mu­ni­ties must be part of the solu­tion,” Tauli-​Corpuz reminded par­tic­i­pants from gov­ern­ment, civil soci­ety, and the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity at the world’s largest gath­er­ing on trop­i­cal forests and their role in achiev­ing global cli­mate and devel­op­ment goals. “Based on a grow­ing body of evi­dence, they make tremen­dous con­tri­bu­tions, con­serv­ing some of the most bio­di­verse lands on Earth.”

Sep­a­rately, but also in Oslo, a new analy­sis from the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land on Global For­est Watch was released today, report­ing the loss of a record-​high 15.8 mil­lion hectares of trop­i­cal for­est cover in 2017. The find­ings sug­gest that efforts of Indige­nous Peo­ples to con­serve the world’s forests and for­est car­bon are more urgent than ever before, said Tauli-​Corpuz.

This con­ser­va­tion research under­scores the cost of ignor­ing [local] com­mu­ni­ties and their immense con­tri­bu­tions to conservation.

Alain Frechette, Direc­tor of Strate­gic Analy­sis and Global Engage­ment at the Rights and Resources Initiative.

Invest­ments in for­est pro­tec­tion would be more effi­cient and more just if allo­cated to the peo­ple who have kept the forests stand­ing up until now,” added Frechete.

Indige­nous Peo­ples and local com­mu­ni­ties have cus­tom­ary rights to at least half of the world’s land, but legal own­er­ship over just 10 per­cent. Research has shown that legally rec­og­nized indige­nous and com­mu­nity forests store more car­bon and expe­ri­ence lower rates of defor­esta­tion than forests under other tenure regimes — includ­ing pro­tected areas.

Despite pro­tect­ing their lands — often for gen­er­a­tions — Indige­nous Peo­ples and local com­mu­ni­ties are con­fronting a grow­ing trend in the des­ig­na­tion of their lands across the Global South as “pro­tected areas,” cre­at­ing a cri­sis of crim­i­nal­iza­tion and human rights vio­la­tions, accord­ing to the find­ings pre­sented today by Tauli-​Corpuz.

Instead of part­ner­ing with the peo­ple who live in and depend on forests, con­ser­va­tion ini­tia­tives con­tinue to drive com­mu­ni­ties from their ances­tral lands, part of a larger trend of crim­i­nal­iza­tion world­wide,” said Tauli-​Corpuz. “In some cases, they are declared squat­ters in their own ter­ri­to­ries. In my capac­ity as Spe­cial Rap­por­teur, I have seen a dis­turb­ing uptick of harass­ment, crim­i­nal­iza­tion, and even extra­ju­di­cial killings tar­get­ing communities.”

The new report exam­ined the impacts of pro­tected areas on Indige­nous Peo­ple and local com­mu­ni­ties in 28 coun­tries, and esti­mated the con­ser­va­tion invest­ments of com­mu­ni­ties in 14 coun­tries. It con­cluded that:

Indige­nous Peo­ples and local com­mu­ni­ties have only lim­ited recog­ni­tion of their com­mu­nity land rights in pro­tected areas;

In spite of this legal inse­cu­rity, indige­nous and local com­mu­ni­ties world­wide invest up to US$4.57 bil­lion per year in con­ser­va­tion, includ­ing up to US$1.71 bil­lion per year in for­est con­ser­va­tion — as much as 23 per­cent of the amount spent on land and for­est con­ser­va­tion by the for­mal envi­ron­men­tal community;

Com­mu­ni­ties achieved equal or bet­ter con­ser­va­tion results with lower lev­els of invest­ment — show­ing that they are not only the most effec­tive, but also the most cost-​effective stew­ards of their lands.

In Peru, for instance, legal recog­ni­tion of com­mu­nity for­est rights reduced defor­esta­tion and dis­tur­bance by as much as 81 per­cent in the year fol­low­ing titling, and by 56 per­cent the year after; in other words, secur­ing land rights can lead to imme­di­ate envi­ron­men­tal benefits.

In Brazil, com­mu­nity forests store 36 per­cent more car­bon per hectare than other forests. And given that indige­nous and local com­mu­nity lands hold at least one quar­ter of the world’s above­ground trop­i­cal for­est car­bon, and likely much more, ensur­ing that com­mu­ni­ties have secure rights to these lands is crit­i­cal to larger efforts to pro­tect forests and the car­bon they contain.

Gov­ern­ments and envi­ron­men­tal organ­i­sa­tions have made numer­ous com­mit­ments and pledged to adhere to inter­na­tional stan­dards, yet the com­mu­ni­ties respon­si­ble for main­tain­ing the world’s lands and forests face increas­ing threats.

Pro­tected areas were already pro­tected by the com­mu­ni­ties who lived on and con­served these lands for gen­er­a­tions,” said Rukka Som­bol­inggi, Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Indige­nous’ Peo­ples Alliance of the Arch­i­pel­ago (AMAN). “The idea that con­ser­va­tion requires emp­ty­ing the land of its cus­tom­ary inhab­i­tants has resulted in untold harm to these com­mu­ni­ties and the lands they protect.”

Added Som­bol­inggi, “In Indone­sia, com­mu­ni­ties often con­tend with crim­i­nal­iza­tion and per­se­cu­tion when these forests over­lap with pri­vate con­ces­sions or pro­tected areas. The des­ig­na­tion of Kasepuhan com­mu­nity lands as a National Park, for instance, has led to harass­ment and intim­i­da­tion by police, who crack down on com­mu­ni­ties for sim­ply liv­ing in their homes and gath­er­ing their tra­di­tional foods but fail to put a stop to ille­gal log­ging by outsiders.”

The trend of “mil­i­ta­riza­tion of con­ser­va­tion” — arm­ing park rangers and organ­is­ing them as a mil­i­tary unit — began as a way to help rangers defend them­selves against poach­ers and organ­ised ter­ror­ists, but the report notes that vio­lence by armed rangers against unarmed Indige­nous Peo­ples and local com­mu­ni­ties has been doc­u­mented in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic, the Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of the Congo, Guatemala, South Africa, and else­where. India’s Kazi­ranga National Park alone has seen 106 extra­ju­di­cial killings in the last 20 years. Else­where, com­mu­ni­ties face crim­i­nal­iza­tion and vio­lence for prac­tis­ing their tra­di­tional livelihoods.

The find­ings come as the Spe­cial Rap­por­teur her­self faces charges of ter­ror­ism in her native Philip­pines by Pres­i­dent Rodrigo Duterte’s gov­ern­ment, which Tauli-​Corpuz believes were filed in retal­i­a­tion for her advo­cacy on behalf of dis­placed Indige­nous Peo­ples in the Min­danao region of the Philippines.

The sci­ence is clear: forests are the best tool we have to com­bat cli­mate change, and to con­serve our forests we need to recog­nise the rights of the Indige­nous Peo­ples and local com­mu­ni­ties who invest in pro­tect­ing them,” said Frechette. “Global con­ser­va­tion schemes such as REDD+ and the Aichi Bio­di­ver­sity Tar­gets ref­er­ence the need to con­sult Indige­nous Peo­ples and local com­mu­ni­ties. But this is clearly not enough. In order to fully respect the rights of the world’s Indige­nous Peo­ples, we urgently need to move toward rights-​based con­ser­va­tion mod­els that can secure human well-​being and global progress on cli­mate and devel­op­ment priorities.”

(Source: Cor­nered by Pro­tected Areas press release, 27.06.2018)

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