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Islands Of Nature – Biodiversity Needs The Voices And Actions Of Indigenous Peoples

Press Release – Forest Peoples Programme

Without immediate action we face catastrophic loss of nature and biodiversity and increasing risks of pandemics as a result, as showcased in a major report released by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity last week. A complementary report released …

Without immediate action we face catastrophic loss of nature and biodiversity and increasing risks of pandemics as a result, as showcased in a major report released by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity last week. A complementary report released at the same UN meeting, the Local Biodiversity Outlooks 2, shows the need for a step change in how we confront these crises.

Globally, we have failed to stem the loss of biodiversity and commitments stand unfulfilled. As negotiations proceed on new commitments for post-2020, there must be change.

“Ongoing disregard of the vital contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use constitutes a major missed opportunity for the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity 2011¬2020,” said Joji Cariño, (Philippines) of Forest Peoples Programme, representing Centres of Distinction on Indigenous and Local Knowledge, International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity, and a co-author of the LBO-2.

“[This] neglect has affected the under-achievement of all 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, with fundamental lessons remaining to be learnt about securing the future of nature and cultures,” she said. 

“Putting the cultures and rights of IPLCs at the heart of the 2050 biodiversity strategy would deliver sustainable livelihoods and wellbeing, and positive outcomes for biodiversity and climate,” said Carino. 

The science is clear – biodiversity needs indigenous peoples

The IPBES Global Assessment shows that much of the world’s biodiversity is located on the lands of IPLCs. Approximately 35% of the global area that is formally protected and 35% of all remaining terrestrial areas with very low human intervention and rich in biodiversity overlap with indigenous lands; when the lands of local communities are added, those percentages are even higher.

The key role of indigenous peoples and local communities in protecting biodiversity is supported by increasing bodies of research, including Science, Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as cited last year by the UN’s climate and biodiversity panels.

Yet far from being viewed as allies, too often indigenous peoples and local communities have been attacked – both by those who would exploit the natural world and those who seek to forcibly protect it. This much change.

Indigenous peoples and local communities are also disproportionately impacted by violent land grabs and brutality on the frontier of expanding industrial agriculture, meat and crop production.

The LBO-2 is dedicated to these people who are risking their lives protecting the world’s soils, forests, and rivers, and the biodiversity that they nurture. The report says “We stand with these brave environmental human-rights defenders who are routinely harassed and criminalised—some even killed—for standing up for their rights and for nature.”

Speaking about evictions from her ancestral territory in Kenya, Milka Chepkorir said “Continuous evictions leads to a continuous loss of our culture and traditions which has been the enabling factor for our conservation way of live. And therefore, loss of biodiversity.” 

“Do we ever ask ourselves how much biodiversity is lost over a period of time of continuous evictions using fire just to keep communities off “protected areas”, areas that they have been living in since time immemorial?”

Fortress protections do not work and indeed “The only way to achieve these global goals is through secure land rights for indigenous peoples and local communities”, said Milka. 

Cause for optimism: unleashing the power of local and collective actions

Ahead of the UN Biodiversity Summit on 30 September 2020, more than 50 indigenous and community authors have contributed to the LBO-2, providing their perspectives on what should be done to bend the curve of biodiversity loss and change our direction of travel.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the UN Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said “LBO-2 embodies an optimism that the destruction of Nature and the dramatic loss of biodiversity and cultural diversity can be successfully reversed, by embracing the values, and building on the collective and local actions of the World’s indigenous peoples and local communities.”

Co-author of the LBO-2, Maurizio Farhan Ferrari, said, “It is clear that we as a human family are at a crossroads; we can allow unprecedented biodiversity loss and rapidly accelerating climate change to continue, or we can challenge existing unsustainable systems and ourselves to find solutions”

“Protecting biodiversity at all scales must embed indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ own territories and systems of governance and management. Considering that much of the world’s biodiversity and more than 20% of carbon is stored on their lands and territories, securing their rights to land should be considered one of the most effective ways to make rapid progress towards biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development goals,” he said.

In a statement, the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity said, “In order to bend the curve of biodiversity loss, we need to bend the curve of inequality and ensure the equitable sharing of benefits and costs. To achieve the vision 2050, there is a need for a paradigm shift in terms of values at the core of society that influence their behaviour for a transformation towards a responsible and sustainable society.”

The authors of this publication argue that future global biodiversity goals must embed the vital roles of indigenous peoples and local communities in protecting biological and cultural diversity.

From connectedness to nature comes the drive to safeguard it

“From connectedness to nature comes the drive to safeguard it,” said Josefa Tauli, Philippines, Global Youth Biodiversity Network.

“From valuing our natural & cultural heritage comes the drive ensure it is passed on. These are the things we learn in school & at home, from our peers and elders,” she said.

Increasingly, these ‘islands’ of great biological and cultural diversity found on indigenous and local community lands are being surrounded by declining resilience in vast tracts of the earth. This difference in biodiversity directly corelates with the value systems through which societies view nature.

“Indigenous peoples don’t see nature as separate from people,” said Lakpa Nuri Sherpa of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and member of IIFB.

“We interact with nature every day, and we think carefully how we manage our resources – we have spiritual and sacred relationships with our natural resources, which means we must manage our lands in a sustainable way so we can pass it on to the next generation.

“Without security for our collective land rights, the land can be exploited, nature loses out, and there’s nothing to pass on to the next generation,” he said.

The LBO-2 reveals local solutions to the pressing global challenges, developed, implemented and sustained by indigenous peoples and communities.

“In order for the 2050 vision [of living in harmony with nature] to be successful, the contribution of all sectors must be taken into account,” said Ramiro Batzin, Co-Coordinator of the IIFB.

“In our case, it must be in line with indigenous worldviews that place emphasis on the intrinsic relationship between human beings, Mother Nature and the universe, and the essential link that exists between nature and culture,” said Batzin.

Carino said, “Indigenous peoples’ values and knowledge provide insights for reciprocal human-nature relationships amidst the crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change.”

“Biodiversity needs the voices and actions of indigenous peoples,” she said.


Speakers at this event will include:

  • John Scott (UN Convention on Biological Diversity)
  • Joji Carino (Philippines/Asia)
  • Tonio Sadik (Canada/N. America)
  • Robert Guimaraes (FECONAU, Peru, Lat Am) (Case study)
  • Miguel Guimaraes (FECONAU, Peru, Lat Am)
  • Kevin Chang (TBC) (Hawaii/N. America) (Case study)
  • Josefa Tauli, Philippines, Global Youth Biodiversity Network (Case study)
  • Peter Kitelo (Cheptikale Indigenous Peoples Development Programme, Kenya/Africa) (Case study)
  • Lakpa Nuri Sherpa (TBC)(AIPP, Asia)

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