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“Conservation as usual” comes under fire from UN expert ahead of world conservation summit

August 24, 2021 - Survival International

‘Our Land, Our Nature’. The conservation industry has a dark side rooted in racism and colonialism that destroys nature and people. © Survival

As conservationists and global leaders prepare to meet in Marseille, France, for the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress from September 3-11, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment has released a strongly-worded policy brief, arguing that achieving environmental goals “demands a dramatic departure from ‘conservation as usual’." His brief calls instead for a radically different, rights-based approach.

While the IUCN congress will propose an extension of current conservation efforts – in particular with a call to expand “Protected Areas” to cover 30% of the globe – the powerful new policy brief from the UN’s David Boyd criticizes the “failures” of the current model. He calls instead for “a transformative approach,” that puts human rights and indigenous peoples at the heart of conservation, including the controversial post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

His call will be amplified at a counter-Congress taking place before the IUCN congress in Marseille, on September 2-3. “Our Land, Our Nature”, a unique global event to decolonize conservation, will bring together more than 30 indigenous and non-indigenous activists, experts and scientists from around 18 countries, and will offer a counter-narrative to the IUCN’s “official” congress. More than 1,600 people have already signed up to attend the event.

The UN brief argues that the what, who and how of conservation must change, and adds that, “Implementing rights-based conservation approaches is both a legal obligation under international law and the most equitable, effective, and efficient conservation strategy available to protect biodiversity at the scale required to end the current global crisis.”

Fiore Longo, head of Survival’s conservation campaign said today, “Many indigenous peoples and Survival have been saying for decades that the fortress conservation model pushed by big conservation organizations like WWF and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is disastrous for both nature and tribal peoples. This policy brief from the UN expert on human rights and environment says the same thing, loud and clear. It’s past time for these organizations and governments to abandon their failed, racist and colonial model and put human rights and indigenous peoples at the heart of conservation and the fight against climate change.”

NOTES: “Our Land, Our Nature” – September 2-3 2021 – Coco Velten, 16 rue Bernard du Bois, Marseille. Register here for the conference: The congress will be followed by a press conference September 3 2021, 10:00-11:00 CEST. Register here for the press conference: A protest calling for conservation to be decolonized and for environmental justice will take place near the IUCN Congress in Marseille, and online, on September 3, 2021 16:30-19:00 CEST. More information here:

Speakers will include:

Mordecai Ogada, Kenyan conservationist and author of “The Big Conservation Lie”, who will explain the subterfuge behind so-called “community conservancies”. Pranab Doley and Birendra Mahato, Indigenous activists from Kaziranga National Park in India and Chitwan National Park in Nepal, who will expose the atrocities behind conservation in their lands. John Vidal, former environment editor at the Guardian, United Kingdom. • Lottie Cunningham Wren, Indigenous human rights advocate from Nicaragua, and winner of the Right Livelihood award 2020. Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Tebtebba and former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Philippines. Blaise Mudodosi Muhigwa, Congolese lawyer and environmental jurist. Dina Gilio-Whitaker, USA, Lecturer of American Indian Studies at California State University San Marcos, and an independent educator in American Indian environmental policy and other issues. Archana Soreng, UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, India.

Further highlights from the UN brief

Boyd asserts that “States must improve the draft Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework by guaranteeing that rights-based approaches are obligatory in all actions to conserve, restore, and share the benefits of biodiversity, including conservation financing.”

He is damning about what he describes as “modest improvements” to the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, pointing out that it still “fails to mention “human rights,” fails to require human rights due diligence in conservation planning and finance, fails to call for the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ and other rural rights holders’ rights to nature, and fails to include any measurable targets to track the mainstreaming of rights-based approaches.”

He makes clear that the rapid expansion of protected areas to cover 30 percent of Earth’s lands and waters must not be achieved at the expense of further human rights violations against indigenous peoples and other rural people.

These individuals and groups “must be acknowledged as key partners in protecting and restoring nature,” Boyd said. “Their human, land and tenure rights, knowledge, and conservation contributions must be recognized, respected, and supported.”

Boyd cautions against “fortress conservation” approaches aimed at restoring “pristine wilderness” free from human inhabitants, saying this approach is based on mistaken beliefs and has had devastating human rights impacts on communities living in targeted areas, including indigenous peoples and other rural dwellers.

For the original article, see here:

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