Indigenous peoples refuse to be the act of ‘song and dance’ of biodiversity – POLITICO

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MARSEILLE, France – Efforts to protect large swathes of the planet to preserve endangered biodiversity are a major challenge – indigenous peoples live on much of this land and feel excluded from formulating such policies.

Ahead of the global biodiversity discussions at next year’s COP15, a group of countries led by France, Costa Rica and the UK to push put 30 percent of the planet under protected status by 2030 as part of a larger effort to reverse biodiversity loss by mid-century.

But this will be impossible “without the recognition of the political and economic space of indigenous peoples,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO of the Global Environment Facility and former Minister of the Environment of Costa Rica.

This means recognizing that indigenous peoples have property rights over much of this land. “We do not recognize that indigenous peoples own a third of the spaces that we need to restore,” he said.

Indigenous peoples make up about 4 percent of the world’s population, but are valued be present on 24 percent of the earth’s surface – land where some 80 percent of the remaining biodiversity is concentrated.

“The challenge is to conserve biodiversity with people, not to create fortress conservation areas,” said Kanyinke Sena, director of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee.

The conflict between the preservation of nature and the rights of discriminated people living in areas such as the Amazon rainforest and the Congo Basin reaches a climax in the World Conservation Congress in Marseille this week. Congress is supposed to set the agenda for COP15, but indigenous groups complain that they are being used to add color to talks without much ability to influence the outcome.

If we are invited, it is often “to present our traditions, songs and dances,” said José Gregorio Diaz Mirabal, coordinator of the Congress of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), during an event at the congress.

Too often, indigenous communities are excluded from major conferences and debates because “we do not have the resources in terms of capital for our people to be present at these kinds of events,” said Noelani Lee, executive director of the Ka Honua non-profit association. Momona in Hawaii.

“Voice and vote”

This is something activists are pushing to change.

Ahead of the kick-off Friday of the Marseille congress organized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), representatives of indigenous groups gathered for their own summit, the first World Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nature – To define their own objectives, lobby for recognition of their rights and ask for support in their conservation efforts.

Indigenous groups also present a movement – which will be put to a vote by IUCN members at the end of this week and is not legally binding – to call for the protection of 80% of the Amazon rainforest by 2025.

It’s about “building a participatory platform within IUCN,” said Mirabal. “We want to be there with a voice and a vote. ”

Political solutions to protect biodiversity “must come from the territories, from the jungle, from water… that’s what we keep saying”, he added.

There are scientific proof to support this claim, according to Carmen Josse Moncayo, biology expert and executive director of Ecuador’s EcoCiencia Foundation. Leaving land in the care of indigenous groups can be an effective way to preserve biodiversity.

“The data clearly shows that protection against deforestation and forest degradation in indigenous territories is almost as strong as in protected areas,” she said. The problem is that “indigenous territories lack resources and a legal framework”.

People Against Preservation

The question of how to deal with indigenous groups deeply divides environmental activists.

A batch of more radical green groups fear that aggressive conservation measures will come at the cost of dispossessing people who live on threatened land.

A group of human rights NGOs – including Survival International, the Rainforest Foundation UK and the Minority Rights Group International – organized a counter-summit last week to protest against human rights violations of indigenous peoples, alleging that their rights and territories are compromised for the benefit of conservation projects.

This is the kind of accusation that guest Extinction Rebellion activists will occupy a WWF center in London last week, accusing the rival Green group of promoting conservation policies that violate human rights.

Martin Léna, advocacy manager at Survival International – the NGO that co-organized the counter-summit – said that “IUCN’s so-called solutions” are dangerous for indigenous peoples because “they are being kicked out of their homes. territories to create national parks in the name of preserving a wild and unspoiled nature. “

“We wanted to give a chance to speak to indigenous peoples who are negatively affected by the conservation of fortresses, who suffer from land grabbing and violence, as they have no say in IUCN.

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