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Conservation International

Human Welfare
    Indigenous People
        CEO's Note

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A Note from Peter A. Seligmann
Conservation International Chairman and CEO

From the day Conservation International was created in 1987, the welfare of people has been a fundamental value that underscores everything we do. Our planet’s ecological health is inextricably linked to human health, security and ability to prosper. Conservation simply cannot be achieved without full recognition of this basic truth.

Most of the men and women working for Conservation International were born and raised in the places where we are focusing our efforts to protect nature, from the Amazon’s dense forests to the Philippines’ fragile coral reefs. In more than 40 countries across Latin America, Asia and Africa, we work in some of the poorest developing nations where the social issues are extremely complex. Understanding centuries-old ties that communities have to their lands, speaking ancient dialects and establishing long-term trust are essential for conservation to succeed and to last.

We recognize that indigenous people have perhaps the deepest understanding of our Earth’s living resources. Their lives are closely linked to their natural environments for their immediate needs such as food and shelter, while the Earth is also their spiritual anchor, cherished and protected throughout the ages. We firmly believe that indigenous people must have ownership, control and title of their lands. We also recognize that indigenous communities are heterogeneous, with as many varied viewpoints and differing aspirations as any other community. Our approach is, and always has been, to work closely with local people to ensure their voices are heard and their futures are a part of a sustainable approach to development.

The work we and our partners do today will determine our planet’s fate, and this impacts us all — from traditional forest peoples to those of us living in big cities.

I welcome your interest and involvement in this issue. The following link will provide further details about our work with indigenous people. If you have questions or comments, please contact Lisa Bowen, Senior Director with CI’s Communications Department at (202) 912-1204, or email .

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© CI, Haroldo Castro
Amasina, or shaman, in Suriname.

© CI, Jensen R. Montambault
A CI scientist and local Guyanian on a RAP expedition.

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