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Indigenous Viewpoints on Global Conservation

This increasing commitment to indigenous peoples and community concerns can be found in accounts by indigenous representatives themselves. Of particular note are the World Parks Congress in 2003 and the World Conservation Forum in 2004. These are perhaps the two most significant conservation events in the past decade.

Unlike the cartoon in the World Watch article where conservationists meet while an indigenous person stands outside the door (which we think is an offensive portrayal of indigenous peoples) -- indigenous peoples were well represented, organized, visible, and engaged in both conferences. Their participation had a measurable impact on both conferences. Suggesting otherwise demeans their work and participation to make their concerns and ideas known at global scales.

We urge you to go to the original sources below, and to search independently for statements directly from indigenous peoples themselves.

On the 2003 5th World Parks Congress (a once per decade event):

"... one of the most exciting and cutting-edge processes at the Vth World Parks Congress: the mainstreaming of community and equity issues. Many of the key outputs of the Congress reflect the increasing commitment of the conservation community to respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, including minority peoples, and to working with these constituencies for the more effective conservation of cultural and biological diversity."
-- The IUCN Theme on Indigenous & Local Communities, Equity & Protected Areas (TILCEPA);

"... the overwhelming majority of Congress participants acceded to indigenous peoples' demands and recommendations. The outputs of the Congress recognise the need to secure indigenous peoples' rights, to end forced relocation, to restitute indigenous peoples' lands and to ensure their engagement as equal partners in protected area management. An Action Plan with a prioritised set of actions to achieve these goals was also agreed."
-- Forest Peoples Programme (from Indigenous Peoples at the Vth World Parks Congress, A Summary Report and Assessment)

"Those whose efforts were devoted to addressing indigenous issues at the World Parks Congress had a largely positive assessment of what transpired. According to Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend, 'All the key policy documents state a new attitude' (Personal Communication). According to Ashish Kothari, 'the WPC represented a significant breakthrough in the global thinking on conservation;' the inclusion of communities, equity and governance on the Congress agenda, along with the presence of indigenous participants in the discussion 'resulted in...a very forward-looking, progressive set of results' (Personal Communication). According to IUCN Chief Scientist Jeff McNeely, 'at least seventeen of the thirty two congress recommendations specifically mentioned indigenous peoples and their issues... For the first time ever, the indigenous peoples were successful in ensuring that their issues were given a full and sympathetic hearing' (Personal Communication). '... there is a huge challenge ahead of all of us to translate the WPC results into actual national level policy and practice... and to ensure that the move towards participatory conservation actually results in enhanced protection for ecosystems and species!' (Personal Communication)"
-- J. Peter Brosius (from Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas at the World Parks Congress)

"Indigenous peoples made important gains at the fifth World Parks Congress (WPC) held in Durban, South Africa, 8-17 September 2003. Over 130 indigenous peoples' representatives attended this major event, organised by the IUCN, which gathers together all the major conservation organisations every ten years."
-- International Campaign for Ecological Justice in Indonesia (from Down to Earth No. 59, November 2003, "Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas - Gains at the global level")

"The World Parks Congress (WPC), organised by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), was the biggest ever gathering on wildlife conservation. It brought together over 3000 professionals and practitioners from over 100 countries. Named "Benefits Beyond Boundaries", the WPC focused on how protected areas should be managed within the larger landscape and how they should much more centrally involve local communities. An exciting feature of the WPC was that over 200 representatives of indigenous peoples, adivasis, nomadic peoples, and other local communities were themselves present to recount their experiences. Such a large presence is unique in the history of conservation conferences. …. One of the major topics of discussion at this Congress was the relationship of local people with the areas set aside for conservation of wild biodiversity (legally called Protected Areas). …. One unique outcome of the Congress was the recognition of Community Conserved Areas, i.e. initiatives of protecting natural ecosystems and species by indigenous, tribal and local communities."
-- Janmanch (from World Parks Congress: India Makes A Mark, Yet Needs New Conservation Directions Back Home)

"... Y por otro lado, se hicieron conocer crecientes ejemplos de co-manejo de áreas protegidas entre Pueblos Indígenas y organismos estatales. Quedó fundamentada la necesidad de respetar el libre consentimiento informado previo (LCIP) de los Pueblos Indígenas, como pre-requisito inevitable antes de ejecutar cualquier decisión que afecte nuestras vidas y culturas. Quedó reafirmada la necesidad de reconocer áreas protegidas íntegramente gestionadas por los pueblos indígenas como reconocimiento a derechos territoriales preexistentes a la creación de cualquiera de las Áreas Protegidas del mundo. En conclusión, las organizaciones indígenas consideramos de suma importancia la participación en este Congreso Mundial que se celebra cada diez años, para poder afirmar las visiones , experiencias y opiniones sobre la materia, como también reafirmar los derechos que nos asisten como culturas milenarias."
-- La Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE) (from La Declaración de los Pueblos Indígenas para Congreso Mundial de Parques)

On the November 2004 World Conservation Congress

"Indigenous Peoples have noted growing support for their concerns within the conservation community. A watershed was reached in Durban where conservationists committed themselves to a 'new paradigm' on protected areas which respects the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples have gathered here in Bangkok to ensure that the significant commitments made in Durban become part of the IUCN's work over the coming decade."
-- Indigenous Peoples Ad Hoc Working Group to the World Conservation Congress (from Indigenous Peoples repudiate press report)


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