Whakatane Mechanism: Redressing Wrongs, and Securing Rights-Based Conservation

In 2011 in Whakatane (in Aotearoa / New Zealand) the Mechanism was initiated by IUCN, indigenous representatives, FPP and CI as one way to implement relevant 2008 IUCN WCC resolutions, including 4.052’s call for a “mechanism to address and redress the effects of historic and current injustices against indigenous peoples in the name of conservation of nature and natural resources”.

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¿Síntoma de un malestar más profundo? El asesinato de un joven batwa por parte de un guardia ecológico en la República Democrática del Congo

El asesinato el 26 de agosto de un joven batwa por un guarda ecológico fue trágico por sí mismo, pero también representa una tragedia mucho más generalizada relacionada con la conservación. Su padre cuenta cómo su hijo fue asesinado mientras recolectaban plantas medicinales en sus tierras ancestrales. Tierras de las cuales los batwa fueron excluidos forzosamente desde la década de los años 70 debido a la creación del Parque Nacional Kahuzi-Biega (PNKB), un parque que impone la exclusión total de las personas cuyos derechos de tenencia colectiva deberían ser la base de la conservación, en lugar de ser negados a la fuerza por esta misma.

Este enfoque de conservación prevalece en África, incluso en la frontera con Uganda donde los batwa fueron forzosamente desalojados de su tierras ancestrales, y en donde finalmente se les negaron sus derechos de acceso luego de la creación de los Parques Nacionales de Bwindi y Mgahinga en 1991. Aquí, los batwa han sido dispersados, la mayoría vive en una pobreza extrema en otras tierras, y hasta su lengua está desapareciendo ya que aquellos que poseen las habilidades o el conocimiento más profundo sobre el bosque siguen siendo ignorados y se les niegan sus derechos a sus tierras ancestrales.

Más hacia el este, el pueblo Ogiek de Chepkitale, Monte Elgon en Kenia, utilizó el proceso de diálogo del Mecanismo de Whakatane de la UICN para facilitar el diálogo entre todas las partes, con miras a recuperar sus derechos colectivos sobre las tierras que fueron oficialmente declaradas como áreas protegidas excluyentes sin su consentimiento. Estas tierras ancestrales han sido el sustento de los ogiek que a su vez las han sido mantenido.

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IMPACT Kenya Host International Workshop on Advancing Rights and Equity in Area-Based Conservation

20 March, 2024

With the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework in 2022, human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities were centred in biodiversity policy in a ground-breaking way. The entire Framework commits to adopting a human rights-based approach and in specific targets, the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities are highlighted again. This is the case in Target 3 (the so-called ‘conservation target’) which insists that the expansion of areas recognised as conserved happens “respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local community, including over their traditional territories” and recognises that these territories can be, themselves, part of the answer for how to expand conservation.

Seeking to address how these rights can be advanced in area-based conservation, and how the equally crucial commitment to ‘equitable governance’ across all conservation areas can be met, the Forest Peoples Programme co-convened a major international workshop in January 2024 on Advancing Rights and Equity in Area-based Conservation, hosted by IMPACT Kenya, a Maasai organisation, and held in Nanyuki, in Kenya. The workshop was convened together with a wide range of partners, including IUCN, and two of its commissions (IUCN WCPA, IUCN CEESP), the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity, the ICCA Consortium, IMPACT Kenya and the International Institute for Education and Development.

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Caring for community lands – the case of the Mt Elgon Ogiek in Kenya

22 May, 2023

The Ogiek of Chepkitale, Mount Elgon, Kenya, protect and care for their community lands over the long term.

Published today in Oryx – the international journal of conservation – this open access article also highlights how this community control is under constant threat until and unless national law and practice recognizes the collective tenure rights of such communities.

Read the article here

The Ogiek of Chepkitale, Mount Elgon, Kenya, have worked extremely hard to regain their community land rights, and to reassert their collective care for their lands. Even though this rights are not officially recognised, they have been able to stop outside forces – including those who present themselves as coming in the name of conservation – from disrupting their lifeways, lifeways that are grounded in sustaining and being sustained by their lands.

n 2000, on advice from IUCN, the Kenyan government evicted the Ogiek from their last remaining ancestral lands at Chepkitale, but they returned despite the forceful nature of these evictions. Since then, they have remained and strengthened their presence, including through involving IUCN in assessing the situation through a Whakatane assessment.

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"We are Nature" : Africa Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities' Kigali Declaration at the first Africa Protected Areas Congress 2022

1 August, 2022

The first Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) took place in Kigali, Rwanda from 18-23rd July, 2022.

On 16-17th July, indigenous peoples and local communities from more than 40 African nations convened in Kigali to create this declaration. It is a culmination of multiple sub-regional gatherings and convenings that happened to ensure many voices were represented in the declaration.

Read the full declaration here

Lisez la déclaration ici (français)

In the declaration, they set out their commitments, as well as listing listing their calls to governments, donors, conservation organisations and research, media and academia.

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The Nairobi Declaration, presented by the Africa Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities to the Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) 2022

19 July, 2022

Representatives of Indigenous Peoples-led conservation organisations and networks in Africa convened in Nairobi, Kenya on 15 – 16 June 2022 under the auspices of the Alliance Rights, Inclusion and Social Equity in Conservation (ARISEC), to plan for their meaningful participation in the first IUCN’s Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) scheduled for July 2022 in Rwanda. At this event, they created this declaration.

This is a Declaration to IUCN, and its member organizations, governments, and conservation partners, that is affirmed by 50 participants drawn from 6 countries in Africa.

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"We do not beg, we demand an end to colonial conservation” Indigenous peoples from East Africa call on IUCN to commit to “decolonise conservation” on the occasion of the IUCN Africa Protected Area Congress

19 July, 2022

Kigali, Rwanda

On the opening day of the Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) in Kigali, Indigenous Peoples from East Africa call on the IUCN to put their rights front and center in any conservation efforts being proposed, including an immediate end to illegal evictions from areas where people have lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years.

“It’s the indigenous communities who have been taking care of our lands,” said a Maasai community representative from Tanzania.

“This is why our lands are so attractive for the ‘conservationists’ to come and evict us. They say we are destroying our land. If we have done that then why is our land attracting them?” she said.

Too often, efforts at conservation have come at huge cost to the peoples who have lived in the designated areas for millennia, and as a result, at a huge cost to the ecosystems and wildlife they’re expecting to protect. This is the case, for example, for thousands of Maasai who have been displaced, including those targeted in direct and brutal evictions last month in Loliondo, Tanzania, to make space for tourism and wildlife hunting. Most of the evicted Maasai are lacking basic needs, including food supplies, medical care and accommodation, and over 2,000 have now crossed into Kenya to avoid further harassment and detention by security forces. Judicial harrassment followed the shootings, with a case of the 27 people (including 9 ward councillors) charged with murder set for the 28 of July while the 72 Loliondo residents that were arrested for allegedly being “illegal” immigrants have been released on bail except for one person.

“The colonial governments gazetted our lands and trampled on our traditional ways of conservation”

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Indigenous rights key to conservation: IUCN listens to indigenous peoples as it sets new conservation policy and grapples with historic harms

1 October, 2021

Given the historic harmful legacy that some protected areas have had for indigenous peoples and local communities, there is a real need to re-think how the world’s protected and conserved areas are established and who governs and manages them. This was a key topic for discussion at this year’s World Conservation Congress.

The Congress, held by IUCN every four years, is the way the Union sets its own policy and through which it makes recommendations to other bodies. This year’s Congress was a tricky, hybrid affair which tried to combine virtual participation and in-person discussions, but for many present was the first opportunity to meet in person to discuss the climate and biodiversity crises since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.

“We come to international forums and speak your language, because otherwise we would not be heard.”

Marie-Josee Artist, Indigenous Community Leader, Suriname

Although some indigenous organisations have been IUCN members for many years, this year’s Congress in Marseille, France, was the first time that indigenous peoples’ organisations attended under their own category of membership. Their contributions to both the formal and informal business of the Congress was high-profile and impressive.

Indigenous and community representation at the Congress

The formal business of the Congress revolves mainly around the proposal of, and negotiation of, ‘motions’ which are member-proposed statements either about the policy of the IUCN itself (which become ‘Resolutions’ when adopted), or statements urging action by others (becoming ‘Recommendations’).

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Further clashes between eco-guards and Batwa reported on a daily basis in DRC

2 August, 2019

Following recent deadly clashes between eco-guards and Batwa Pygmies in April 2019 that resulted in the death of two people - one Batwa and one eco-guard - further clashes took place on 17 July 2019, during which one Batwa was killed and several others were seriously wounded by eco-guards’ bullets, meanwhile one eco-guard also suffered serious injuries.

On 1 Aug a Batwa and an eco-guard were killed following an altercation in Bugamanda (in the territory of Kalehe). Bugamanda is one of the places that the Batwa have returned to inside Kahuzi-Biega National Park (PNKB) following PNKB abandoning a Dialogue process. Other clashes between eco-guards and Batwa are reported on a daily basis.

The 'Centre d’Accompagnement des Autochtones Pygmées et Minoritaires Vulnérables' (CAMV) wishes to urgently alert national and international opinion to the worrying and disastrous situation in Kahuzi Biega National Park (PNKB) in DRC. CAMV offers its condolences to the family of the Batwa and of the eco-guard who died during this latest incident.

"We once again condemn the disproportionate use of lethal weapons by eco-guards against the Batwa, and call on the Batwa to avoid taking justice into their own hands and instead peacefully claim their rights," said a local CAMV spokesperson.

Securing human rights to secure nature

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Transforming conservation - a rights-based approach

20 March, 2019

In recent weeks, there has been significant press coverage of human rights abuses connected with the work of international conservation charities, including WWF. This summary outlines recommendations emerging from nearly 30 years work in preventing human rights abuses in protected-area conservation programmes - download the full report here.

Recently published allegations of human rights abuses connected with the work of international conservation charities have shocked donors and the public alike. These allegations are consistent with evidence of human rights violations against indigenous peoples and local communities that Forest Peoples Programme and partners have encountered and documented over the course of nearly 30 years of work. While there have been moments when progress in this area seems to have been made (e.g. the 2003 Durban Accord, and the adoption of social policies by conservation agencies) changes to practice on the ground have been limited or quickly reversed, despite repeated calls by human rights organisations over decades. Without such change, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, warns that conservation will continue to “ignore the growing body of evidence that forests thrive when Indigenous Peoples remain on their customary lands and have legally recognised rights to manage and protect them.” [i]

We believe that the form which conservation work takes requires a radical, root and branch transformation to put an end to the repeated, serious and systematic violations of indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights.

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