If Want Save Nature, Recognise Indigenous Peoples

If Want Save Nature, Recognise Indigenous Peoples

The Planet is losing much of its ecosystem and wild life. Negotiations and conferences are happening for saving the globe from a disaster. And the only way to save the nature, according to a recent report, is to include human rights at the heart of all conservation policies, and recognize the cultural and territorial rights of Indigenous peoples.

Central to sustaining the diversity of life on Earth, it would be impossible to address the biodiversity and climate crises without the indigenous peoples, said the report Territories of Life: 2021. The ICCA Consortium, a global non-profit association dedicated to supporting Indigenous peoples, brought out the report.

In the report, the authors stress that the time is now to recognise Indigenous peoples and local communities as the true agents of transformative change. “Supporting Indigenous peoples and local communities to secure their collective lands and territories of life and a minimum bundle of rights is arguably a key ‘missing link’ in global commitments and national-level implementation,” the authors said in the report.

They stressed the importance of the rights to self-determination, governance systems, cultures and ways of life, and rights to access information, access justice and participate in relevant decision-making processes. For this, it required a massive increase in social, political, legal, institutional and financial support for Indigenous peoples and local communities. They needed support from nation-state governments, public and private financial institutions.

The report pointed out the need for social movements and civil society organisations on human rights, conservation, climate justice and land issues to come together.


The report stated that indigenous peoples and local communities are estimated to hold at least 50 per cent of the world’s land under customary systems. However, their rights are only formally recognised in a small fraction of the claimed lands. Further, the report says that Indigenous and tribal peoples manage between 330 and 380 million hectares of forest in Latin America and the Caribbean. Almost half of the areas in the Amazon Basin are in Indigenous territories. Several studies found that the territories under Indigenous peoples have lower rates of deforestation and lower risk of wildfires than state protected areas.


Indigenous peoples and local communities often face overlapping political and economic interests in protecting nature or exploiting it.

Most of the time, Indigenous Peoples and local communities face threats from industries. In 2019, 212 people were killed for taking a stand against environmental destruction, 40 per cent of whom were Indigenous Peoples.

  • Indigenous peoples and local communities play an outsized role in the governance, conservation and sustainable use of the world’s biodiversity and nature.
  • Their contributions to a healthy planet are rooted in their cultures and collective lands and territories.
  • Indigenous peoples and local communities are the de facto custodians of many state and privately governed protected and conserved areas, and they are also conserving a significant proportion of lands and nature outside of such areas.
  • The mainstream conservation sector has a legacy of contestation for Indigenous peoples and local communities, depending on the extent to which their rights, governance systems and ways of life are recognised and respected. This poses both a challenge and an opportunity for future directions of local-to-global conservation efforts.
  • Indigenous peoples and local communities are on the frontline of resisting the main industrial drivers of global biodiversity loss and climate breakdown. They often face retribution and violence for doing so.
  • Even in the face of immense threats, Indigenous peoples and local communities have extraordinary resilience and determination to maintain their dignity and the integrity of their territories and areas. They adapt to rapidly changing contexts and use diverse strategies to secure their rights and collective lands and territories of life.
  • Recognise and respect the central role of Indigenous peoples and local communities in sustaining a healthy planet, and the deep cultural and spiritual relationships and governance systems through which they do so.
  • Support them to secure their collective lands and territories, strengthen their self-determined governance systems, and sustain their cultures and ways of life on their own terms.This needs significant reforms in national political and legal systems as well as international financial and economic systems.
  • Embed and uphold human rights of these people in all policies, laws, institutions, programmes and decision-making processes.
  • Halt the drivers of biodiversity loss and climate breakdown, and halt threats and violence against the peoples and communities who are defending the planet.
  • Develop human rights-based financing as a key lever for equitable and effective implementation of global commitments, including on biodiversity, climate and sustainable development.

The report says that much higher ambition and stronger commitments are needed in four areas in particular:

  1. Explicitly recognise Indigenous peoples and local communities for their outsized roles in protecting and conserving nature.
  2. Place human rights at the heart of the post-2020 framework, including by:
  • Recognising and protecting human rights in general
  • Always recognise and protect the specific rights of particular groups such as Indigenous peoples, peasants, women, youth, and people who are defending human rights and the environment;
  • Integrating minimum safeguards to prevent human rights violations and ensure accountability in certain targets of particular concern to Indigenous peoples and local communities;
  • Including human rights-related indicators in the monitoring framework, with disaggregated data for Indigenous peoples, local communities and women; and
  • Using a human rights-based approach to develop and implement National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans and related laws, policies and programmes at the national and sub-national levels.
  • Increase ambition in targets intended to halt drivers of biodiversity loss. Explicitly identify the industries that are most harmful for biodiversity and commit to divesting from these industries as soon as possible, including by eliminating 100 per cent of perverse incentives by 2025.
  • Increase political and financial support for Indigenous-led philanthropy and appropriate funding mechanisms that go directly to Indigenous peoples and local communities and their organisations.

ICCA Consortium is a global non-profit association dedicated to supporting Indigenous peoples and local communities who are governing and conserving their collective lands, waters and territories. Its organisational Members and individual Honorary members in more than 80 countries are undertaking collective actions at the local, national, regional and international levels across several thematic streams, including documenting, sustaining and defending territories of life, as well as youth and inter-generational relations.


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