© Juan Pratginestos / WWF
Putting people at the centre of conservation
For generations, Indigenous Peoples and local communities around the world have cared for much of the world’s most valuable forest, grassland, savannah, wetland and ocean.
Many of these ‘territories of life’ face destructive development, while indigenous cultures and traditions are also under threat. Their conservation depends on the recognition of Indigenous Peoples and local communities as their rightful custodians.

We have much to learn from the unique knowledge, skills and values of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, as well as how they integrate conservation within their cultural and spiritual traditions.
Conserving Territories of Life - from the ICCA Consortium

Indigenous Lands and Conservation

Some estimates suggest Indigenous Peoples manage or hold tenure rights over a quarter of the world’s land outside Antarctica, including about 40% of all terrestrial protected areas and ecologically intact landscapes on Earth.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples establishing a universal framework for the recognition, dignity and well-being of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007 yet remains far from being fully implemented.

Successfully maintaining the natural systems that allow us all to thrive requires our full acknowledgement of the rights, knowledge and practices of Indigenous Peoples.

© © Chris Johnson / WWF-Aus
Inclusive conservation
A top priority for WWF is supporting Indigenous Peoples and local communities to protect their lands and biodiversity from destructive activities like logging, mining, industrial agriculture and infrastructure.
It’s critical that they are able to safeguard their rights and to continue govern their resources in ways that benefit them as well as nature.

This is called ‘inclusive conservation’ – it’s not just about supporting conservation by Indigenous Peoples and local communities but also recognising they have the right to decide how to manage their territories - as well as when, how and if to involve others.

“We can't protect nature without recognising indigenous rights and territories of life. We fully support inclusive conservation.”

Elaine Geyer-Allély, Interim Leader, Global Governance Practice, WWF

© Julio García Robles
Recognising rights
Many Indigenous Peoples and local communities are campaigning to regain control of ancestral lands and manage them effectively and sustainably, for their own well-being and for nature.
And in many countries, WWF is working with them to secure formal restitution and recognition of their rights to lands, waters and natural resources, and to strengthen indigenous governance delivered on their own terms.

In Colombia, for exmaple, we’ve been collaborating with Indigenous Peoples for over ten years, including partnering with OPIAC, the National Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon, and working with the Ministry of Environment to find joint solutions to deforestation and forest management.

In Borneo in 2004, we helped the Lundayeh, Lun Bawang, Kelabit dan Sa’Ban Indigenous Peoples establish the transboundary Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands of Borneo (FORMADAT) to sustainably manage their ancestral lands which straddle the border between Indonesia and Malaysia.

Winning an Equator Prize in 2015, they declared the Krayan Highlands an area for organic and traditional agriculture a year later, which then gained official recognition from the district government in 2019.

In the far northern Canadian Arctic, WWF has been working with Inuit for over a decade and most recently with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association for the protection of Tuvaijuittuq, an area almost the size of Germany whose name means ‘the place where the ice never melts’.

A refuge from climate change for species like polar bears and narwhals, as well as the communities that depend on them, the Canadian government recently declared it a Marine Protected Area. This includes restricting commercial shipping, and future oil and gas development, and supporting an Inuit-led conservation economy that benefits local communities.

Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands of Borneo


Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area

Tuvaijuittuq – meaning 'the place where the ice never melts' – is heavily impacted by climate change and is expected to be one of the last places in the world to retain sea ice year round, making it a key refuge for Arctic species such as walruses, seals, and polar bears.

© James Morgan / WWF-US
Beliefs & Values
Our attitudes to nature are influenced by our values, which are often shaped by religious, spiritual and cultural beliefs.
85% of the world population affiliates with a religion or spiritual tradition, and religious leaders are important moral guides for billions of people. 

The world's major religions also own or influence large areas of land, hold billions in investments, manage half the world's schools, and have millions of places of worship, community and youth groups.

Engaging with religious leaders and communities in support of conservation, based on their own beliefs and values, is an important part of our work.

To find our more about WWF's work on inclusive conservation, please contact governancepractice@wwfint.org