Global biodiversity goals unattainable without full inclusion of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities and their lands

Posted on 07 June 2021

New collaborative analysis, informed by around 30 conservation experts, indigenous peoples and rights organizations, highlights the importance of recognizing and respecting the rights, governance approaches and conservation efforts of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC) as custodians of their lands.
  • Comprehensive analysis by conservation experts and organizations, with guidance and contributions from Indigenous Peoples, highlights crucial role of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC) in protecting nature and biodiversity globally;
  • First collaborative global study of its kind finds that 91% of IPLC lands are in good or fair ecological condition and that IPLC lands cover at least 36% of the global land area covered by Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs);
  • At present, IPLC lands cover at least 32% of the planet’s terrestrial realm* but over a quarter of these areas could face high development pressure in the future. This underlines the need for IPLC rights, governance, and access and use of resources to be secured as part of proposed efforts to increase land and sea areas under protection.
  • Decision makers must ensure IPLCs’ rights to lands, inland waters and resources are recognized and formalized, and that they receive appropriate recognition and support, including funding, for their contributions to conservation. 

Monday, 7 June 2021 - As global leaders convene in a series of meetings this year to determine solutions to the planet’s climate, nature and sustainable development challenges, a new collaborative analysis, informed by around 30 conservation experts, indigenous peoples and rights organizations, highlights the importance of recognizing and respecting the rights, governance approaches and conservation efforts of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC) as custodians of their lands. The State of the Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ lands and territories provides unequivocal and compelling evidence that global biodiversity goals would be unattainable without full inclusion of Indigenous and Local Communities, whose lands cover at least 32% of the planet’s terrestrial surface; 91% of their lands are considered to be in good or fair ecological condition today. 

The State of the Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ lands and territories is the first comprehensive spatial analysis showing the extent of IPLC lands globally, their current ecological status, biodiversity and ecosystem services values, and the pressures they - and the people and communities that depend on them - continue to face. Spanning almost a third of the planet’s terrestrial realm, mapped IPLC lands cover at least 36% of the global extent of Key Biodiversity Areas, sites critical for the persistence of biodiversity which in turn sustains our planet, its ecosystems, and all who depend on them - including human life the world over. 

For generations, these lands have been protected and conserved by the communities that live on and alongside them highlighting the invaluable, yet often overlooked, role IPLCs have long played in nature conservation globally.  

"If to a human person the most protected part of his body is the heart, what would it be for planet earth? The report points to traditional lands and territories long possessed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities where a third of the world’s biodiversity thrives and persists. If there is a better protection system or ‘prescription’ to planet earth’s ailing health other than IPLC custodianship, I’d like to know about it,” said Giovanni Reyes, Sagada-born Kankanaey-Igorot of the Cordillera Region, Northern Luzon, President, Philippine ICCA Consortium and member, GEF-IPAG and honorary member, Global ICCA Consortium. 

“The social-ecology systems are crucially important within our traditional landscape and territories; through traditional knowledge and wisdom, which enforces governance systems for pastures, water, salt licks, movement of livestock and wildlife, social interaction and use are strongly connected to Indigenous pastoralist livelihoods. Our pastoralism model can’t be separated from the existing natural environment, it’s our role to enhance health ecology for the benefits of ourselves,” said Justine Ole Nokoren, traditional leader from Tanzania.

As countries look ahead to negotiating a new global biodiversity framework later this year, this report underlines the importance of ensuring Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities are recognized and supported to sustain, defend and restore their lands and territories as part of conservation efforts. The report highlights that more than a quarter of IPLC lands could face high development pressures in the future. 

A rights-based approach in conservation will help ensure that IPLCs achieve full recognition of their land and resource rights, respect for their leadership and governance as well as their free, prior and informed consent in the creation of protected and conserved areas. Any global conservation efforts including calls to protect and conserve at least 30% of the world’s land, freshwater and oceans by 2030 hinge on strong IPLC participation and leadership and will be unattainable without them. 

“ Local Communities have the ability [and] passion to manage and control land and natural resources around them; what they need is the right support and recognition from both local and national authorities and development partners,” said Edward Loure of Ujamaa Community Resource Team.

According to the report, with appropriate recognition of rights to land and territories and support for IPLC governance systems, following IPLC consent, the IPLC lands identified in Ecuador could double the area protected or conserved in the country from 22% to an estimated 44%. In the Philippines, following a similar appropriate process, protected or conserved areas could increase from 16% to an estimated 27%. 

“Indigenous Peoples bring essential knowledge, experience and guidance to conservation efforts. We must be present and our voices must be valued as part of the global conversation,” said Minnie Degawan, director of the Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Programme at Conservation International and member of the Kankanaey-Igorot Indigenous group in the Philippines. “Our ideas and expertise are rooted in our long-standing relationship with nature and this study illustrates the importance of collaboration. There is great opportunity for governments, NGOs and others to work in partnership with IPLCs toward the collective goal of protecting and conserving Earth’s biodiversity.”

The report calls on decision makers to ensure that IPLCs’ rights to lands, inland waters and resources are recognized and formalized, and that they receive appropriate recognition and support, including funding, for their contributions to conservation. The forms of recognition and support that are appropriate should always be defined and decided by IPLCs themselves. The report also calls for increased joint research with IPLCs, including to monitor effective implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. 

“Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities contribute enormously to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. As we move into this crucial decade for nature, we must appropriately recognize and support the custodian communities worldwide who preside over some of the most important places for biodiversity in the world. Looking ahead to the anticipated agreement of new global biodiversity goals and targets, it will be essential to recognize the rights of custodian communities if we are to ensure a successful outcome for people and nature," said Neville Ash, Director, UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

“While it is encouraging to see momentum building to tackle the planet’s unprecedented nature crisis, it is critical that the role of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in nature conservation is no longer overlooked. As we attempt to mend our broken relationship with nature, we must learn from nature’s historic custodians and fully support their efforts to protect, defend and restore their lands and waters. To create a sustainable, resilient and nature-positive future for all, we need to act today and acknowledge and build on the conservation contributions of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities,” saidDelfin Jr Ganapin, Leader, WWF’s Global Governance Practice. 

The State of the Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ lands and territories report  is available here

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32% represents the area that can currently be mapped, but is likely to be a significant underestimate and must not be seen as contradictory to higher existing estimates. Please see the report for full details.

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Notes to editors:
The State of the Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ lands and territories has been compiled from maps covering 132 countries and territories. The methodology undertaken in this study differs from but complements other studies that find extensive evidence of IPLCs’ custodianship to nature. The report defines IPLC lands as those that are acknowledged or formally recognized by governments, and lands that lack formal recognition but are subject to customary tenure, land claims, and/or de facto governance by IPLCs. To the best of our knowledge, the datasets do not include lands where IPLCs use resources if the IPLCs are not also responsible for making the decisions about management.
 
As part of its efforts to improve how we deliver conservation impact for people and for nature, WWF is presently running a global public consultation on our human rights statement, on our social policies, and our environmental and social safeguards. The principal objective of the consultation is to seek inputs on our revised social policies, the safeguards framework and its nine underlying standards and our all-encompassing human right statement.
 
The State of the Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ lands and territories calls on decision makers to ensure that IPLCs’ rights to lands, inland waters and resources are recognized and formalized, and that they receive appropriate recognition and support, including funding, for their contributions to conservation.
© Luis Barreto / WWF-UK
At present, IPLC lands cover at least 32% of the planet’s terrestrial realm but over a quarter of these areas could face high development pressure in the future. This underlines the need for IPLC rights, governance, and access and use of resources to be secured as part of proposed efforts to increase land and sea areas under protection.
© Luis Barreto / WWF-UK
Infographic, The State of the Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ lands and territories Report, June 2021.
© The State of the Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ lands and territories Report