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Research Report

Conservation standards: From rights to responsibilities

Harry Jonas
Jael Makagon
Dilys Roe
Copyright Date: Aug. 1, 2016
Pages: 36
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 6-8)

    The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Natural Justice collaborated during 2013–14 with a group of lawyers and experts on the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to clarify the following issues:

    Which conservation actors have responsibility for upholding international human rights standards?

    Which international human rights standards are most relevant in a conservation context?

    Which redress mechanisms are available to indigenous peoples and local communities when human rights are infringed by conservation initiatives?

    We determined that, while states are traditionally seen as the primary duty bearers under international law, human rights norms are increasingly considered...

  2. (pp. 9-10)

    Although many conservation interventions have helped protect biological and cultural diversity and improved the linkages between the two, others have led to the infringement of indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights. From the first denials of access of Native Americans to Yellowstone National Park in the 1860s to the ongoing plight of Uvinje villagers in Tanzania, there are many documented cases of indigenous peoples being evicted and subjugated in the name of conservation.

    Conservation interventions can impact on indigenous and other local communities in a number of ways. A rapid assessment of 35 conservation-related conflicts around the world, conducted under...

  3. (pp. 11-13)

    Indigenous peoples have fought hard for the rights they have secured at the international level. Decades of concerted effort have led to important rights gains and legal recognition as detailed in Box 2.

    Some of these instruments have special relevance to indigenous peoples, particularly ILO Convention No. 169 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN DRIP).

    The ILO Convention, also known as the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Convention, entered into force in 1991. It is a binding treaty, and although only 22 countries have ratified it, is viewed – even in countries that have not...

  4. (pp. 14-15)

    In 2012, Natural Justice compiled the ‘Living convention’,20 a document that sets out relevant provisions in the most prominent international instruments that relate to indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights to their cultures, languages and territories, among other important aspects of their lives. The high volume of applicable law renders the document comprehensive, but diminishes its accessibility. To an indigenous group who is concerned that a conservation initiative is not upholding internationally agreed human rights standards or to a practitioner or funder who is involved in the implementation of a conservation intervention, the ‘Living convention’ provides a large amount of...

  5. (pp. 16-26)

    In this section we present a set of 14 conservation standards. These reflect core human rights that conservation actors and interventions should seek to uphold at all times. For each standard, we highlight three things:

    the core rights, as derived from the UN DRIP and other international legal instruments

    a brief explanation of the importance of the right(s) to establish the context, and

    the duties and responsibilities of conservation actors related to this right.

    We deliberately include the term ‘responsibilities’ in this section to indicate that both state and non-state conservation actors are covered by the provisions we discuss here....

  6. (pp. 27-29)

    These conservation standards are only useful if they can assist rightsholders and stakeholders in the course of conservation interventions. We actively encourage feedback from state and non-state conservation actors and proponents of indigenous peoples’ rights both on this synthesis of rights and on the responsibilities we have assigned to conservation actors. We will present these draft standards at a range of international conservation events during 2016 to encourage discussion and collect feedback.

    We welcome the opportunity to discuss these standards with individual conservation organisations and to explore how best to integrate them into their operating procedures. We recognise that a...