Forest Peoples Programme and partners have encountered and documented human rights violations against indigenous peoples and local communities associated with conservation over the course of decades of work. There have been moments when progress in this area has been made (e.g., the 2003 Durban Accord and the adoption of social policies by conservation agencies). However, changes to practice on the ground have too often been limited or quickly reversed, despite repeated calls by human rights organisations over decades. These issues are widely known, they cannot be ignored. They do not require further investigation: they require concerted action.
We reject any form of conservation which accepts human rights violations as a cost of achieving conservation outcomes and which sees indigenous peoples as a threat to biodiversity and the environment. Instead, we need to focus on creating the enabling conditions for indigenous peoples and communities with collective ties to their resources to be able to sustain and be sustained by the ecological integrity of their lands, including through the recognition of fundamental rights in conservation practice and in national laws and policies.
Decades of work has shown that the creation of government or privately managed protected areas has too often seen the dispossession of indigenous peoples and local communities of their ancestral and collective territories and resources, a phenomenon that continues today. The zoning of such areas as externally protected, a persistent practice that dates back to colonial times, has in many instances caused catastrophic cultural, physical and material harms to affected communities. Those charged with protecting these areas (‘eco-guards’) have been complicit in abuses, while the illegal wildlife trade has been used to justify increasingly militarized approaches which threaten indigenous peoples and local communities’ rights to access their resources.
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Forest Peoples Programme supports the rights of peoples who live in forests and depend on them for their livelihoods. We work to create political space for forest peoples to secure rights, control their lands and decide their own futures.