Dialogue on Human Rights and Biodiversity Conservation, Kenya

Dialogue on Human Rights and Biodiversity Conservation, Kenya

Between November 20-23, FPP is co-organising a Global Dialogue on Human Rights and Biodiversity Conservation, along with SwedBio, Natural Justice and IUCN CEESP-TGER. We will be hosted by the Chepkitale Indigenous Peoples Development Project, and the meeting will take place at Kitale, in Kenya's Rift Valley, and up on the Chepkitale Ogiek's community lands at Mt Elgon. 

We will be bringing together 50 participants from the worlds of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use experts, legal and human rights, government, international development, conservation, as well as members of community-based organisations including indigenous peoples. We aim to spark a dialogue across conservation and human rights, and encourage the transformation of conflicts into productive relationships. This will be a space for frank and open dialogue to improve existing approaches, tools, and practices for ensuring that respect for human rights strengthens the ability to achieve conservation targets, and for ensuring that securing conservation targets strengthens respect for human rights. 

The Dialogue will begin with an introduction to the issues, including by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, before the following day visiting Chepkitale to hear from the community and from Kenya Wildlife Service, from the Kenya National Human Rights Commission and representatives of the Kenyan Government, in order to assess the challenges and opportunities for conservation and human rights to work hand in hand at Mt. Elgon. After these introductions to the issues and to immersion in this particular case example, we will spend a further two days examining and developing approaches, tools and mechanisms for avoiding and for resolving conflicts between human rights and biodiversity conservation;


Protecting the rights of people who depend on their direct and long-standing relationships with their ancestral territories constitutes a requirement of international human rights law. It is also often the most strategic and effective available means to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and ecosystems. Such an approach enables local people and conservation organisations to be strategic allies, rather than be set in opposition to each other.

This Dialogue draws on the recent reports by two UN Special Rapporteurs highlighting key forward-looking recommendations on conservation and human rights (Prof John Knox, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment, 2017 report, and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2016 report). Key recommendations include the need for human rights assessments of plans and actions by conservation organisations, changes to long-standing policies, laws and institutions, including colonial legacies yet to be overturned or reformed, and effective and culturally appropriate grievance mechanisms to ensure accountability of conservation organisations and to provide possible avenues to redress.

The Dialogue builds on other recent meetings, including: (1) SwedBio events at the 2016 UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD-COP13) on ecosystems and human rights and on implementing the SDGs; (2) FPP, NJ and IUCN convened conservation and human rights meetings at IUCN headquarters in February 2017, creating a Task Force under TGER on the same; (3) consultations by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment in March 2017; and (4) an FPP/ NJ co-hosted session at the UN Permanent Forum in Indigenous Issues in New York in April 2017, on 'Too Little, Too Late? Realising the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Conservation', where the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples shared the findings and recommendations of her Report.

Intended Outcomes:

Very specifically a report of the Dialogue will feed into the Convention on Biological Diversity including the upcoming meetings in 2017 and further key CBD meetings in 2018, as well as into the IPBES Global Assessment report as part of the contribution from indigenous and local knowledge and practices. It also aims to input into processes such as the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UN PFII) and its ongoing discussion on indigenous peoples rights and conservation that will continue in its 17th session 2018 (UNPFII17). It also aims to inform funding agencies on how to better ensure that funding to conservation agencies supports rather than disrupts indigenous peoples and local communities' stewardship of biodiversity and ecosystems.


Using SwedBio's ‘multi-actor dialogue seminar methodology’, indigenous, local and scientific knowledge systems and practices interact as equally valid for generating complementary evidence to advance just and sustainable biodiversity management. Drawing on FPP and CEESP's Whakatane methodology, such discussions will also happen on the ground, where the problems and solutions can be understood in the context of real lived experience. Starting from an honest recognition of difference, we can explore how to develop an underlying joint strategy that can meet differing needs, rather than see these needs being continually set against each other.


SwedBio Pernilla Malmer <pernilla.malmer@su.se>, Maria Schultz <maria.schultz@su.se>, Claudia Ituarte-Lima <claudia.ituarte@su.se>; FPP: Justin Kenrick <justin@forestpeoples.org>, Joji Carino <joji@forestpeoples.org>; Helen Tugendhat <helen@forestpeoples.org>, NJ: Harry Jonas <harry@naturaljustice.org>; CIPDP: Peter Kitelo <pkitelo@yahoo.com>; IUCN CEESP-TGER: Jenny Springer <jspringertger@gmail.com>