Press release - Parties to the CBD must respect and promote customary sustainable use to achieve conservation of biological diversity

Press release - Parties to the CBD must respect and promote customary sustainable use to achieve conservation of biological diversity

Bonn, Germany The findings of two new reports launched today at the Convention on Biological Diversity emphatically demonstrate that global biodiversity will continue to be lost if Protected Areas fail to recognise and respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. The research, conducted in the largest mangrove forest in the world, conversely shows that customary use is fully compatible with conservation and sustainability.

The research finds that the policy of government-controlled protection in The Sundarbans, Bangladesh has led to both increased vulnerability of forest biodiversity and greater poverty of its indigenous peoples and local communities. The damning report Deserting the Sundarbans (1) demonstrates the impact of neglecting to involve indigenous and local communities in governance and of shutting them out of the richly biologically diverse areas that they have used for hundreds of years, and upon which their livelihoods depend.

Deserting the Sundarbans makes clear that the ADB-GEF-Netherlands funded Sundarbans Biodiversity Conservation Project abjectly failed in its aim to conserve biological diversity or reduce poverty, despite costing US$77.3m. The project was abandoned after just four years by the ADB. Reasons include a failure to:  

  • understand the profound interdependence of forest, its wildlife and its human inhabitants, the traditional resource users (2)
  • accomplish transparency or local community involvement at any level in direct contravention of its funders' policies
  • take into account traditional knowledge and its key role in the conservation of this vast forest

Resuscitating the Sundarbans (3) demonstrates that the cultural practices, value systems and customary uses of the indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) directly contribute to sustainable use and conservation. When implementing the expanded Programme of Work on Protected Areas the Parties should prioritise:

  • community governance: indigenous peoples and local communities are the guardians of our biological diversity
  • Legal reform: policies and laws that promote and support customary use of natural resources and related cultural practices of IPLCs
  • Guaranteed land rights: indigenous territories provide the material and spiritual foundation for traditional knowledge and customary tenure over and use of biological resources
  • Right of free, prior and informed consent: for all development and conservation initiatives, including actions taken to implement CBD

Jakir Hossain, Head of Programmes, Unnayan Onneshan said:
'In the forest of The Sundarbans the approach of exclusive state protection did not achieve either biodiversity conservation or the security of livelihoods. Our research clearly shows that it is community governance that will achieve this. The forest peoples know best how to protect forests and its resources and their traditional cultural practices of resource harvesting are well tuned to conservation and sustainable utilisation.'

Maurizio Ferrari, Environmental Governance Coordinator, Forest Peoples Programme said:
'Under international treaties like the Convention on Biological Diversity, Governments have obligations to conserve biological diversity and to protect indigenous peoples' rights. If rights are protected first, conservation will follow. The Parties to the CBD must give priority to the implementation of Programme Element 2 of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas, related to Governance, Participation, Equity and Benefit Sharing and on the implementation of Articles 8(j) and 10(c).'(4)

Ends

Notes:

Both reports will be discussed in detail at a Side-Event at COP9 on Friday 23 May 2008.
The event will focus on what progress has been achieved so far in the implementation of the CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas. There will be speakers from Bangladesh, Suriname, Cameroon and Thailand.
Time:  6.15pm
Venue:  Room 1.130 Environment (BMU)

Please contact info@unnayan.org for copies of the reports or download them via the images above, or at http://www.unnayan.org/reports/Deserting.the.Sundarbans.pdf
http://www.unnayan.org/reports/Resuscitating.the.Sundarbans.pdf

Further notes:

(1) Deserting the Sundarbans: Local Peoples' Perspective on ADB-GEF-Netherlands Funded Sundarbans Biodiversity Conservation Project (Jakir Hossain, Kushal Roy)

(2) The local communities of resource users include bawalis (woodcutters), mouals (honey collectors), golpata (leaf) collectors, jele (fishers), chunery (snail and oyster collectors)

(3) Resuscitating the Sundarbans: Customary Use of Biodiversity & Traditional Cultural Practices in Bangladesh (Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir, Jakir Hossain) April 2008

(4) Article 8(j) of the CBD encourages states to, '…respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities…' Article 10(c) of the CBD encourages states '…to protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use requirements…'

(5) Unnayan Onneshan is a centre for research and action on development based in Bangladesh.

(6) Forest Peoples Programme is a UK based NGO that supports forest peoples globally to secure their rights, build up their own organisations and negotiate with governments and companies as to how economic development and conservation is best achieved on their lands. www.forestpeoples.org

For further information please contact:

  • Jakir Hossain, Head of Programmes, Unnayan Onneshan
       Telephone: +49 (0)15771654462    Email: jhossain@unnayan.org  
  • Maurizio Ferrari, Environmental Governance Coordinator, Forest Peoples Programme
       Telephone: +44 (0)7733478307    Email: maurizio@forestpeoples.org