Most of the world's biodiversity targets have not been met. This is the key message of the third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3), presented at the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD)'s 14th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA-14). The report does, however, choose to highlight the expansion of protected areas as a positive accomplishment. For indigenous peoples this is a cause for concern - not a success - as the establishment and expansion of protected areas still largely takes place without their participation and consent. This concern was underlined in the conclusions of the in-depth review of the implementation of the CBD's Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA).
The key message of the third edition of the CBD's Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3), presented at the SBSTTA-14 meeting, was far from positive: the world has failed to meet its target to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. One of the few successes highlighted, despite the lack of overall progress, was the 'significant increase in the coverage of protected areas, both terrestrial and marine'. However, for indigenous peoples, it is questionable whether this warrants such positive emphasis. At the meeting they pointed out the risks of wide-ranging expansion of global protected area systems in the context of the lack of indigenous peoples' involvement in this process. The risks include restricted access and use of traditional territories, or even the displacement or relocation of indigenous and local communities, which can decrease livelihoods and lead to poverty and loss of traditional knowledge and practices.
The SBSTTA also discussed the in-depth review of the implementation of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA), which acknowledged that Element 2 of the PoWPA, which relates to issues of governance, participation, equity and benefit sharing, 'remains the most under-implemented part of the programme' and that progress in achieving goals under this programme element is 'way behind meeting the targets'. This conclusion confirms indigenous peoples' warning that their participation in protected area establishment and management is still not a priority.
One of the draft SBSTTA recommendations to improve this situation was to establish clear mechanisms and processes for equitable benefit-sharing related to protected areas. After interventions by indigenous peoples calling for participation issues to be addressed too, the Parties agreed to 'Establish clear mechanisms and processes for equitable cost and benefit-sharing and for full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities', but only 'related to protected areas' (L-05), rather than 'in the management of existing and the establishment of new protected areas' (Decision VII-28), even though the latter is agreed in the PoWPA text.
Under the circumstances, it was positive that reference was made to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). For example, one of the in-session documents, CRP.3, invited Parties to 'recognize the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the further implementation of the programme of work on protected areas'. However, along the way, this wording was weakened by various Parties and in the end was adopted as 'Take into account as appropriate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples(…)' (L-05).
GBO-3 praises the expansion of protected areas as one of the few successes in relation to conservation of the Earth's biodiversity. But surely protected areas can only really be considered a success if their establishment has not disenfranchised indigenous peoples and is based on consent and participation at all levels of decision-making and management? Indigenous peoples will only have peace of mind in the knowledge that they are no longer excluded from the key decision-making processes that establish and manage all protected areas.