Most of the planet's areas of high biological diversity are located within the territories of indigenous and tribal forest peoples, who have been managing the environment through their own systems based on traditional knowledge, practices, rules and beliefs for generations ('customary use'). Yet in many countries forest peoples do not have secure tenure over these areas and are denied access and use of their territories because of inadequate government policies, extractive industries’ activities, or conservation initiatives, such as protected areas. At the same time, many indigenous territories are increasingly threatened by unsustainable activities such as logging, mining, and plantations while the communities are not, or are only minimally, involved in official decision-making and management of these areas.
Forest peoples who are facing such challenges are taking action to protect their rights and negotiate better access and greater involvement in the management of natural resources in their territories. Their initiatives include community resource mapping, documentation of customary sustainable resource use, development of community-based territorial management plans, and strengthening of community institutions and decision-making mechanisms. They advocate for recognition of land and resource rights with local and national authorities and work to achieve enhanced understanding and application of FPIC in conservation and/or development initiatives related to resources on their lands. These initiatives are supported by FPP.
A particular focus of many forest communities is to challenge top-down models of conservation that restrict their access and livelihoods, and violate their rights. They work to promote the application of a rights-based approach to conservation, which respects their rights in conservation initiatives. With support of FPP, they research to what extent international guidelines and agreements on protected areas related to indigenous peoples’ rights are being put into practice at international, national and local levels, and advocate for national reforms in protected area policies. They also raise their concerns and propose alternatives in international standard-setting processes, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).