Indigenous peoples and local communities are the best guardians of biodiversity – Indigenous caucus at the UN Biodiversity Conference 2018

IPLC Caucus & FPP staff
IPLC Caucus

Indigenous peoples and local communities are the best guardians of biodiversity – Indigenous caucus at the UN Biodiversity Conference 2018

“Indigenous peoples and local communities embody humanity’s creative intelligence and wisdom in our care and love for Mother Earth. We are on the frontlines to protect the world's remaining biodiversity, and many of our leaders have been killed defending human rights and the environment.”

This was the key closing message of the of the caucus* of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) participating in the UN Biodiversity conference, held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, 17-29 November 2018. The Biodiversity Conference combined the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP14), the highest governing body of the Convention, as well as the 9th meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COPMOP9) and the 3rd meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (COPMOP3).

Indigenous peoples and local communities make up just 5% of the world’s population but contribute to protecting nearly 80% of the world’s biological diversity, making them the world’s best chances of protecting our planet. Yet, many of their practices, initiatives and collective actions are not recognised or supported, representing a major lost opportunity to achieve the CBD’s objective. Indeed, some communities are actively removed from their lands in misguided efforts to ‘conserve biodiversity’.

“With our traditional knowledge and practices, we have contributed and continue to contribute to the objectives of the convention. Indigenous women, in particular, are key holders, practitioners and transmitters of knowledge, and indigenous youth are the future citizens who take care of our planet. It is critical to support their visibility and participation in the entire CBD process.”

Even more critical than participation in CBD processes, is recognition, support and participation in national and local policy and practice related to biodiversity and sustainable development. The caucus reiterated that “for IPLC participation to be mainstreamed, we need to be able to make and follow up on our proposals in all modalities of CBD processes.” Beyond the CBD, IPLCs’ collective action, recognition, and support at local and national level is key.

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Participants welcomed decisions that include IPLCs in identifying impacts of and solutions to climate change, pointing out that these decisions represent a key element for the post-2020 biodiversity framework. The period between 2020-2050 will be critical for ushering in radical transformations to bring human development into harmony for the future of Mother Earth, in line with the CBD’s Vision 2050 of ‘Living in harmony with nature’.

The recognition of rights to lands, waters and cultural resources, as well as the critical importance of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), were key issues discussed at the COP.

FPIC is vital in all efforts to preserve and mainstream biodiversity, and every COP decision should respect FPIC. [These rights] are necessary for enabling us to implement nature and culture-based approaches to conserving biological diversity.”

These rights, if fully recognised and respected, would not only ensure the continuing contributions of IPLCs to the Strategic Plan and all Aichi Biodiversity Targets, but would very significantly speed up achievement of the targets and the convention’s overall objectives.

IPLCs again stated their commitment to taking part in the preparation of the post 2020 global biodiversity framework, and said “this commitment comes from our obligations to Mother Earth, to our ancestors and to our future generations.”

You can read the full closing statement made by the IPLC caucus below.

Apart from enabling a significant number of local partners to travel to Egypt and participate in the conference, Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) also provided back-up support to the IPLC caucus around negotiations and statements, and actively engaged in communications and media support. FPP and partners were presenters and panellist in many side events, including the Nature and Culture Summit, organised by the CBD and UNESCO from 22-24 November (see The Sharm el-Sheikh Declaration on Nature and Culture). One of the important immediate next steps is the submission by mid-December 2018 of the caucus’ views and suggestions for the post-2020 biodiversity framework.


*The IPLC caucus comprised of representatives of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity and the Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network.

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