MEDIA RELEASE: “Islands of nature in a sea of decline – indigenous and local knowledge, action and contributions key to saving the world’s nature”

Members of the indigenous caucus with IPBES Chair Sir Robert Watson

Members of the indigenous caucus with IPBES Chair Sir Robert Watson at IPBES 7 plenary in Paris, May 2019

MEDIA RELEASE: “Islands of nature in a sea of decline – indigenous and local knowledge, action and contributions key to saving the world’s nature”

Monday 6 May 2019, Paris, France  

Nature is decreasing worldwide at an alarming rate – it is time to look to indigenous peoples to help find the solution. This was one of the key conclusions reached in the first global assessment of nature and biodiversity, released today (6 May) in Paris.

"We are at a historical crossroads for humanity,” said Cristiana Paşca Palmer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Biodiversity Convention, speaking in Paris this week at the closing of the IPBES 7 plenary session.

Cristiana Paşca Palmer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Biodiversity Convention, speaking in Paris this week at the closing of the IPBES 7 plenary session.

Cristiana Paşca Palmer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Biodiversity Convention, speaking in Paris this week at the closing of the IPBES 7 plenary session.

“We are counting on everyone everywhere and especially indigenous peoples & local communities who are closest to the land, whose survival is most at risk, and whose traditional knowledge and practices can show us all the way forward," she said.

The report shows that the situation of global nature looks dire, but there are glimmers of hope that could lead to a reverse in this trend. Scientists, governments and civil society agree – the answer lies in knowledge, both in ‘traditional’ science and also with knowledge generated by indigenous peoples and local communities, who have safeguarded nature for millennia.

“The combination of scientific evidence and indigenous and local knowledge makes this report much richer,” said Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of IPBES.

In the largest and most comprehensive attempt to assess the state of our living planet, governments, scientists, civil society and indigenous peoples and local communities came together at IPBES7 and agreed that we are exploiting nature faster than it can renew itself.

“This report shows that our global home is under threat, and nature is in decline,” said Aroha Te Pareake Mead, who attended IPBES 7 as a member of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IIFBES).

“This decline is driven by a predominant economic and political system that favours increasing consumption and growth over living in harmony with nature,” she added.  

 In New Zealand, Maori use the term ‘kaitiaki’ to describe their intergenerational guardianship responsibilities to their ancestral lands, environment, and rich cultural heritage.

“If we can adopt a global political model that focuses on the concept of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) we might still have a chance to save our planet and all of its biodiversity” said Te Pareake Mead.

Traditional knowledge is key in understanding nature.  

More than a quarter of the global land area is traditionally owned, managed, used or occupied by indigenous peoples, and some of the world’s most biodiverse areas are found within lands that have been owned and managed by indigenous peoples and local communities for centuries, and in some cases millennia.  

The global assessment reports that nature managed by indigenous peoples and local communities is under increasing pressure…but declining less rapidly than in other areas of the world. Increasingly, these ‘islands’ of great natural diversity found on indigenous lands are increasingly being surrounded by vast tracts of the earth in natural decline.

One reason for this difference in diversity could be down to the value systems that societies place on nature.

“Indigenous peoples don’t see nature as separate from people,” said Lakpa Nuri Sherpa of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and representing IIFBES.

Lakpa Nuri Sherpa of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and representing IIFBES.

Lakpa Nuri Sherpa of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and representing IIFBES.

“We interact with nature every day, and we think carefully how we manage our resources – we have spiritual and sacred relationships with our natural resources, which means we must manage our lands in a sustainable way so we can pass it on to the next generation.

“For this reason, we must continue to fight for the rights to our lands, territories and resources – if we don’t have rights, if we are attacked, we cannot protect our forests – they take the resources from our lands, but we care for these lands. Without security for our collective land rights, the land can be exploited, nature loses out, and there’s nothing to pass on to the next generation,” he said.

“The Indigenous caucus (IIFBES) appreciates greatly the evidence generated by the global assessment highlighting the important contributions of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and nature’s gifts,” said Lakpa.

Action is now required. The Global Assessment states ‘The positive contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities to sustainability can be facilitated through national recognition of land tenure, access and resource rights in accordance with national legislation, the application of free, prior and informed consent, and improved collaboration, fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use, and co-management arrangements with local communities.’

“We look forward to working with all governments, scientists, citizens and all stakeholders involved in this quest for a solution over the coming years,” said Lakpa.

“Indigenous understanding encompasses practice, knowledge, spirituality and deep relationships with ancestral lands and sacred places, and it is good to see that this has now been recognised and included in this global assessment,” he said.

 

---ENDS---

Members of the indigenous caucus with IPBES Chair Sir Robert Watson

Members of the indigenous caucus with IPBES Chair Sir Robert Watson at IPBES 7 plenary in Paris, May 2019

 

Notes for editors

Annexe I highlights the specific findings from the Global Assessment referencing issues related to Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. While indigenous and local knowledge is fundamental to conserving all aspects of nature and biodiversity, Annexe I is provided as quick reference information for journalists.

 

Media contact:

To arrange an interview, contact: Tom Dixon, Forest Peoples Programme: m: +44 7876 397915 e: tdixon@forestpeoples.org

Photos available on request

 

Additional quotes

The quotations below are those of members of our caucus. You are free to use these statements as-is, or request a further interview. Photos are available.

 

  • “IPBES is a world leader in recognizing indigenous and local knowledge and valuing diverse insights about the state of nature across the world. Indigenous participants at IPBES7 are contributing to the latest global assessment of biodiversity and recommending pathways to protect our homelands from continued biodiversity loss.” Joji Carino, Asia (Forest Peoples Programme / Indigenous and Local Knowledge Centres of Distinction / Member of IIFBES caucus)

 

  • Our global home is under threat, and nature is in decline, all driven by a predominant economic and political system that favors increasing consumption and growth over living in harmony with nature. In New Zealand, Maori use the term ‘kaitiaki’ to describe our intergenerational guardianship responsibilities to our ancestral lands, our environment, and our rich cultural heritage. If we can adopt a global political model that focuses on the concept of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) we might still have a chance to save our planet and all of its biodiversity.” Aroha Te Pareake Mead (Maori, Oceania)

 

  • “Indigenous peoples’ values and knowledge provide insights for reciprocal human-nature relationships amidst the crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change. IPBES need the voices of indigenous peoples.” Joji Carino, Philippines (Forest Peoples Programme / Indigenous and Local Knowledge Centres of Distinction / Member of IIFBES caucus)

 

  • “As global citizens, we are all part of, and not separate from, nature. As indigenous peoples, we have been guardians of our lands for millennia and have deep interaction with the ecosystems where we live. Evidence shows our lands are among the most biodiverse on the planet. Only by recognizing the rights, knowledge, innovations, and values of indigenous peoples and local communities will we be able to push forward the global agenda to sustainably use and conserve biodiversity.” Lakpa Nuri Sherpa AIPP (Asia)

 

  • “Nature is under threat – including on lands managed by local communities – and we can no longer sit and wait for governments to respond. Citizens and Civil Society Organisations must take an active role now to protect our world. Antigua & Barbuda is a hotspot of biodiversity, but at the same time we have a huge waste management problem. Addressing these issues at government level is challenging, but if we look to the community, there is so much knowledge and so many capabilities and skills to resolve these issues. We can’t afford to wait for the governments to solve the problems. We’ve signed on to every convention, but what does it mean if the community doesn’t receive this information? If we can help connect citizens to understand the conventions and global processes, and make it mean something on the ground we will get things done. The world cannot afford to wait.” Ruth Spencer, GEF/SGP/Marine ecosystems protected Areas (MEPA) Trust (Latin America and the Caribbean)

 

  • The transformative change needed to meet the global goals and conserve and sustainably use biodiversity requires us to first identify our own interactions with nature. That way, each of us will see our roles in finding and implementing solutions to the current biodiversity crises facing the world.” Edna Kaptoyo, Indigenous Information Network (Africa)

 

 

More information & spokespeople:

The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IIFBES caucus) has representatives from Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Western Europe and Russia, and North and South America, all who were in Paris for the IPBES7 Plenary. The following are available for interview:

  • Lakpa Nuri Sherpa, AIPP (Asia)
  • Polina Shulbaeva (Central and Eastern Europe, Russian Federation, Central Asia and Transcaucasia)
  • Ruth Spencer (Latin America and the Caribbean)
  • Joji Carinio (Asia)
  • Aroha Te Pareake Mead (The Pacific)
  • Prasert Trakansuphakon (Asia)
  • Onel Masardule (Latin America and the Caribbean)
  • Florence Daigutan (Asia)
  • Edna Kaptoyo (Africa)
  • Elena Maria Regpala (Asia)
  • Yesenia Hernández Márquez (Latin America and the Caribbean)
  • Preston Hardison (North America)

 

Annexe I: Extracts from the ‘Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services’ referencing Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities

 

Background: Key sections of the Global Assessment Report

[Paragraph B6] Nature managed by indigenous peoples and local communities is under increasing pressure. Nature is generally declining less rapidly in indigenous peoples’ land than in other lands, but is nevertheless declining, as is the knowledge of how to manage it. At least a quarter of the global land area is traditionally owned, managed,[1]  used or occupied by indigenous peoples.

These areas include approximately 35 per cent of the area that is formally protected, and approximately 35 per cent of all remaining terrestrial areas with very low human intervention. In addition, a diverse array of local communities, including farmers, fishers, herders, hunters, ranchers and forest-users, manage significant areas under various property and access regimes. Among the local indicators developed and used by indigenous peoples and local communities, 72 per cent show negative trends in nature that underpin local livelihoods and well-being. The areas managed (under various types of tenure and access regimes) by indigenous peoples and local communities are facing growing resource extraction, commodity production, mining and transport and energy infrastructure, with various consequences for local livelihoods and health. Some climate change mitigation programmes have had negative impacts on indigenous peoples and local communities. The negative impacts of all these pressures include continued loss of subsistence and traditional livelihoods from ongoing deforestation, loss of wetlands, mining, the spread of unsustainable agriculture, forestry and fishing practices and impacts on health and well-being from pollution and water insecurity. These impacts also challenge traditional management, the transmission of indigenous and local knowledge, the potential for sharing of benefits arising from the use of, and the ability of indigenous peoples and local communities to conserve and sustainably manage, wild and domesticated biodiversity that are also relevant to the broader society.

 

[C3] Areas of the world projected to experience significant negative effects from global changes in climate, biodiversity, ecosystem functions and nature’s contributions to people are also home to large concentrations of indigenous peoples and many of the world’s poorest communities. Because of their strong dependency on nature and its contributions for subsistence, livelihoods and health, those communities will be disproportionately hard hit by those negative changes. Those negative effects also influence the ability of indigenous peoples and local communities to manage and conserve wild and domesticated biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. Indigenous peoples and local communities have been proactively confronting such challenges in partnership with each other and with an array of other stakeholders, through co-management systems and local and regional monitoring networks and by revitalizing and adapting local management systems. Regional and global scenarios lack an explicit consideration of the views, perspectives and rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, their knowledge and understanding of large regions and ecosystems and their desired future development pathways.

 

[Section D] Nature can be conserved, restored and used sustainably while simultaneously meeting other global societal goals through urgent and concerted efforts fostering transformative change

Societal goals – including those for food, water, energy, health and the achievement of human well-being for all, mitigating and adapting to climate change and conserving and sustainably using nature – can be achieved in sustainable pathways through the rapid and improved deployment of existing policy instruments and new initiatives that more effectively enlist individual and collective action for transformative change. Since current structures often inhibit sustainable development and actually represent the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, such fundamental, structural change is called for. By its very nature, transformative change can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo, but such opposition can be overcome for the broader public good. If obstacles are overcome, commitment to mutually supportive international goals and targets, supporting actions by indigenous peoples and local communities at the local level, new frameworks for private sector investment and innovation, inclusive and adaptive governance approaches and arrangements, multi-sectoral planning and strategic policy mixes can help to transform the public and private sectors to achieve sustainability at the local, national and global levels.

 

[D3]: Transformations towards sustainability are more likely when efforts are directed at the following key leverage points, where efforts yield exceptionally large effects (Figure SPM.9):

(8) education and knowledge generation and sharing. promoting education, knowledge generation and maintenance of different knowledge systems, including the sciences and indigenous and local knowledge regarding nature, conservation and its sustainable use.

 

[D5]: Recognizing the knowledge, innovations and practices, institutions and values of indigenous peoples and local communities and their inclusion and participation in environmental governance often enhances their quality of life, as well as nature conservation, restoration and sustainable use, which is relevant to broader society. Governance, including customary institutions and management systems, and co-management regimes involving indigenous peoples and local communities, can be an effective way to safeguard nature and its contributions to people, incorporating locally attuned management systems and indigenous and local knowledge. The positive contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities to sustainability can be facilitated through national recognition of land tenure, access and resource rights in accordance with national legislation, the application of free, prior and informed consent, and improved collaboration, fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use, and co-management arrangements with local communities.

 

[D6] Feeding humanity and enhancing the conservation and sustainable use of nature are complementary and closely interdependent goals that can be advanced through sustainable agricultural, aquacultural and livestock systems, the safeguarding of native species, varieties, breeds and habitats, and ecological restoration. Specific actions include promoting sustainable agricultural practices, such as good agricultural and agroecological practices, among others, multifunctional landscape planning and cross-sectoral integrated management, that support the conservation of genetic diversity and associated agricultural biodiversity. Further actions to simultaneously achieve food security, biodiversity protection and sustainable use are context appropriate climate change mitigation and adaptation, incorporating knowledge from various systems, including the sciences and sustainable indigenous and local practices, avoiding food waste, empowering producers and consumers to transform supply chains and facilitating sustainable and healthy dietary choices. As part of integrated landscape planning and management, prompt ecological restoration emphasizing the use of native species can offset current degradation and save many endangered species but is less effective if delayed.

 

Annexe to report - Figure 4.  Contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities to the enhancement and maintenance of wild and domesticated biodiversity and landscapes. Indigenous and local knowledge systems are locally based, but regionally manifested and thus globally relevant.

A wide diversity of practices actively and positively contribute to wild and domestic biodiversity through “accompanying” natural processes with anthropogenic assets (knowledge, practices and technology). Indigenous peoples often manage the land and coastal areas based on culturally specific world views, applying principles and indicators such as the health of the land, caring for the country and reciprocal responsibility. As lifestyles, values and external pressures change with globalization, however, unsustainable practices are becoming increasingly common in certain regions4. The central figure shows the global-scale overlaps of 1) land areas traditionally owned, managed5, used, or occupied by indigenous peoples, 2) formally designated protected areas and 3) remaining terrestrial areas with very low human intervention (areas with <4 Human Footprint Index6). Circles and intersections are proportional in area. Land areas traditionally owned, managed5, used, or occupied by indigenous peoples overlap with approx. 35 per cent of the area that is formally protected, and approximately 35 per cent of all remaining terrestrial areas with very low human intervention. Topics and pictures in the figure aim to illustrate, not represent, the types and diversity of the following contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities to biodiversity: (a) domestication and maintenance of locally adapted crop and fruit varieties (potatoes, Peru) and (b) animal breeds (rider and sheep, Kyrgyzstan) {2.2.4.4}; (c) creation of species-rich habitats and high ecosystem diversity in cultural landscapes (hay meadows, Central Europe) {2.2.4.1-2}; (d) identification of useful plants and their cultivation in high-diversity ecosystems (multi-species forest garden, Indonesia) {2.2.4.3}; (e)-(f) management and monitoring of wild species, habitats and landscapes for wildlife and for increased resilience (e) - Australia, (f) - Alaska) {2.2.4.5-6}; (g) restoration of degraded lands (Niger) {3.2.4}; (h) buffers for deforestation in recognized indigenous territories (Amazon basin, Brazil) {2.2.4.7}; (i) offering alternative concepts of relations between humanity and nature (Northern Australia).

 

 

 

 

ENDS

 

 

Cristiana Paşca Palmer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Biodiversity Convention, speaking in Paris this week at the closing of the IPBES 7 plenary session.

Cristiana Paşca Palmer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Biodiversity Convention, speaking in Paris this week at the closing of the IPBES 7 plenary session.

Lakpa Nuri Sherpa of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and representing IIFBES.

Lakpa Nuri Sherpa of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and representing IIFBES.