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[Press release] Stewardship by Indigenous and local communities is the key to successful nature conservation

In the run-up to the 15th United Nations Conference on Biodiversity, several States have committed to creating protected areas on at least 30% of their land and sea territories by 2030. This tendency to focus on the proportion of land and sea to be protected in order to preserve biodiversity obscures more fundamental questions: how conservation is done, by whom and with what outcomes. These questions are crucial for effective biodiversity conservation.

 

Lead author, Dr Neil Dawson of University of East Anglia (UEA) School of International Development, was part of an international team conducting a systematic review that found conservation success is “the exception rather than the rule” – but research suggests the answer could be equitable conservation, which empowers and supports the environmental stewardship of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. This global review of evidence takes advantage of a growing number of studies looking at how governance – the arrangements and decision making behind conservation efforts – affects both nature and the well-being of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

 

The work is part of the JustConservation research project funded by the French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB) within its Centre for Biodiversity Synthesis and Analysis (CESAB), and was initiated through the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (IUCN CEESP). It is the result of collaboration between 17 scientists, including researchers from the European School of Political and Social Sciences (ESPOL) at the Catholic University of Lille and the University of East Anglia. The findings are published on 02/09/2021 in the journal Ecology and Society.

 

Dr Dawson said: “This study shows it is time to focus on who conserves nature and how, instead of what percentage of the Earth to fence off. Conservation led by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, based on their own knowledge and tenure systems, is far more likely to deliver positive outcomes for nature. In fact, conservation very often fails because it excludes and undervalues local knowledge and this often infringes on rights and cultural diversity along the way.”

 

International conservation organisations and governments often lead the charge on conservation projects, excluding or controlling local practices, most prominently through strict protected areas. The study recommends Indigenous Peoples and local communities need to be at the helm of conservation efforts, with appropriate support from outside, including policies and laws that recognise their knowledge systems. “Furthermore, it is imperative to shift to this approach without delay” Dr Dawson said. “Current policy negotiations, especially the forthcoming UN climate and biodiversity summits, must embrace and be accountable for ensuring the central role of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in mainstream climate and conservation programs. Otherwise, they will likely set in stone another decade of well-meaning practices that result in both ecological decline and social harms. Whether for tiger reserves in India, coastal communities in Brazil or wildflower meadows in the UK, the evidence shows that the same basis for successful conservation through stewardship holds true. Currently, this is not the way mainstream conservation efforts work.”

 

From an initial pool of over 3,000 publications, 169 were found to provide detailed evidence of both the social and ecological sides of conservation. Strikingly, the authors found that 56 per cent of the studies investigating conservation under ‘local’ control reported positive outcomes for both human well-being and conservation. For ‘externally’ controlled conservation, only 16 per cent reported positive outcomes and more than a third of cases resulted in ineffective conservation and negative social outcomes, in large part due to the conflicts arising with local communities.

 

However, simply granting control to local communities does not automatically guarantee conservation success. Local institutions are every bit as complex as the ecosystems they govern, and this review highlights that a number of factors must align to realize successful stewardship. Community cohesion, shared knowledge and values, social inclusion, effective leadership and legitimate authority are important ingredients that are often disrupted through processes of globalisation, modernisation or insecurity, and can take many years to re-establish. Additionally, factors beyond the local community can greatly impede local stewardship, such as laws and policies that discriminate against local customs and systems in favour of commercial activities. Moving towards more equitable and effective conservation can therefore be seen as a continuous and collaborative process.

 

Dr  Dawson said: “Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ knowledge systems and actions are the main resource that can generate successful conservation. To try to override them is counterproductive, but it continues, and the current international policy negotiations and resulting pledges to greatly increase the global area of land and sea set aside for conservation are neglecting this key point. Conservation strategies need to change, to recognize that the most important factor in achieving positive conservation outcomes is not the level of restrictions or magnitude of benefits provided to local communities, but rather recognising local cultural practices and decision-making. It is imperative to shift now towards an era of conservation through stewardship.

 

CP_JustConservation_2021_fig

Figure: The central and inseparable role of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in equitable and effective biodiversity conservation

Biodiversité : au-delà des surfaces à protéger, comment et par qui doit se faire sa conservation ?

Les facteurs à l’origine du succès de projets de conservation sont encore difficiles à identifier. Ces dernières années plusieurs études ont ainsi cherché à comprendre le fonctionnement de la conservation.  Mais, c’est la première fois qu’une équipe de recherche internationale a étudié la manière dont la gouvernance – la gestion et la prise de décision en matière de conservation –  affecte à la fois la nature et le bien-être des peuples autochtones et les communautés locales.

 

Ces travaux sont en partie issus du projet de recherche JustConservation financé par la Fondation pour la recherche sur la biodiversité (FRB) au sein de son Centre de synthèse et d’analyse sur la biodiversité (Cesab) et ont  été initiés par la Commission des politiques environnementales, économiques et sociales de l’Union internationale pour la conservation de la nature (CPEES de l’UICN). Ils sont le fruit de la collaboration entre 17 scientifiques, dont des chercheurs de l’École européenne de sciences politiques et sociales (ESPOL) de l’Université Catholique de Lille et de l’Université de East Anglia (UK). Ils font l’objet d’une publication, parue le 02/09/2021 dans la revue Ecology and Society.

 

Après avoir passé en revue plus de 3 000 publications, les chercheurs en ont identifié 169 traitant de l’influence de différentes formes de gouvernance sur les résultats de la conservation. Ils révèlent un contraste frappant entre les résultats issus de la conservation sous le contrôle « local » des peuples autochtones et communautés locales, et les résultats de la conservation menée sous le contrôle « extérieur » des États, des ONGs et des entreprises privées. 56 % des études sur la conservation sous contrôle « local » montrent des résultats positifs, tant pour le bien-être humain que pour la conservation. Pour la conservation sous contrôle « extérieur », seul 16 % des études rapportent des résultats positifs et plus d’un tiers ont abouti à une conservation inefficace et des résultats sociaux négatifs. La principale explication de cette différence réside dans le fait que la conservation contrôlée localement peut produire une gestion active et collective de l’environnement. Lorsque les valeurs et les pratiques locales sont respectées et que les communautés locales jouent un rôle central dans la conservation, une vision commune du paysage peut être établie. Cela génère alors une mobilisation pour préserver, restaurer et défendre l’environnement.

 

Les résultats de cette étude véhiculent donc un message optimiste : une conservation équitable, qui renforce et soutient l’intendance environnementale des peuples autochtones et des communautés locales, est la principale voie vers une conservation efficace à long terme de la biodiversité, en particulier lorsqu’elle est soutenue par des lois et des politiques plus larges.

 

La reconnaissance et le soutien des institutions locales nécessitent une réorientation des activités des organisations et des gouvernements qui dominent actuellement les efforts de conservation au niveau mondial. Dr Neil Dawson, premier auteur de l’étude, conclut ainsi : “qu’il s’agisse de réserves de tigres en Inde, de communautés côtières au Brésil ou de prairies de fleurs sauvages au Royaume-Uni, les preuves sont bien là : il est essentiel que les négociations politiques actuelles, en particulier celles de la Convention des Nations unies sur la diversité biologique (CDB), reconnaissent le rôle central des peuples autochtones et des communautés locales dans la lutte contre le changement climatique et pour la conservation de la biodiversité” 

 

CP_JustConservation_Fig

Figure : Le rôle central et indissociable des peuples autochtones et des communautés locales dans la conservation équitable et efficace de la biodiversité. Dans le sens des aiguilles d’une montre : Bien-être des peuples autochtones et des communautés locales – des communautés autonomes avec des valeurs partagées, des institutions et une autorité respectée soutiennent l’action collective de conservation ; Conservation efficace – intendance locale : autorégulation de l’utilisation des ressources, résistance aux menaces extérieures, adaptation au changement ; Gouvernance équitable de la conservation – reconnaissance des institutions et des droits locaux, contrôle des décisions locales, établissement de la confiance et résolution des conflits, responsabilité. L’illustration a été créée par Andy Wright www.madebyawdesign.com. Les images proviennent du réseau MIHARI http://mihari-network.org (discours d’une pêcheuse et reboisement de la mangrove à Belo-sur-Mer, dans le sud-ouest de Madagascar), et Holladay Photo (communauté Kahana, Koolauloa, Oahu, pratiquant une pêche traditionnelle hawaïenne appelée Hukilau).

 

Analytic report on the use of DSI on genetic resources for food and agriculture

The main findings of the report were therefore:

 

  • To propose an appellation to replace the term “digital sequence information” with “digital data on genetic resource sequences” or “digital sequence data”;
  • To define a typology following the chronology of the bioinformatics protocol for processing sequencer data outputs: raw data, cleaned data, analysed data;
  • To list the main applications of this digital data.

 

 

The report was launched during a seminar that took place on Monday, 8 October, at the House of Oceans in Paris. The seminar was attended by almost 50 people with different backgrounds (representatives of ministries, diplomats, researchers, industrialists, journalists). The seminar’s meeting minutes and the speakers’ presentations are available on the FRB website.

Biodiversity within the “Environment” theme of the 7th framework programme (2007-2010)

At the European level, biodiversity research projects can be funded through a range of tools, including the seventh framework programme for research and development (FP7) in which the “Environment” theme is recognized as a major source of funding. Indeed, the European Commission provides important funding support for a range of research projects encompassing several sub-activities, including biodiversity, as part of this FP7 “Environment” theme.

 

 

Biodiversity, a cross-disciplinary topic, not identified as such in the FP7 “Environment” theme

 

Within the FP7, biodiversity appears in various sub-activities: “Pressures on environment & climate”, “Marine environments”, “Sustainable management of resources”…, but there is not a unique and delimited entry point for funding biodiversity research. Consequently, assessing the results of FP7 funding for the research community working on biodiversity and associated issues is complex.

To overcome this difficulty, the FRB conducted the present study – downloadable from the resources below – based on the results of the projects submitted to the FP7. The main goal of the study is to assess the importance of biodiversity among the FP7 “Environment” theme, through the sub-activities identified. Temporal trends of funding are also assessed for the 2007-2010 period, and the relative performances of the participating countries are compared.