Wildlife & Biodiversity

To meet global target, countries want formal control over indigenous communities’ lands

As the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting takes stock of Aichi Targets, the suggestion of bringing indigenous communities’ areas under formal protection is highly contested

 
By Richard Mahapatra
Last Updated: Tuesday 27 November 2018
As the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting takes stock of Aichi Targets, the suggestion of bringing indigenous communities’ areas under formal protection is highly contested.

About 15 per cent of the world’s territorial area and some 7 per cent of the oceans is now under government protection, found the Protected Planet Report 2018 published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is good news as the world has to meet the conservation targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity also known as the Aichi Targets, by 2020.

Currently signatory countries to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are meeting in the seaside town of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt to take stock of the convention’s progress. The IUCN report has taken stock of Target 11, the most important one, which aims for “the effective and equitable management of 17 per cent of terrestrial and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2020”. According to this report the world is on track to meet the target.

But, as discussions currently focusing on the how to maintain this progress, some details on the progress report filed for the convention have the potential to trigger discontent among conservationists and indigenous community rights groups. This report says that huge areas with the indigenous communities should be brought under formal protection/safeguard for the world to meet its conservation target even faster.

For “contribution to both quantitative and qualitative elements of Target 11”, the progress report filed by the Executive Secretary of CBD suggests bringing areas under community control and common property resources to formal protection. On face, there is nothing worrying about it. But local communities have long been protesting any formal introduction of conservation regime into their areas. As discussions unfold, this might emerge as a sticking point.

According to a study quoted in this report carried out in 64 countries, some 1.9 billion hectares of land is “designated for or owned by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC)”. The report estimates as much as 8.5 billion hectares of the world’s terrestrial surface “may be presumed to be the property of rural communities under customary norms.”

“Some of this area falls under existing protected areas, both state-owned and those under other governance arrangements. While not all of the remaining area would qualify as ICCAs (areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities), some portion of it certainly does, and would make a substantial contribution to both quantitative and qualitative elements of Target 11,” says the progress report.

However, it as well put a note of caution. “The aim needs to be not just to identify and report on these areas, but to recognise, respect and support them in a way that strengthens or establishes the governance and management rights of the relevant communities, and in ways that do not undermine the diversity of governance mechanisms that exist.”

Notwithstanding the progress on Target 11, countries have not been able to bring significant areas beyond government control under formal protection. This shows in the CBD progress report as well. Of the world’s total protected area system recorded under CBD, 84 per cent belong to government-managed forests.

“Some of the increases in protected area coverage over this time period have come not through the designation of new sites, but through improved reporting on existing areas,” says the report indicating that the progress has not been that faster, given just two years are left to meet the target.  

Trevor Sandwith, Director of IUCN’s Global Protected Areas Programme, says, “It is clear that there remain significant challenges to achieve all elements of Aichi Biodiversity Target 11. Among these are the needs to fully recognise and support the efforts being made by indigenous peoples and local communities, as well as private actors who conserve critical areas.”

Element of Target 11 Progress occurring between 2016 and 2018
   
Terrestrial coverage   Global coverage increased from 14.7% to 14.8%; the number of CBD Parties with at least 17% coverage increased from 87 to 91.
Marine coverage   Global coverage increased from 4.12% to 7.26%; the number of CBD Parties with at least 10% coverage increased from 23 to 34.
Ecological representation   Terrestrial ecoregions with at least 17% PA cover increased from 351 to 357; marine ecoregions and pelagic provinces with at least 10% MPA cover increased from 84 to 99 and 3 to 4, respectively
Areas important for biodiversity   Mean percent area of terrestrial KBAs covered by PAs increased from 45.5% to 46.6%; for marine KBAs it increased from 41.3% to 44.3%.
Connectivity and integration   Indicators for tracking progress towards this element have now been developed, and global assessments are available. Based on the ProtConn indicator, 27.9% of terrestrial ecoregions and 30.5% of countries and territories have protected and connected lands covering at least 17%.
Effective management   The number of CBD Parties, excluding overseas territories, with management effectiveness evaluations in at least 60% of PAs was 42 as of Jan 2015, increasing to 47 in May 2018 (for terrestrial PAs).
Governance and equity Proportion of sites in the WDPA reporting shared governance increased from 1.8% to 3.3%, and those reporting private governance increased from 4.5% to 5.7%.

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