Human Rights Standards for Conservation (Part II)

Project

A problem faced by conservation actors trying to understand the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities is that they are enshrined in a wide range of international instruments. This paper identifies the relevant body of human rights law, CBD decisions, and IUCN resolutions and recommendations that contain provisions relevant to upholding the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities in a conservation context.

Flamingos around Lake Bogoria, the ancestral land of the Endorois people, Kenya (Photo: Minority Rights Group International)Lake Bogoria, the ancestral land of the Endorois people, Kenya (Photo: Emma Eastwood/MRG)

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is working with Natural Justice to systematically review and analyse relevant international law to answer the following three questions:

  • Which actors bear human rights obligations and responsibilities in the context of conservation initiatives?
  • What are their obligations and responsibilities? 
  • What are the grievance mechanisms available to peoples and communities in cases of violations of their human rights?

The results were published in the run-up to the World Parks Congress in Australia in November 2014 as a three-part series of discussion papers that will serve as an empirical basis for developing an accessible "Guide to Human Rights Standards for Conservation".

The second in the series is "Human Rights Standards for Conservation, Part II: Which international standards apply to conservation initiatives?". It identifies more than 30 broad categories of rights that can be affected by conservation interventions, including substantive individual and collective rights (such as human rights, indigenous peoples' rights), land and natural resource rights, and procedural rights (such as free prior and informed consent).

Beyond human rights law, some key international conservation instruments include specific provisions relevant to indigenous peoples and local communities. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the overarching international policy framework for international conservation and it makes explicit reference to the rights and needs of indigenous people and local communities in relation to biodiversity conservation, as do International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) resolutions and recommendations.

Conclusions

  • There is a wide range of international instruments, CBD decisions and IUCN resolutions and recommendations that reference the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities
  • Relevant rights exist across a broad legal landscape that includes instruments, decisions and resolutions which focus on human rights, cultural heritage, biodiversity, forests, climate change and agriculture, and
  • The frequency with which the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities are referenced in international law and policy, particularly in CBD decisions and IUCN resolutions, is increasing markedly each year.

Have your say

Distilling this huge body of international law, policy and practice is of utmost importance if conservation actors are to play their part in respecting human rights in the areas in which they work. Our aim is that this work forms part of the second stage of the Human Rights Standards for Conservation initiative. To start this process we would greatly appreciate your inputs and feedback.

To contribute, email Natural Justice's Harry Jonas (harry@naturaljustice.org) or IIED's Dilys Roe (dilys.roe@iied.org).

Publications

Human Rights Standards for Conservation, Part II: Which International Standards Apply to Conservation Initiatives?, Harry Jonas, Dilys Roe, Athene Dilke (2014), IIED Discussion Paper