Taken from an article posted by The Northeast Wilderness Trust (NEWT)
The role of Indigenous Peoples:
“Perhaps the greatest positive change in the conservation field over the past 20 years has been the broad recognition of the critical role played by indigenous peoples and local communities in delivering conservation outcomes through local values, norms, and resource management systems. Mainstream conservation leaders now regularly extol the importance of indigenous and local leadership in global conservation issues, while a growing volume of research documents the incredible contributions made by indigenous people to biodiversity conservation. Moreover, as pressures on remaining wild lands intensify, it is increasingly clear that local communities and indigenous peoples are literally the people putting their lives on the line to save tropical forests and other rich ecosystems – not for conservation but for their self-determination, cultures, and territories – which are bound up in those landscapes. This reality has been strongly reinforced by the realities of conservation during the pandemic, when local organizations have steadfastly maintained their presence and support to communitiesthroughout the shutdowns and disruptions.
In this context, conservation needs to truly speak to these social struggles and the worldviews of the indigenous people and other local communities that are increasingly the true conservation leaders of our days. Conservation has to be socially and politically relevant to local communities around the world – from villagers in Mozambique, to indigenous people in the Amazon, to coastal communities in the Western Pacific.
Local communities and Indigenous peoples in the tropics are increasingly recognized as critical for effective conservation.
Growing networks of indigenous and community-led conservation organizations are strengthening the voices of those leaders. Stronger financial support to assist local communities and indigenous people secure their territories, such as the $459 million in philanthropic pledges made at the 2018 Global Climate Summit, could also play a crucial role.
Conservation cannot be successful if it continues to be in conflict with those who should be its strongest allies. Greater investments should be made in supporting efforts to secure indigenous peoples and local communities rights to their lands and territories, which is often a foremost challenge to both survival and stewardship. Conservation has an opportunity to fully recognize the huge investments that indigenous people and local communities make in safeguarding the planet’s biodiversity and ecosystems – estimated at up to $1.7 billion annually in forested parts of low-income countries. This recognition should be at the heart of the next phase of global conservation agreements and their financing.
This all provides an excellent opportunity to redefine the profile of a conservationist, shifting towards a more diverse profile of the people who are living and working on the front lines each day, in their community or country. They are the true conservationists, regardless of education level, race, and gender.”