Strategic Goal A
Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
Worldviews that separate nature and culture are an underlying cause of biodiversity loss, as cultures condition behaviours and frame people’s relationships with other people and with the natural world. The holistic and diverse value systems and ways of life of IPLCs across the world offer culturally distinctive visions of alternative sustainable futures which need to be understood, respected and protected across the whole of government, economy and society. Yet, the cultures of IPLCs and the associated rich biodiversity on their lands continue to be eroded and displaced by dominant unsustainable production and consumption systems that are destroying the planet’s biodiversity.
In addressing the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, IPLCs, governments, conservation organisations and other actors should:
- Promote holistic approaches linking nature and culture within integrated social-ecological systems.
- Support cultural revitalisation and inter-cultural exchange.
- Engage IPLCs in local, national and global decision-making processes, upholding secure land tenure, local and indigenous knowledge, and full respect for individual and collective rights.
- Develop a new policy framework for sustainable production and consumption which enables the immediate upscaling of sustainable local economies.
Awareness-raising and mainstreaming of biodiversity require a shift away from a sole focus on economic values towards diverse intrinsic, material, social, cultural and spiritual values across society. Many IPLCs have value systems that emphasise connections between people, nature and ‘living well’, and are working to revitalise and nurture these diverse value systems and to raise awareness of them among the general public. Initiatives include intergenerational learning programmes, community events, educational materials for use in mainstream schools, and public communication campaigns.
Cultural and biological diversity are interdependent, and improved integration of diverse cultures and viewpoints into national and local development strategies and into planning, accounting and reporting processes results in better biodiversity and cultural outcomes. Mainstreaming holistic values requires stronger action to inclusively empower IPLCs—men and women, elders and youths—as knowledge-holders and as key agents of change, innovation and transformation.
Perverse subsidies are a major cause of biodiversity loss. IPLCs around the world are working to raise awareness of perverse subsidies, to confront them, and to ensure that environmental incentives such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and payments for ecosystem services actually benefit local people. Positive incentives that support small-scale producers can—with certain preconditions, such as secure tenure rights—safeguard IPLCs’ livelihoods and cultural identities while also protecting the biodiversity on their lands and waters.
IPLCs are confronting the negative impacts of large-scale industrial production and resource extraction through pursuing regulation of supply chains and using accountability mechanisms within voluntary certification schemes such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and the Forest Stewardship Council, and ground-truthing outcomes through community-based monitoring and advocacy. Local production systems based on secure land rights provide far greater local social and economic benefits and tend to be far more favourable to biodiversity than large-scale commodity production. A concerted shift towards support for these kinds of traditional diverse and local production systems could transform progress in addressing biodiversity loss.
Strategic Goal B
Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use
Natural habitats, plants and animals, and the benefits that people receive from nature are declining at an alarming rate, in large part as a direct result of the expansion of agribusiness and extractive industries fuelled by the current economic growth paradigm. Their decline is slower in the lands, waters and territories of indigenous peoples than elsewhere as a result of their governance, values and practices, but they are still under great pressure. IPLCs in many countries are central actors in sustainable agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry and as caretakers of habitats. A radical transformation in governance is required, to one that fully recognises the role of IPLCs in conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and their contribution to protecting ecosystems, both of which are currently under-reported and under-valued.
IPLCs own and manage at least 50 per cent of the world’s land area, and many are working in policy fora and on the ground to defend their territories, manage their resources sustainably, and combat pollution, invasive alien species and the impacts of climate change. However, their lands and waters and the biodiversity that they contain are under direct threats from industrial-scale development and illegal incursions. IPLCs working to counter these threats and conserve their lands are paying a high price for doing so. They are facing increasing intimidation, criminalisation and violence, including assassinations of community leaders.
- Governments and other actors should support IPLCs to protect their lands, waters, territories and biodiversity by applying a human-rights-based approach, including:
- measures to secure IPLCs’ customary land and water tenure and uphold their rights;
- effective safeguards for environmental defenders;
- support for greater participation of IPLCs in relevant policy forums;
- harmonisation of relevant aspects of international and national law and policy;
- zero tolerance of human rights violations.
- National and global statistics on the contributions of small-scale producers, including IPLCs, should be improved.
- Innovative fiscal measures should be taken to support local sustainable economies.
- Accountability of industries responsible for pollution and environmental damage should be increased.
- Support and resources for IPLCs’ important contributions in addressing direct drivers of biodiversity loss, based on indigenous and local knowledge and practices, should be increased.
Many IPLCs act as environmental guardians, protecting vast areas against uncontrolled logging and mining or ill-planned, destructive development projects. There is substantial evidence that when the social, legal and economic conditions enable them to do so, IPLCs are highly effective at preventing habitat loss. But in many countries, rather than receiving support for these actions, IPLCs face increasing intimidation, criminalisation and violence. IPLCs working in defence of their lands are disproportionately represented in the numbers of assassinations of environmental human rights defenders.
Globally, small-scale fisheries contribute nearly 50 per cent of the total global fish catch. Local fishers often actively manage fish stocks through practical measures, including community-based patrolling and monitoring, and the creation of Locally Managed Marine Areas, Responsible Marine Fishing Areas and permanent or time-specific community no-take zones. Many community fisheries institutions have internal norms and rules to ensure sustainability. These may be based on traditional practices and customary systems of rights, or developed in collaboration with scientists, including calculation of sustainable yields, or on a combination of these. These local measures need to be complemented by larger-scale measures at the ecosystem level.
Similarly, local sustainable production systems constitute a large part of rural economies and are important both for subsistence and for markets. To adapt and meet their changing needs, IPLCs are inventing new forms of local production, including through social enterprises, and revitalising traditional practices, such as traditional systems of aquaculture. They are also forming new networks of small-scale producers embodying the message of “eat locally and eat what’s in season”—an important lesson for the wider society as it embarks on transitions in food and in production and consumption systems. Securing legal recognition of customary tenure is critical for progress in sustainable local agriculture, aquaculture and forestry.
IPLCs are working to counter the contamination of their traditional lands and territories with pollution and waste, which can have major impacts on their social, economic, political and cultural wellbeing. Some IPLCs have linked up with international campaigns and submitted claims to international complaints mechanisms or raised pollution-related legal challenges. Several court cases raised by IPLCs have been moved to the home jurisdiction of the companies responsible for the pollution. IPLCs have also set up monitoring systems on their lands to prevent, reduce and mitigate pollution and waste by external actors, and to reduce their own impacts.
Many species classified by scientists as invasive and alien are also of urgent concern to IPLCs because they disrupt ecosystems and damage local resources that are critical for IPLCs’ livelihoods and cultures. As well as participating in relevant global policy processes, IPLCs have worked on the ground to set up early-warning systems, and monitoring and eradication systems, independently or in collaboration with scientists. In some cases, they have also found new uses for invasive alien species and incorporated them into their livelihoods.
Many IPLCs live in ecosystems that are vulnerable to climate change and, therefore, are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. Based on traditional knowledge and careful observation of their environment, some IPLCs have early-warning systems to predict extreme weather events, and they adjust their activities accordingly. Others have established territories and areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities (ICCAs), territories of life, or formed collaborative partnerships to monitor trends in ecosystem health, so that they are better able to address threats and pressures.
Strategic Goal C
Improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
IPLCs are on the frontlines safeguarding genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity. A high proportion of ecosystems rich in biodiversity, including many threatened species, is governed under customary or community-based regimes. Moreover, IPLCs also manage and enhance genetic diversity, especially in their highly diverse agroecological production systems.
A conceptual change is called for from ‘conservation as the objective’ of external interventions in seemingly ‘natural’ areas without human influence, towards understanding that high conservation outcomes arise from ongoing culturally rooted relationships between humans and nature, as manifested by IPLCs with their lands, territories and resources. A radical transformation is needed from current conservation approaches that exclude and alienate IPLCs, to rights-based collaborative approaches that support and promote community-led conservation and customary sustainable use and that celebrate the mutual relations between nature and culture.
- Governments, conservation agencies and relevant actors should promote and support the transformation of conservation towards:
- recognising and prioritising the complex and enriched ecological mosaic that IPLCs’ lands and territories deliver, with high conservation outcomes blossoming from culturally rooted approaches;
- rights-based collaborative approaches that support and promote community ways of life that enrich relationships between humans and nature;
- a qualitative focus on fair and good governance, justice and equity rather than a focus on quantitative expansion of protected and conserved areas.
- All actors should recognise and respect IPLCs as rights-holders, and respect and support their distinct and special relationship to land, waters, territories and resources.
- Appropriate legal measures should be enacted for recognition of IPLC territories and self-governance.
- Support should be increased for community-led conservation.
- Human rights and equity should be upheld in all forms of conservation.
- All actors should mainstream species protection, including in production landscapes and biocultural habitats, and work with IPLCs to protect and enhance genetic diversity, including in local food systems.
- All actors should commit to much greater coordination and cooperation across scales and jurisdictions for safeguarding genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity.
IPLCs are contributing significantly to the increase in equitable and effective protected and conserved areas, through community-led conservation (including in the form of ICCAs/territories of life and indigenous protected areas) and innovative collaborative management arrangements, and also by challenging human rights violations in broader conservation practice and promoting equity and justice. However, a major opportunity to upscale these approaches is being missed. A transformation is required towards conservation approaches that are positively rights-affirming, going beyond outreach and collaboration towards full recognition of IPLCs’ rights and increased support for the huge contribution of sustainably managed lands and territories that protect nature, often more effectively than state-run protected areas.
Many threatened species are integral to the identities and livelihoods of IPLCs, who view species as having kinship and moral standing, and as being imbued with spirit requiring duty of care obligations. IPLCs contribute to the conservation of threatened species in many ways, including through habitat protection, customary governance and management, community-based monitoring systems, and the provision of ecological information based on traditional knowledge. Partnerships involving two-way healing, two-way knowing and mutual learning have great potential to contribute to the safeguarding of species as long they are based on mutual respect, reciprocity, benefit-sharing and accountability.
IPLCs maintain and nurture genetic diversity in their crops, domestic livestock, and wild relatives, and this represents a significant part of global biodiversity as well as underpinning local food security, health and wellbeing. Yet, globalised agro-industrial food systems continue to displace local food production systems, with devastating immediate consequences for IPLCs and wider implications for the resilience of global food systems.
Strategic Goal D
Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
For IPLCs, the ecosystems and habitats that provide ‘essential services’ are their customary lands, territories, waters and resources, which support livelihoods and meet spiritual and cultural needs. Guided by IPLCs’ cultural ethics of maintaining harmonious relationships between humans and nature, collective lands and territories also play vital roles for the greater good by storing carbon, building ecosystem resilience, and in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Yet, under current economic and value systems these lands continue to be usurped and degraded by interventions to privatise and commodify these resources. Indigenous and local knowledge is particularly valuable in ecological restoration and resilience building, but this knowledge continues to be undervalued and is still often neglected in ecological restoration programmes. National implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization should foster broader benefit-sharing streams for IPLCs, based on their customary relationships with and management of their lands, territories and resources, including from seeds, genetic and biological resources, and bio-trade.
- Governments should fulfil their obligations to: respect and protect the rights of IPLCs to their lands, waters and resources; respect and prioritise their cultural values, including in relation to sacred sites and culturally important species; and promote health, livelihoods and wellbeing, especially for women, the poor and the vulnerable.
- Governments should upscale recognition and accessible, equitable funding for IPLC actions towards ecosystem protection, carbon sequestration, restoration and resilience-building, with full recognition of the role of indigenous and local knowledge.
- Equitable benefit-sharing frameworks should be developed to reward IPLCs for their conservation and their customary management and sustainable use of biodiversity through partnerships and collaborations.
IPLCs’ contributions to the conservation of ecosystem services include actions to safeguard their lands and territories against external drivers of environmental destruction, and internal measures for conservation, sustainable use, and restoration, in which women play a particularly important role. IPLCs have successfully mounted court cases in defence of their lands and ecosystems against damage from oil exploration, mining, road construction, uncontrolled logging, commodity plantations and intensive aquaculture. They are protecting watersheds, restoring species, reforesting, patrolling and monitoring. Women in many societies are taking actions to safeguard ecosystem services, including through replanting programmes.
Community lands commonly have lower rates of deforestation and forest carbon emissions than other areas and maintain higher levels of biodiversity, resulting in more resilient landscapes. This is due in part to the greater sustainability of customary natural resource management systems based on traditional knowledge, such as those for soil enrichment and fire management, in comparison to more intensive forms of use. IPLCs in different regions of the world are contributing to ecosystem restoration and resilience by planting trees, cleaning up water sources, improving waste management, and restoring neglected water systems and degraded environments.
In relation to sharing the wider benefits of biodiversity and ecosystem services, IPLCs are using community protocols to reconcile modern legal and institutional systems with customary law, systems and procedures. Community protocols are usually holistic and focus on the priorities and needs of IPLCs in specific localities and contexts. Applying innovative, rights-based approaches to benefit-sharing, with legal recognition of diverse community protocols and of customary law, opens potential for increased partnerships between governments, the private sector and IPLCs.
Strategic Goal E
Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity-building
IPLCs make substantial contributions towards all three objectives of the Convention, through their traditional knowledge, customary sustainable use and collective actions. While their role has started to be recognised in global processes, it is still poorly recognised in National Biodiversity Strategies and Actions Plans (NBSAPs) and in most countries mechanisms for IPLCs’ full and effective participation at the national and local levels are yet to be developed. Community-based monitoring and information systems (CBMIS) are effective tools for highlighting local needs and priorities, making IPLCs’ contributions visible, and providing concrete data and information about the implementation of global and national policy commitments on the ground.
- Governments should establish national and sub-national mechanisms to enable full and effective participation of IPLCs in national strategies and action plans, and to mainstream traditional knowledge, customary sustainable use and equitable benefit-sharing.
- Institutional support and direct, long-term funding should be increased, in line with needs identified by IPLCs.
- Links between diverse knowledge systems should be strengthened throughout global, national and local monitoring and reporting platforms, incorporating relevant indicators on trends in traditional knowledge and the wellbeing of IPLCs.
- National and global data and reporting systems should generate disaggregated data on the status of indigenous peoples, local communities, women, youth and marginalised groups, including through support and funding for complementary CBMIS by IPLCs.
- Robust environmental, social and cultural safeguards and measures should be integrated into all resource mobilisation processes.
IPLCs are engaging actively in NBSAP processes where possible, and many of them are producing and implementing their own local biodiversity plans in the form of life plans (planes de vida), territorial management plans, and community-based natural resource management plans. However, while there has been some improvement in coverage of IPLCs in national reports over the past four years, there is no evidence of an increase in IPLCs’ participation in NBSAP processes. Moreover, only about half of the NBSAPs refer to gender or to women, despite women’s central role in local environmental management. There is still much to do to make NBSAPs truly participatory and inclusive.
In relation to traditional knowledge and customary sustainable use, IPLCs are working to revitalise their cultures and languages; to monitor land-use change and gain secure land tenure; and to document customary resource use and protect traditional occupations. Some national governments have recognised the role of traditional knowledge and customary sustainable use but the vast majority of the sixth national reports to the CBD fail to report on the globally agreed traditional knowledge indicators. Given the significant lack of data on overall progress, it is clear that this target has not been met.
More positively, community-based monitoring and information systems using indicators relevant for indigenous peoples have become more widespread in recent years. They generate data that are useful both for monitoring on the ground and for feeding into national and global assessments. IPLCs have established several global platforms to share their knowledge, of which Local Biodiversity Outlooks is one. Despite these advances, indigenous and local knowledge is still not adequately recognised in many countries, and this curtails IPLCs’ agency and voice.
Overall, IPLCs contribute substantial resources to all 20 of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets through their collective actions. Global recognition of the value of collective actions has increased significantly in recent years, but, while there are some valuable funding schemes, there is insufficient evidence to assess whether there has been an overall increase in funding and support. However, it is clear from the evidence that financial support available to IPLCs is not commensurate with their contributions and increasing this type of support is essential. Meanwhile, there is an urgent need to strengthen safeguarding measures to address the continued negative impacts of biodiversity financing on IPLCs and to proactively secure their rights.