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Biodiversity and human rights

Plans to monitor worldwide biodiversity deal risk harming the rights of Indigenous Peoples
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Masai man, wearing traditional blankets, overlooks Serengeti in Tanzania as the colorful sunset fills the sky. Wild grass in the forground

Proposals on how a landmark global agreement on biodiversity will be monitored risk undermining the rights of Indigenous Peoples and all affected communities and should be changed to ensure human rights are fully upheld and protected, Amnesty International has warned.
Current plans regarding how to measure progress towards the Global Biodiversity Framework – a conservation agreement which involves guaranteeing 30% of the world is protected by 2030 as well as meeting a series of other targets – are unlikely to sufficiently assess whether the rights of the original inhabitants of the land are being protected.

‘We are concerned that the monitoring framework as proposed fails to adequately protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, nor does it recognise the essential and unique role these communities play in preserving biodiversity. This raises the risk of facilitating ‘fortress conservation’ methods where original inhabitants, who are often Indigenous Peoples, are forcibly evicted from protected areas.’

Amnesty International’s advisor on Indigenous Rights

The Global Biodiversity Framework signed in 2022 recognised that the lands and territories of Indigenous Peoples and local communities should be classed as a distinct category of conservation area.

The monitoring process currently does not recognise and track these areas as a separate category from state-run conservation projects, and this must be corrected.

Traditional knowledge indicators

Indigenous Peoples and local communities have proposed four ‘traditional knowledge’ indicators be added to the monitoring framework.

These are designed to assess how well communities’ cultures and societies are flourishing, and what states are doing to protect their land rights and involve them in decisions.

They include measures to track the preservation of traditional occupations, the use of Indigenous languages, changes in land use and tenure and assessing states’ policies towards protecting traditional knowledge and involving Indigenous Peoples in decision-making.

‘It is essential that the monitoring indicators chosen reflect the distinct character of Indigenous lands and the critical contribution Indigenous Peoples make to conservation. Study after study has shown that Indigenous communities are the most successful guardians of the natural environment, with about 80% of remaining global biodiversity found on the lands of Indigenous Peoples.
‘It is vital that the traditional knowledge indicators proposed by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, which far better assess the progress of the agreement while protecting their rights, are built into the monitoring plan. Amnesty International has always argued that the rights of Indigenous Peoples must be at the heart of the Global Biodiversity Framework.’

Amnesty International’s advisor on Indigenous Rights

Biodiversity and human rights

Protecting biodiversity is critical to protecting a range of human rights, including the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

In 2022, states which are parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, a set of ambitious targets to reverse the biodiversity crisis, ensure species can thrive and prevent extinctions.

It included ‘Target 3’ to protect 30% of the world’s surface by 2030, the so-called 30 x 30 deal, which requires a huge expansion of designated conservation areas.
The agreement also committed states to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their lands, cultural heritage and to obtaining consent for any projects on their lands.

At a meeting in Nairobi that started on 13 May, parties tried to agree on a framework for monitoring progress towards the targets.

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