Categories Article, Convention on Biological Biodiversity, Global, World

Decolonizing conservation in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

Parties in the upcoming negotiations must align the goals and targets of the post-2020 framework with the self-determined values, visions, and leadership of the Indigenous Peoples and local communities to ensure a healthy and sustainable planet for all

Carmen Pirucho, Sabia from Soledad community in the Integral Territory of the Wampis Nation in the Peruvian Amazon working at her chacra (garden). Photo: Candy López

First published on 03/12/2022, and last updated on 03/21/2022

By Ameyali Ramos
International Policy Coordinator, ICCA Consortium

Parties and observers to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will be meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, from March 13-29, 2022, to resume in-person negotiations (for the first time in more than two years) on the current draft of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework (post-2020 framework), which aims to be an ambitious strategic plan to safeguard and protect the world’s biodiversity. While some progress has been made, much is still needed to ensure that the post-2020 framework is the transformative framework it is intended to be. 

In recent months, there has been growing recognition of the rights and roles that custodians – Indigenous Peoples and local communities – play in sustaining their collective lands and territories of life; however, acknowledgment is simply not enough. Much progress is yet to be made for custodians to be fully recognized as rights-holders, for their territories of life to be appropriately supported, and for their rights and responsibilities to those territories to be realized in practice, in accordance with their self-determined priorities. In these upcoming negotiations, Parties must align the goals and targets of the post-2020 framework with custodians’ self-determined values, vision and leadership to ensure a healthy and sustainable planet for all.

The ICCA Consortium has been following the post-2020 process closely from the beginning and preparing collectively and strategically for the upcoming negotiations. Specifically, the ICCA Consortium asserts the following priorities for the Geneva sessions: 

  • First, increase ambition and accountability in the targets intended to halt the direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss.  Specifically, Goal B and Targets 7, 8, 10, 11, 15, 16, and 18 must be more ambitious and clear. Any area-based conservation targets or achievements will be far outweighed by destructive industries such as mining, logging and mega-infrastructure. These are the same industries that directly threaten territories of life and nature conservation. Protecting and conserving a fraction of the planet will be totally insufficient to address our planetary crisis if global consumption, inequality and injustice continue to increase. 
  • Second, the post-2020 framework needs to explicitly recognize territories of life and their custodians for their outsized roles in protecting and conserving nature. This includes overall recognition of rights, including self-determination, and specific recognition of rights to collective lands, waters and territories,  governance and cultural systems, and free, prior and informed consent. These rights must be specifically recognized – at a minimum –  in Section 2bis, Goals A, C and D, Targets 1, 3, 4 and 21 and relevant indicators. Custodians and their territories of life will likely continue to face growing pressure on their lands and waters, both from harmful industries and from top-down conservation, but secure collective rights will not only give them but also the rest of the planet a fighting chance.
  • Third, it is essential to increase political, legal, technical and financial support for custodians to nurture their relationships with their territories, self-organize and strengthen their governance systems and collective rights. This will require transformative changes in laws, policies, funding processes and power relationships in conservation.  In the post-2020 framework, Goal D, milestone D.2 and Targets 14 and 19 must be made accessible and include specific support to Indigenous Peoples and local communities.  
  • Fourth, human rights should be placed at the heart of the post-2020 framework. The Human Rights Council recently recognized the right to a healthy and sustainable environment, underscoring the intertwined nature of these issues. The CBD is an environmental agreement, but it is no longer possible for governments to argue that human rights have no place in it, even though its main objective (Article 1) states that all rights must be taken into consideration. This is particularly critical in Target 3 (commonly known as the ‘30×30’ target), which has the potential to either further the recognition and support of custodians’ collective rights and roles and/or exacerbate threats, abuses and injustices, by neglecting holistic stewardship of nature in territories of life. 
  • Finally, we need to be thinking ahead to implementation of the post-2020 framework, particularly at national and sub-national levels. Indigenous Peoples and local communities who are sustaining collective lands and territories of life have the moral high ground and growing political leverage. Indigenous and community organizations and their supporters need to be creative and strategic about how we engage in advocacy with governments, funders and conservation NGOs, while being very aware of the constraints and challenges of nation-state systems.

Incorporating these priorities in the post-2020 framework will undoubtedly be a big step forward in both processes and outcomes for a multilateral forum. More broadly, however, systemic change is needed in the mainstream conservation industry, as that is where a significant amount of power is still held and many decisions will be taken in the coming months as CBD Parties, funders and others seek to implement the post-2020 framework.  

The mainstream conservation industry must be seen and treated as an industry, and the same level of scrutiny and expectations of transparency and accountability applied throughout the conservation supply chain that we do for any multinational corporation that is causing harm to communities and the planet. Big multinational NGOs still dominate mainstream conservation and act and are structured like monopolies, but they should not be seen or propped up as the necessary middlemen and conduits for support for Indigenous Peoples and local communities or for conservation more broadly. Far more diversification and localization of conservation institutions, initiatives and mechanisms are needed and should be a priority in the implementation of the post-2020 framework.

More broadly, what is needed is rooting out all forms of colonialism, destructive capitalism, and systemic injustice and inequality, and nurturing regenerative local-to-global transitions to worldviews and ways of life that are in harmony with Mother Earth.

To learn more about our collective planning and our international policy work, please visit the following:

  • Collective process of learning and sharing: For the last 6 months we have been engaged in a deep and meaningful reflection and learning process with Indigenous, community and grassroots Members on key priorities and the post-2020 framework. Voices from Custodians of Territories of Life on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework provides a summary of the main discussions and priorities. For more detailed information on this collective process, please email Carolina Rodriguez
  • A Living Document on Indicators and Suggested Target Language: Members and Honorary Members have been working to collectively define appropriate indicators and suggested target language. If you would like to see a copy of the living document and/or join the indicators working group, please email Ameyali Ramos
  • Implementing a Human Rights-Based Approach: The Theory of Change in the First Draft of the post-2020 framework acknowledges “the need for appropriate recognition of gender, equality, women’s empowerment, youth, gender-responsive approaches and the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in the implementation of this framework” and commits that it “will be implemented taking a rights-based approach and recognizing the principle of intergenerational equity.” The  Draft goes on to confirm that “success will depend on…employing rights-based approaches, and addressing the full range of indirect drivers of biodiversity loss.” This briefing paper seeks to unpack what these commitments mean in practice, by bringing in international legal principles on human rights and applying these across the post-2020 framework.  Building on previous analyses in April 2021 and in August 2021, this paper seeks to provide more in-depth discussion about monitoring and review, including proposed indicators at all levels to assess progress, success and weaknesses. For more information, please email Ameyali Ramos.  
  • Indigenous Peoples, local communities and area-based conservation targets (to be launched on March 16): This briefing seeks to bring greater clarity to the intersection between the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and the land and resource rights, collective governance and self-determination of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, particularly in the context of Target 3. The term ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ is part of the proposed text of draft Target 3, but remains relatively unknown, despite recent attempts to define and systematize its use. The briefing considers the meaning and use of this concept and explores the potential implications for Indigenous Peoples and local communities. It concludes with some considerations for how Target 3 could be improved from the perspective of securing and enhancing the realization of the rights and self-determination of Indigenous Peoples and communities with collective tenure and governance systems. For more information, please email Ameyali Ramos.