The ICCA Consortium urges governments and the UN to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ territories of life as a critical imperative and opportunity to usher in transformative change for the oceans
The 2022 UN Ocean Conference is underway in Lisbon, Portugal, from 27 June to 1 July with the slogan ‘Save our Ocean, Protect our Future.’
The UN notably acknowledges that the “conference comes at a critical time as the world is seeking to address many of the deep-rooted problems of our societies laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and which will require major structural transformations and common shared solutions.” To inspire and mobilize genuine transformative changes, such international forums should be centering on Indigenous Peoples and local communities who play an outsized role in sustaining and defending our coasts and oceans. Shining a spotlight on these communities’ self-determined alternatives to the status quo should be a priority for such international forums.
The UN Ocean Conference is an opportunity for community representatives to share their experiences—and for duty-bearers to rise to local-to-global demand for “major structural transformations and common shared solutions.”
Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ cultures and ways of life are inextricably tied to their territories, lands, and waters. There is growing evidence that appropriate recognition and support for Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ collective governance and management of their aquatic territories of life and community fisheries is one of the most effective pathways to social, ecological, and economic sustainability.
However, our Members have expressed concerns about the accessibility of the UN Ocean Conference for artisanal fishers and Indigenous and local leaders and the limited opportunities for their meaningful engagement in the official sessions, side events in the main venue, and expected policy outcomes.
Despite these concerns, several ICCA Consortium Members and network partners, including fishers’ organizations and Indigenous Peoples and local communities, are taking this opportunity to attend the conference to share their experiences and advocate for their self-determined priorities.
In preparation for the conference, some of our Members contributed to and signed the Small-Scale Fisheries Call to Action. During the conference, the ICCA Consortium and several members will co-organize a side event to facilitate dialogue on marine conservation and small-scale artisanal fisheries. In the event, community leaders and representatives of fishers’ and civil society organizations will present a vision for ocean conservation rooted in equity, social justice, sustainability, and peace.
CoopeSoliDar, LMMA Network International, Blue Ventures, MIHARI, and other Members and network partners are also co-organizing and participating in several other side events. Another critical aspect of our engagement in the conference will consist of targeted inputs to the interactive dialogues, including managing, protecting, conserving, and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems, making fisheries sustainable, and providing access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets.
Indigenous Peoples and local community organizations have the right to participate effectively not only in side events but also in the conference’s main sessions and decision-making spaces, where important declarations will be issued, plans prepared, and commitments made that will impact their lives and territories.
The right to participation and inclusion is already a tenet of international law and policy, including in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Small-scale Fisheries, among others. It is incumbent on the UN organizers and state governments to ensure it is upheld and realized in practice at the UN Ocean Conference and related domestic processes. As a membership-based association, the ICCA Consortium stands ready to support such inclusion and participation in any way we can.
Marine Protected and Conserved Areas: No decision about us without us
Ocean and all other aquatic territories of life are the basis of Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ identities, cultures, and ways of life. Despite some commonalities, each community’s relationship with the ocean is unique. The governance and management systems they build and maintain are just as diverse and precisely attuned to their unique ecosystem variabilities.
This diversity and dynamism make Indigenous and local ocean governance and management systems more effective, equitable, and sustainable than large-scale and top-down Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and other area-based conservation initiatives. Large-scale and top-down MPAs and other area-based conservation measures primarily exist in name or on paper only—far removed from the realities and complexities of what they purport to protect or conserve.
At the UN Ocean Conference, MPAs are expected to be the focus of many discussions and lauded as a key ‘solution’ for ocean conservation. However, MPAs are often created, governed, and managed by state governments and conservation organizations (including multinational NGOs) in ways that both physically and structurally exclude and criminalize Indigenous Peoples and local communities who otherwise depend upon and sustain the same areas and resources, such MPAs seek to ‘protect.’ But as evidence grows of how ineffective MPAs typically are at addressing destructive industrial fishing, we must ask: what are MPAs truly protecting and who are they protecting against?
We urge state governments, conservation organizations, and funders to turn the tide on ineffective, inequitable, and unsustainable approaches to coastal and marine conservation. Such decision-makers have a responsibility to halt conservation initiatives that undermine human rights and to shift focus to appropriately recognizing and supporting Indigenous Peoples and local communities who are governing, managing, and conserving their territories of life.
There are countless examples worldwide of Indigenous Peoples and local communities sustaining their cultures and livelihoods through effective conservation of their territories and areas.
In many countries, they are also successfully advocating for policy and legal and institutional support from state governments. Just some of the many such examples include Locally Managed Marine Areas in several island nations, fishing associations and community conserved areas in Senegal, Marine Areas of Responsible Fishing in Costa Rica, Marine and Coastal Areas of Indigenous Peoples in Chile, Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Areas in Hawai’i and Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas in Canada.
Public trust and participation bring effectiveness and accountability to such conservation measures, and the social, economic, and ecological benefits are felt by all.
NOTE TO MEDIA OUTLETS
Fishers, representatives of fishers’ organizations, Indigenous and local community leaders, and civil society organizations are available for interviews and other media opportunities. Please contact our Communications Coordinator, Mohammad Arju, by email: arju [at] iccaconsortium [dot] org or Signal and WhatsApp: +8801714076147.
Media contacts for participants from ICCA Consortium Members and network partners from specific regions
For participants from Mesoamerica (including Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, and Mexico):
Vivienne Solis Rivera
CoopeSoliDar (ICCA Consortium Member)
For participants from Chile:
Costa Humboldt (ICCA Consortium Member)
For participants from Asia-Pacific (including Fiji, the Philippines, and Indonesia):
LMMA Network International (ICCA Consortium Member)
For participants from Africa (including Madagascar, Senegal, and Tanzania) and UK/Europe:
Blue Ventures (ICCA Consortium Member)
ABOUT THE ICCA CONSORTIUM
The ICCA Consortium is a global association, currently with more than 200 Member organizations and nearly 450 individual Honorary members, all united in the common mission of supporting Indigenous Peoples and local communities in the movements for their collective lands, waters, and territories of life and for rights, justice, and equity in conservation.