Categories Article, Convention on Biological Biodiversity, Global, World

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework takes important steps for social and environmental justice

After years of negotiations and many COVID-induced delays, Indigenous Peoples and local communities successfully advocated for key forms of recognition, marking a new minimum standard in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The ICCA Consortium’s international policy team provides an initial analysis of the key outcomes of COP15

Kampung Sega territory of life in Indonesia. Photo: Cindy Julianty

First published on 02/09/2023, and last updated on 02/13/2023

Written By Ameyali Ramos (International Policy Coordinator), Carolina Rodríguez (International Policy, Regional Focal Point for Latin America), Aquilas Koko Ngomo (International Policy, Regional Focal Point for Africa)


  • The new Framework envisions living in harmony with nature by 2050, with targets by 2030, and aims to halt biodiversity loss
  • The Framework recognizes the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, including collective rights and rights to their lands and territories, as well as their roles in and contributions to nature conservation
  • The Framework recognizes the integrity and distinct nature of Indigenous and traditional territories to area-based conservation, beyond the mainstream categories of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs)
  • The Framework addresses the need for access to justice and protection for environmental defenders

On 19 December 2022, Parties to the UN Convention of Biological Diversity adopted the new Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. While the process left a lot to be desired and the outcome is far from perfect, the Framework includes multiple references to human rights (including the right to a clean, safe and healthy environment), the human rights-based approach, the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and full, effective and equitable participation in decision-making, and the recognition  of the customary systems in the sustainable use.

Notably, Target 3 (the “emblematic” target of the Framework, commonly known as 30×30), which calls for at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine areas to be effectively conserved and managed, includes a direct reference to recognizing and respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Explicit recognition of Indigenous and traditional territories in their own right, as a third pathway beyond protected areas and OECMs, is a critical step forward in providing options for Indigenous Peoples and local communities to choose the best form of recognition in their particular context. This is especially important in light of historical, continuing, and potential future injustices in the name of conservation, including through protected areas and OECMs.

Equitable governance is essential in conservation, where the decision-making involves the different territorial organizational structures, local and indigenous communities, and their authorities, as well as the different co-responsibilities in their territories where area-based conservation is applied. To that end, the new framework is expected to bring significant changes in how conservation is done on the ground.

A significant proportion of the world’s remaining biodiversity is conserved by Indigenous Peoples and local communities through their customary laws and cultures. Despite this, unfortunately, human rights violations in the name of conservation continue in practice. For that reason, it is important to continue to advocate for stronger legal protections and ways to hold duty-bearers accountable. Thanks to the efforts of diverse rights-holders and stakeholders in the negotiation process, the post-2020 global biodiversity framework enshrines the strongest recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ rights to date in the UN CBD. In doing so, it provides another important legal and political leverage point to push for the reduction and elimination of rights abuses in the name of conservation.

Several other targets in the Framework speak to issues of justice and equity, including:

  • participatory and inclusive spatial planning (Target 1);
  • recognition of effectively manage human-wildlife interactions to minimize human-wildlife conflict for coexistence, and genetic diversity and their adaptive potential in situ conservation;
  • respect and protection of the customary sustainable use in use, harvesting and trade of wildlife (Target 5);
  • protection and promotion of the customary use of Indigenous Peoples and local communities as important part of social,  economic and environmental benefits for people (Target 9);
  • inclusion of agroecology as a strategy for sustainable production (Target 10);
  • ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefit through taking effective legal administrative or policy measures in utilization of genetic resources (Target 13);
  • enhancing the role of collective actions, including by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and of Mother Earth-centric actions and non-market-based approaches for resource mobilization (Target 19);
  • free prior and informed consent in knowledge sharing (Target 21);
  • ensuring full, effective and equitable participation in decision-making for Indigenous Peoples and local communities and access to justice and protection for environmental defenders (Target 22); and
  • gender equality (Target 23).

Compared to the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and Aichi Targets adopted at COP10 in 2010, this Framework represents a significant step forward for social and environmental justice in general, and for the distinct rights of Indigenous Peoples and of local communities in the context of the UN CBD.

The Framework was not the only decision adopted at COP15. Many others, including those related to the Cartagena and Nagoya Protocols, nature and culture, development of a new programme of work on Article 8(j) and related provisions, and the Gender Plan of Action also included language on equity, justice, rights, and roles and contributions of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Several ICCA Consortium Members and Honorary members were in Montreal during the negotiations to collectively advocate for the self-determined priorities of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, including women and youth. An important part of this process was sharing experiences and perspectives from territories of life around the world.

Joseph Itongwa (ANAPAC-RDC and the ICCA Consortium’s Regional Coordinator for Central Africa) stated that: “Traditional knowledge and equity are important elements to be taken into account in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. We need to protect Indigenous Peoples’ traditional biodiversity management systems to help governments achieve conservation goals to live in harmony with nature by 2050.”

Emphasizing the outstanding role of Indigenous Peoples in biodiversity conservation and the fight against climate breakdown, Giovanni Reyes from the Philippine ICCA Consortium recalled that “the lack of adequate financial resources is among the reasons for the failure to achieve the previous global biodiversity goals.” He highlighted that “during the UN Climate Change Conference or COP26, the climate pledge stated the crucial contribution of Indigenous Peoples protecting forests including tenure rights and forest guardianship in tropical and sub-tropical forests as a key in combating climate change.”

Custodians of marine territories of life were also present in Montreal. Pérsida Chauquenao, a Mapuche leader, shared the story of how Indigenous customary laws and norms are now officially recognized by the Chilean government. Our Members in Chile, including Mapuche peoples, are working actively to engage with this legal framework, understand how it is being implemented in practice, and propose recommended changes for more appropriate recognition and support.

It is now time to move swiftly toward creative interpretation and implementation at national levels, to build meaningful and respectful partnerships, and to ensure adequate resources and support are directly accessible for Indigenous Peoples and local communities to pursue their self-determined priorities for their territories of life.

ED. NOTE: In 2023, we will have some changes in the Secretariat team that provides support for international policy, including as we shift to region-specific policy and advocacy teams. As these changes are still being finalized at the time of publication, we have in the meantime used the titles of Ameyali, Carolina and Aquilas as of COP15 in December 2022.

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