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International Policy Concerning ICCAs

While the “legitimacy” of ICCAs is rooted in the values and meanings they possess for the most directly concerned peoples and communities, their recognition and support in international law and policy and by society at large are rooted in a relatively recent process in conservation and biodiversity decision-making fora. The key moments in the progressive recognition of ICCAs in international law and policy are highlighted below.

Introducing Governance and the Role of Indigenous Peoples and Communities in Conservation Efforts

At the Vth World Parks Congress (Durban, 2003), conservation professionals systematized for the first time the concept of “governance of protected areas” and clarified that indigenous peoples and local communities – crucial actors in conservation – should be fully recognized in their governance roles. At the same Congress, a breakthrough was made by indigenous peoples – and mobile indigenous peoples in particular – effectively arguing that the respect of their rights would actually advance, rather than diminish, conservation outcomes.


Recognition of New Protected Paradigm under International Law

Shortly after the Durban Congress, the Convention on Biological Diversity, at its COP 7 meeting in Kuala Lumpur (2004), approved the CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA). PoWPA supports a “new approach” to protected areas, calling for attention to governance types and quality, equity in conservation, and indigenous peoples’ rights.


Development of Technical Guidance

The two meetings of the World Conservation Congress (WCC) that followed – WCC3 in Bangkok (2004) and WCC4 in Barcelona (2008) – confirmed and strengthened the same approach from the IUCN perspective. Numerous IUCN Resolutions attest to the will of IUCN members to recognize and support ICCAs, “(including Resolution 5.094, adopted at the World Conservation Congress in September 2012) and IUCN publications were developed to back this up technically. WCC4 in Barcelona also approved new IUCN technical guidelines for protected areas, explicitly stating that different governance types – including ICCAs – can fully contribute to developing national protected area systems. The IUCN protected area matrix, in fact, lists ICCAs as column 4 and notes that ICCAs can embrace all IUCN categories/ management objectives.


Mainstreaming Governance and Recognition of ICCAs

Meanwhile, CBD COP 8 and CBD COP 9 reviewed the implementation of PoWPA and stressed the need to engage more forcefully in its element 2 dedicated to “Governance, participation, equity and benefit sharing”. This was also reflected in the statement of recommendations that the May 2010 meeting of CBD SBSTTA in Nairobi submitted to COP 10 (Nagoya, October 2010). Noticeably, CBD SBSTTA delegates made specific recommendations about ICCA recognition, clarifying, for instance, that “mechanisms for recognition should respect the customary governance systems that have maintained ICCAs over time”. While COP 10 embraced text on ICCAs, noting that national legislation should explicitly foresee them (and that legislation that does not foresee them should be improved to do so), it failed to mention the needed safeguards regarding due respect for customary governance systems. COP 11 in Hyderabad illustrated a step-change in the number and breadth of highly relevant Decisions, with direct references to ICCAs in Decisions XI/14 on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions (arguably the most important COP 11 Decision); XI/24 on Protected Areas; and XI/25 on Sustainable Use of Biodiversity. COP 12 in Pyeongchang further entrenched ICCAs in the CBD through a number of decisions, including on resource mobilisation (XII/3), biodiversity for poverty eradication and sustainable development (XII/5), Article 8(j) and related provisions (XII/12), and ecosystem conservation and restoration (XII/19).

A comprehensive review of international law and jurisprudence relevant for Indigenous peoples and local communities was undertaken in 2012 for the ICCA Consortium. It provides a wealth of information on rights related to ICCAs under a range of international laws as well as regional and national case law.

Below are the main documents and decisions of the international meetings mentioned above. Together, they make a powerful case for the 91 state members of IUCN and 194 state Parties to the CBD to provide effective and respectful recognition and support to ICCAs. Notably, the ICCA Consortium is increasingly engaging with a wide range of international processes relating human rights, land, and other aspects of the environment (climate change, desertification, agriculture, etc.). This page will be updated as key events and outcomes emerge.

Key policy documents and events in reverse chronological order:


Key policy decisions, documents and events outlined in brief:

The Promise of Sydney, the VIth World Parks Congress (WPC), Sydney, Australia, November 2014

In addition to a pre-Congress gathering in the Blue Mountains (“Communities Conserving Nature and Culture”) and a post-Congress field visit and capacity exchange on governance of protected area systems and individual sites, the ICCA Consortium notably co-hosted and documented proceedings of Stream 6 of the Congress.

In November 2014, eleven years after the Vth World Parks Congress in Durban – a watershed for ICCAs in international conservation policy and, subsequently, biodiversity law – the VIth World Parks Congress was held in Sydney, Australia. The Congress’s policy outcome was the Promise of Sydney, comprised of four pillars: (a) the Promise of Sydney Vision; (b) strategies of each of the eight Congress Streams and four cross-cutting themes; (c) a web portal of case studies of innovative approaches; and (d) commitments to action made by countries, funders, organisations and other partners.

In addition to widespread references to ‘conserved areas’ alongside protected areas, ICCAs were specifically referenced in: (a) the Promise of Sydney Vision, and in the strategies of (b) Stream 1 on reaching conservation goals, (c) Stream 6 on governance, and (d) the New Social Compact cross-cutting theme. First, the Promise of Sydney Vision acknowledged the increasing role of (inter alia) indigenous peoples’ and community conserved areas and territories in reaching biodiversity conservation and societal goals. It promised to enhance diversity, quality and vitality in governance and management and appropriately recognise and support areas conserved by (inter alia) indigenous peoples and local communities. Second, the strategy of Stream 1 acknowledged that ICCAs (inter alia) are increasingly recognised for their key contributions to reaching conservation goals. Though it did not explicitly mention ICCAs in doing so, it also recommended recognising and promoting the contribution of indigenous and local peoples and the importance of effective and appropriate legal frameworks that recognise, support and enable diverse types of protected areas governance.

Third, the strategy of Stream 6 on governance contained the most references to ICCAs. It acknowledged that territories and areas voluntarily conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities and their collective rights and responsibilities are still largely unrecognised and unsupported. It recommended better recognition and appropriate support for voluntary and self-directed conservation efforts, including in ICCAs within and outside of protected areas and “No Go” policies to limit patterns of unsustainable exploitation of natural resources (such as extractive industries) in ICCAs, sacred natural and cultural sites, indigenous peoples’ territories and the commons of peasant, forest, herder and fishing communities (among other things). It also recommended capacity development initiatives on adaptive governance of protected and conserved territories and areas and targeted research (including on, inter alia, effective support for ICCAs) and the development of databases and analyses on governance and connectivity of protected areas and other effective conservation measures, including ICCAs.

Fourth, the New Social Compact cross-cutting theme contained only one reference to ICCAs, though the rest of the theme was broadly relevant. It recommended a ‘rapid response’ mechanism for indigenous peoples and local communities impacted by protected areas and, where applicable, development, citing ICCAs (among other things) as an important tool for redress and land restitution.

CBD COP 12, Pyeongchang, 2014

In addition to a number of events, ICCAs and related topics featured strongly in the decisions adopted at COP 12, with four in particular specifically referencing ICCAs. Notably, a number of variations of the term ICCAs were used throughout the decisions, signalling a shift away from “indigenous and community conserved areas” to the more appropriate “indigenous and community conserved territories and areas”.

Decision XII/3 on Resource Mobilisation recognises and calls upon parties to encourage and support collective action and non-market-based approaches for mobilising resources for achieving the CBD’s objectives, including promoting community-based natural resource management and indigenous and community conserved territories and areas. Decision XII/5 on Biodiversity for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development encourages parties and others to support indigenous and community conserved areas and territories, customary sustainable use and community governance of biodiversity. The Annex to Decision XII/5 (the Chennai Guidance for the Integration of Biodiversity and Poverty Eradication) calls on parties and others to strengthen the enabling environment by, inter alia, taking into account the need to appropriately recognise indigenous and community conserved territories and areas and traditional knowledge and conservation practices.


Decision XII/12 on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions invites parties to include in requests to donors support for indigenous and local communities to develop community plans and protocols to document, map, and register their community conservation areas and to prepare, implement and monitor their community conservation plans, and support for countries to strengthen recognition of indigenous and local community conservation areas. Importantly, after years of efforts and negotiations, the Plan of Action on Customary Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity was adopted as an Annex to Decision XII/12; it contains a wide range of important provisions, including acknowledging the contributions of indigenous and community conserved territories and areas to the effective conservation of important biodiversity sites and highlighting the CBD Technical Series No. 64 on ICCAs as a source of best practices relating to protected areas and customary use of biodiversity. Finally, Decision XII/19 on Ecosystem Conservation and Restoration recognises the contribution of ICCAs to biodiversity conservation, invites parties and others to promote holistic and integrated planning for ecosystem conservation and restoration in indigenous and local community conserved areas and to provide support and incentives to indigenous peoples and local communities in their efforts to conserve biodiversity in indigenous and local community conserved areas, and reaffirms the importance of public awareness of the role of protected areas and ICCAs in achieving Aichi Target 11, among others.

EMRIP 7, Geneva, 2014

This session of EMRIP included a continuation of the previous year’s thematic study on access to justice, with a focus on Indigenous women, children, and persons with disabilities, as well as a new thematic study on disaster risk reduction. Overall, two key points to note were: a) the multiple references to environmental issues (a notable shift over the past few sessions of EMRIP), and b) a more nuanced look at the special rights and types of marginalisation of groups within Indigenous peoples (women, youth and children, and persons with disabilities). ICCA Consortium members IPACC and Natural Justice made a joint statement on the role of ICCAs in climate change mitigation and adaptation and prevention of disasters, several points of which were taken on board in the final Expert Mechanism Advice No. 7 adopted by the Human Rights Council. In addition, Natural Justice and the Consortium co-hosted a side event on access to justice, UNDRIP, and ICCAs with several speakers from the Consortium membership.


EMRIP 6, Geneva, 2013

The ICCA Consortium participated in the sixth session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples through written submissions, oral statements, and a side event, all focusing on the theme of Indigenous peoples and access to justice. A draft study prepared by the Experts is available on the EMRIP website. For more information, please view the side event report and the submissions by Natural Justice and PIDP-Kivu.


CBD COP 11, Hyderabad, 2012

The overriding emphasis of the negotiations was on setting the foundations for resource mobilisation and policy alignment to implement the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan and Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Amongst the 33 Decisions adopted, there were hundreds of provisions of relevance to the Consortium and its Members. ICCAs (commonly referred to as “indigenous and community conserved areas” or “community conservation areas” in the CBD) were referenced 9 times, particularly in XI/14 on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions, XI/24 on Protected Areas, and XI/25 on Sustainable Use of Biodiversity. Many other key terms such as traditional knowledge, customary sustainable use, tenure, rights, livelihoods, full and effective participation, prior informed consent, community protocols, and customary laws – all essential aspects of securing the integrity and resilience of ICCAs – were found throughout a wide range of Decisions.

For more information, please see “ICCAs in COP 11 Decisions” from pages 7-10 in the COP 11 Consortium Participants’ Report.


Vth World Conservation Congress, Jeju, 2012

Building on multiple Resolutions and Recommendations of previous Congresses on ICCAs, the Fifth Congress in Jeju pushed the ICCA agenda forwards with stronger language regarding self-determination and self-governance, appropriate recognition and respect (including for community protocols and procedures and customary laws), and strengthening laws and policies in line with UNDRIP and other international human rights. Some of the highlights include:

Resolution 5.077: “Promoting Locally Managed Marine Areas as a socially inclusive approach to meeting area-based conservation and Marine Protected Area targets

Resolution 5.094: “Respecting, recognizing and supporting Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Territories and Areas

Resolution 5.097: “Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Recommendation 5.147: “Sacred Natural Sites: Support for custodian protocols and customary laws in the face of global threats and challenges

For more information, please see “Resolutions and Recommendations” from pages 12-13 in the WCC Consortium Participants’ report.

Rio+20 Congress, Rio de Janeiro, 2012

Coinciding with the 20-year anniversary of the original Rio summit at which several keystone international environmental treaties and instruments were adopted, the Rio+20 Congress hosted a People’s Summit in parallel, which arguably made more progress than the official proceedings. The Green Economy featured strongly on the agendas of both, with the former providing grassroots critiques and alternative solutions to the environmental crisis, including stronger recognition of Indigenous peoples’ and communities’ stewardship efforts. For more information, please view the ICCA Consortium participants’ report and other supporting documents.

CBD COP 10, Nagoya, 2010 –2011-2020 Strategic Plan & Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The new Strategic Plan and Aichi Biodiversity Targets provide the overarching framework on biodiversity, not only for the biodiversity-related conventions, but for the entire United Nations system. The tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties agreed to translate this overarching international framework into national biodiversity strategies and action plans within two years. Additionally, in decision X/10, the meeting decided that the fifth national reports, due by 31 March 2014, should focus on the implementation of the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan and progress achieved towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

The Plan contains five strategic goals and 20 Aichi Targets. In practice, ICCAs are contributing to the achievement of the vast majority of these Targets, but efforts are largely unrecognised. Of particular relevance to ICCAs are Targets 1 (on awareness of biodiversity), 5 (on reducing the rate of loss of natural habitats), 7 (on sustainable agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry), 11 (on protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures), 13 (on genetic diversity of cultivated plants and domesticated animals), 14 (on restoration and safeguarding of ecosystems), and 18 (on traditional knowledge, innovations and practices).

As an example, Target 11 reads: By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes. It is important to stress that IUCN defines “indigenous and community conserved areas” as areas under the direct governance (authority, responsibility and accountability) of indigenous peoples and local communities (IUCN is the technical body of reference for CBD on protected areas).

The ICCA Consortium is currently compiling a Briefing Note on the contribution of ICCAs to the achievement of the Aichi Targets, which is expected for publication in 2014.


CBD COP 10, Nagoya, 2010 – Decision X/31 on protected areas

The CBD COP 10 decision regarding the Programme of Work on Protected Areas include the following paragraphs relevant to ICCAs:

(b) Recognize the role of indigenous and local community conserved areas and conserved areas of other stakeholders in biodiversity conservation, collaborative management and diversification of governance types;

(c) Recalling paragraph 6 of decision IX/18 A, further Invites Parties to:

(i) Improve and, where necessary, diversify and strengthen protected-area governance types, leading to or in accordance with appropriate national legislation including recognizing and taking into account, where appropriate, indigenous, local and other community-based organizations;

(ii) Recognize the contribution of, where appropriate, co-managed protected areas, private protected areas and indigenous and local community conserved areas within the national protected area system through acknowledgement in national legislation or other effective means;

(iii) Establish effective processes for the full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities, in full respect of their rights and recognition of their responsibilities, in the governance of protected areas, consistent with national law and applicable international obligations;

(iv) Further develop and implement measures for the equitable sharing of both costs and benefits arising from the establishment and management of protected areas and make protected areas an important component of local and global sustainable development consistent with national legislations and applicable international obligations.



Global Biodiversity Outlook, Nairobi, 2010

This is a link to the main GBO page and gives (on the right hand-top corner) links to the GBO Handbook in Arabic, Chinese, Russian, French, Spanish, English and Portuguese. Page 40-41 are the most relevant pages to community conserved areas:

‘ Indigenous and local communities play a significant role in conserving very substantial areas of high biodiversity and cultural value.’ p. 40

‘In addition to officially-designated protected areas, there are many thousand Community Conserved Areas (CCAs) across the world, including sacred forests, wetlands, and landscapes, village lakes, catchment forests, river and coastal stretches and marine areas.’ p.40

‘Biodiversity is at the centre of many religions and cultures…this is particularly true for more than 400 million indigenous and local community members for whom the Earth’s biodiversity is not only a source of wellbeing but also the foundation of their cultural and spiritual identities.’ p.40

‘Some studies show that levels of protection are actually higher under community or indigenous management than under government management alone.’



SBSTTA, Nairobi, 2010

The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), Fourteenth Meeting. Please see, from the document linked above, the sections highlighted in yellow that address the roles and participation of Indigenous people, especially page 7:

(b) Recognize the role of indigenous and local community conserved areas and conserved areas of other stakeholders in biodiversity conservation, collaborative management and diversification of governance types;

(c) Recalling paragraph 6 of decision IX/18 A, develop appropriate mechanisms for the recognition and support of indigenous and community conserved areas (ICCAs), inter alia, through formal acknowledgement, inclusion in listings or databases, legal recognition of community rights to land and/or resources, as appropriate, or incorporation of ICCAs into official protected area systems, with the approval and involvement of indigenous and local communities in accordance with national laws and applicable international obligations. Such mechanisms for recognition should respect the customary governance systems that have maintained ICCAs over time;

(d) Establish clear mechanisms and processes for equitable cost and benefit-sharing and for full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities, related to protected areas, in accordance with national laws and applicable international obligations.


Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ rights over their ancestral lands and natural resources (Norms and Jurisprudence of the Inter-American Human Rights System) 2009

This report of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights (IACHR) compiles and discusses the scope of indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights over their territories, lands and natural resources. It analyses the obligation of the State to consult with indigenous peoples and guarantee their participation in decision-making with regards to any measure that affects their territories. It also stipulates the State must consult indigenous peoples on any matters that might affect them and must obtain free, prior informed consent before any decisions are passed. The whole process is designed to be carried out in accordance with customs and traditions of the indigenous peoples involved, through culturally adequate procedures whilst taking into account traditional decision-making methods.

This report is based on the legal instruments of the Inter-American system, as interpreted by the Commission and the Inter-American Court in the light of developments within international human rights law. It also aims to point out specific problems, guidelines, and best practices to enhance the utilisation of human rights by indigenous and tribal peoples across the hemisphere.


CBD COP 9 Decision IX/18 on Protected Areas, Bonn, 2008

World Conservation Congress, Barcelona, 2008


Resolution 4.048Indigenous Peoples protected Areas and implementation of the Durban Accord’


Resolution 4.049Supporting Indigenous conservation territories and other indigenous peoples and community conservation areas’


Resolution 4.050Recognition of of Indigenous conserved territories’



CBD COP8 Decision VIII/24 on Protected Areas, Curitiba, 2006

Decision VIII/24.18(g) ‘To support institutional strengthening and improved governance of protected-areas management authorities including those of indigenous and local communities’

Decision VIII/24.22(e) ‘To support community conserved areas, ensuring the immediate, full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in the development of relevant activities’


World Conservation Congress, Bangkok, 2004

Resolution 3.012Governance of natural resources for conservation and sustainable development’ p.11-13

Resolution 3.049Community Conserved Areas’ p.55-56

Resolution 3.081Implementation of principle 10 by building comprehensive, good governance systems’ p. 95-96


Programme of Work on Protected Areas, approved at COP 7, Kuala Lumpur, 2004

The Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA) was approved at COP 7 in Kuala Lumpur in 2004. The programme consists of an introduction followed by four main ‘elements’. Element 2 is directly linked with the issues of Governance and ICCAs, however, the whole document still contains useful references to them.

The areas highlighted in yellow in the CEESP Briefing Note no.8 are excerpts from PoWPA most relevant for governance and ICCAs.


The Durban Accord from The Vth World Parks Congress (WPC), Durban, South Africa, 2003

Crucial excerpts from the Accord: ‘We urge commitment to recognize, strengthen, protect and support community conservation areas’.


The Durban Action Plan, from the Vth World Parks Congress (WPC), Durban, South Africa, 2003

‘Outcome 5- The Rights of Indigenous People, including mobile indigenous peoples, and local communities are secured in relation to natural resources and biodiversity conservation’ p. 244

‘Outcome 6- Younger Generations are empowered in relation to protected areas’

‘Outcome 8- Improved forms of Governance are in Place’ p. 257


Recommendations from the Vth World Parks Congress (WPC), Durban, South Africa, 2003

Recommendation V:16 ‘Good Governance of Protected Areas’ p.175-176

Recommendation V:17 ‘Recognising and Supporting Diversity of Governance for Protected Areas’p.177-178

Recommendation V:26 ‘Community and Conserved Areas’ p.202-204


The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention no. 169, 1989

This convention revises the Indigenous and Tribal populations Convention of 1957


Article 3.1 ‘Indigenous and tribal peoples shall enjoy the full measure of human rights and fundamental freedoms without hindrance or discrimination. The provisions of the Convention shall be applied without discrimination to male and female members of these peoples’.



Article 6.B
‘Establish means by which these peoples can freely participate, to at least the same extent as other sectors of the population, at all levels of decision making in elective institutions and administrative and other bodies responsible for policies and programmes which concern them’


Article 28.3

‘Measures shall be taken to preserve and promote the development and practice of the indigenous languages of the peoples concerned’



Find here the latest calls for submissions and public consultations relevant for ICCAs



Policy Brief n.2 prepared by the ICCA Consortium, Maliasili Initiatives and CENESTA

 Collective land tenure & Community conservation


Policy Brief n.1 prepared by the ICCA Consortium, CBD Alliance, Kalpavriksh and CENESTA

ICCAs & Aichi Targets

international policy page

Technical advice on international policy -specifically on governance issues and ICCAs download documents below:

syn report eng condensed version
cover page of the ea icca english
Bio-cultural diversity conserved by Indigenous peoples and local communities’. Llaunched at CBD COP 10 (NAGOYA OCT 2010) available in Engl, Esp, Fr

Strengthening what works: IUCN CEESP Briefing note no 10′ (May 2010) available in Engl, Esp, Fr

guidelines english cover Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories (English)IUCN Directrices para la Aplication des lA Categories de gestion de AreasProtegidas, 2008 (Espanol)UICN Lignes Directrices pour l’Application des categories de Gestion aux Aires Protégées, 2008 (Francais)

 ‘Establish means by which these peoples can freely participate, to at least the same extent as other sectors of the population, at all levels of decision makingin elective institutions and administrative and other bodies responsiblefor policies and programmes which concern them’