Categories ICCA on the international level, Indigenous people’s rights and human rights, Key policies

UN Special Rapporteur report on human rights and the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity (2017)

UN Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment: report to the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights obligations relating to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity (2017, A/HRC/34/49)

Available in 6 UN languages here.

Professor John H. Knox’s report describes the importance of ecosystem services and biodiversity for the full enjoyment of human rights and outlines the application of human rights obligations (including procedural and substantive obligations, and obligations in relation to people in vulnerable situations) to biodiversity-related actions.

As part of the preparation of this thematic report, members of the ICCA Consortium participated in an expert consultation from 20-21 September 2016, submitted responses to a questionnaire on 30 September 2016, held a meeting with Prof. Knox on 13 December during CBD COP13, and identified for Prof. Knox a list of COP13 decisions that referenced ICCAs and related issues.

The report is broadly relevant, with some sections more directly relevant to ICCAs. Section II/B/3 considers the multiple impacts of degradation and loss of biodiversity on indigenous peoples, forest-dwellers, fisherfolk and others who rely directly on biodiversity and nature, stating that such degradation and loss “often result from and reinforce existing patterns of discrimination” (para. 22).

It identifies the “continuing failure to protect environmental human rights defenders” as “[p]erhaps the most egregious problem” arising from States’ failure to meet procedural obligations and provide effective remedies to those harmed by the loss and degradation of ecosystems (para. 31). In Section III/C, the report notes that “States have obligations not only to protected environmental defenders, but also to protect the ecosystems on which the human rights of so many people directly depend” (para. 49). It also acknowledges that indigenous peoples and local communities are “working to protect the ecosystems on which they rely from unsustainable development” and that the global failure to protect biodiversity is “already having catastrophic consequences for indigenous peoples and others who depend directly on ecosystems” (para. 49). These provide an important link for the ICCA Consortium’s work on SAFE and the Alerts mechanism.

Notably, the report acknowledges people who do not self-identify as indigenous but who “also have close relationships to the territory that they have traditionally occupied and depend directly on nature” (para. 52). A sizable portion of the report is dedicated to identifying a number of State obligations to protect the rights of non-indigenous persons and communities with such close relationships to their territories and ecosystems (paras. 52-61).

The report refers specifically to ICCAs and CBD Technical Series No. 64 (co-published by the ICCA Consortium in 2012) and states that “[p]rotecting the rights of those who live closest to nature is not just required by human rights law; it is also often the best or only way to ensure the protection of biodiversity” (para. 59). It goes on to identify a number of CBD Decisions that recognize and support the role of indigenous peoples and local communities in the protection of biodiversity, including through ICCAs (para. 61). It notes that the IUCN’s endorsement and development of a “new paradigm for protected areas” has included expressing support for ICCAs in the outcomes of IUCN World Parks and World Conservation Congresses (para. 62).

All of the Conclusions and Recommendations (Section IV) are broadly relevant. Two specifically refer to ICCAs. The first calls on states to recognize, respect and protect the rights of non-indigenous minority communities in addition to rights of indigenous peoples, and “support indigenous and local efforts to protect biodiversity, including through ICCAs” (para. 71). The second calls on businesses to respect human rights in their biodiversity-related actions, including by “[n]ot seeking or exploiting concessions in protected areas of ICCAs” (para 72(d)). Other key recommendations concern recognition of environmental human rights defenders (para. 68), respecting and protecting the rights of those who are particularly vulnerable to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services (para. 69(b)), and calling on States to redouble efforts to achieve the Aichi Targets and on donors to ensure biodiversity-related projects do not violate human rights (para. 70).