Oceania includes an extreme diversity of peoples and contexts ranging from the large countries of Australia and New Zealand and the land mass of New Guinea to 13 independent Pacific Island Countries and dependent island territories. In this region, ICCAs support the reclamation of lands, seas and rights for Indigenous peoples. Historically, Oceania’s peoples have been the most recent to endure colonization and still now are facing new forms of neocolonization. Now, rising sea levels and loss of biodiversity gravely threaten external sovereignty.

Though the region is often referred to as a single entity it is in fact an extremely humanly diverse region with over one thousand different ethnic groups and languages. The four westernmost Melanesian countries consistently rate amongst the 15 most culturally and linguistically diverse countries at a global level whether measured in terms of ethnic groups, religions or languages and adjusted for population size or land area. The total variety exhibited by the world’s natural and cultural systems, known as biocultural diversity, is also extremely high for the Melanesian countries.

The issues
Oceanic nations retain a vast  storehouse of  knowledge and traditions of Indigenous peoples.  The struggle for sovereignty is a political, social and environmental issue shared throughout the region.  Without sovereignty, the rights to continue as Indigenous peoples, practice cultures and ensure healthy and safe future generations are in peril.  Climate change is of great significance, as rising sea levels, warming temperatures and unregulated fire management regimes all affect the rights to food security, interrupt traditional knowledge practices and reduce liveable spaces.

The rapid loss of animal and plant species is deeply alarming, and Australia leads this unfortunate record.  Private property rights over fishing exclud many Indigenous communities from continuing livelihoods, and the granting of logging rights to unsustainable international corporations is devastating peoples and their lands.  International and local market economies are driving much of the delay to regaining sovereignty and suppressing the information about the effects of climate change on Indigenous peoples.

Strategies and responses

In Australia, Indigenous Protected Areas are voluntary arrangements that restore Indigenous forms of governance and conservation practices Theynow account for 7.5% of the entirety of Australia’s protected areas.  In New Zealand, judicial. courts have found in favour of the Whanganui River system, and have granted itpersonhood status and attendant rights, while in Melanesia the strengths of community-basedfisheries management over Locally Managed Marine Areas is gaining traction to offer sustainable alternatives to current unregulated markets and inefficient government policies.


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