Key Issues the Conference Examined

Key Issues included
Consultation with indigenous people, Bolivia

Governance of Natural Resources

If one issue is central for the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable and equitable use of natural resources this is-undoubtedly-governance. Yet, governance is a relative latecomer in the conservation community, and for decades was generally eschewed by the relevant institutions. Recently, however, due in part to the impact of IUCN and its Commissions, it has come into the policy spotlight. Soon all parties interested in conservation may have to contend with 'governance'. Governance has to do with power, relationships, responsibility and accountability. A specific “governance setting” for a body of natural resources reflects what a society values as equitable and fair, or which it is prepared to accept as a stepping stone to full and fair governance capacity. The setting defines the who and how of authority, responsibility and accountability regarding natural resources. Clearly, governance depends on formal institutions, processes, tenure and access to resources and other legal rights. For instance, governance settings change dramatically when authorities open up to pluralism and recognize multiple interests and values in society. But governance also depends on history, culture, customary rights, access to information, presence of markets, financial flows and a variety of informal influences on decisions. Governance affects the achievement of the relevant management objectives (effectiveness), the sharing of costs and benefits (equity) and the generation and sustenance of community, political and financial support towards sound management of natural resources.

Woman in Mexico

Promoting a Rights Based Approach to Conservation

  • Promoting a rights based approach to conservation: What is a rights-based approach to conservation? What methods have proven successful for implementing rights-based approaches that achieve measureable progress? What concrete benefits can be expected from its adoption and implementation? Who will enjoy those benefits?
  • The social impact of conservation: What are the main positive and negative social consequences of establishing protected areas? What are the links between biodiversity conservation and local poverty?
  • Governance and security: What factors determining human and environmental security need to be appreciated as crucial for conservation and sustainable livelihoods, and to be effectively incorporated in the governance of natural resources?
  • The institutional implication of a rights-based approach: What forms of accountability are most llikely to be effective in achieving social accountability of conservation agencies?
  • Gender and youth: How can rights based approaches encourage a more gender equitable sharing of costs and benefits of conservation and ensure youth are continually included to renew conservation and adapt to changing circustances?

Mining in the Philippines

Social and Environmental Accountability of the Private Sector

Biodiversity is currently being lost at an incredible speed, affecting the lives of millions of people particularly the poor and the indigenous people who depend most on biodiversity for survival. Climate change is widely considered to be the biggest threat to the planet, its people and its environment. Current levels of Green house gases need to be cut by 60%. Current global actions to solve the problem are inadequate and slow to develop.

Oil and gas companies, in their search for new oil and gas reserves, are now moving into remote areas of high biodiversity and low government or civil society capacity to ensure that the companies do not damage the environment or cause human rights abuses particularly to indigenous peoples who often inhabit these remote locations. The financial and political power of many of the oil and gas corporations is far greater than that of many developing countries and their influence extends to financing and consequently influencing the civil society institutions which should be helping to control them. Important areas of biodiversity and water catchments are also being damaged by legal and illegal logging and from some mining companies operations. Down stream pollution and siltation is damaging biodiversity and critical water resources vital to provide clean water for irrigated crops, fish ponds, domestic and commercial purposes. Vital fish breeding grounds in both fresh water as well as the shallow coastal environments are being affected.

Working with the private sector is essential in order to achieve conservation and sustainable development goals. There are companies who are making serious commitments to improve their environmental footprint, and show leadership in the world of sustainability, but there are also significant legacy issues that need to be addressed (particularly with extractive industries).

Many people remain sceptical of the potential of the private sector to achieve social and environmental goals through voluntary measures. There are large amounts of data that have been gathered by independent investigators demonstrating that many of the extractive industry projects not only continue to be environmentally destructive but also continue to deprive local communities of livelihoods and, in some cases, persecute those individuals who protest their activities. In some cases, governments look the other way or even collaborate with the industries in these actions.

Many citizens are calling for an energy revolution on the scale of the Industrial revolution “that will reduce the impact of oil and gas on climate change and biodiversity” by shifting from finite fossil fuel (coal, oil, gas) driven economies, to sustainable energy sources. and to dramatic improvement in the efficiency with which society produces and uses energy.

Some efforts to produce renewable energy are themselves causing serious environmental and social problems and a classic case is biofuels particularly agro-fuels. Efforts to produce them on a commercial scale are destroying vital forests for Palm and Soya oils, causing increased green house gases, damaging critical fish breeding grounds, depriving the population of valuable agricultural land and often causing human rights abuses as farmers are deprived their livelihoods and indigenous peoples of their human rights.

  • How can civil societies have a greater impact on governments and National and International developing agencies that finance extractive industries and subsidise fossil fuels rather then renewables?
  • How can we achieve power sharing between industries particularly the extractive industries such as oil, gas, mining, logging, fishing and stakeholders and achieve power sharing. Can Citizens Councils help in this regard?
  • How do we increase financial transparency and the driving forces of business for good social and environmental conduct and persuade the financial and insurance sectors to ensure that they only support environmentally and socially acceptable companies?

Happy children of Shagarab, Eastern Sudan

Linkages between cultural, linguistic and biological diversity

There is an inherent link between cultural, linguistic and biological diversity. Areas where rich biodiversity is flourishing are also highly likely to be places where cultural and linguistic diversity are also present. Culture is the frame through which people understand their environment in all of its complexity, how they communicate that understanding, and the source of the values that guide people’s interaction with their surroundings, with other communities and within themselves”. As, a result, the quality of environments, the landscapes people exist within, can be understood as an expression of culture and, increasingly, as a result of cultural struggles. In many ways, culture can be thought of as a living body of knowledge about nature and of the history of the ways in which people have interacted with their surroundings, and how they know themselves in relation to their surroundings.

There is significant variability in this knowledge and practice around the world. As diverse peoples have developed their own ways of talking about and representing their surroundings, they have come to express, through language, the qualities of their environment in different ways. Yet each of these systems of communication contains important insights into the functioning of our natural world and how best to live with it to the benefit of all. In many ways the existence of languages rich in words that describe the natural world is an expression of the existence of rich biodiversity, but it is also an expression of a knowledge of that biodiversity that revolves around its importance in supporting livelihoods and belief systems. People know the words for the natural world because it is important to be able to talk about the natural world. And people talk about the natural world because it is important to defining who they are, what they believe and value, and how they live their lives.

We all benefit from the knowledge contained within the diverse but indivisible ways of knowing nature and the languages required to communicate that knowledge. But we know that struggles for control over resources often create conflict that acts to diminish culture and obliterate language. Histories of colonialism are rife with examples of dispossession, alienation and genocide that have obliterated knowledge of, ways of understanding, and ways of communicating the natural world that we can never regain. And, despite the recognition of the integral relation between culture and biological diversity, we continue to confront dominant conditions that contribute to the demise of cultural diversity and the consequent loss of knowledge and biodiversity. But we also encounter situations that provide hope that institutional contexts can change in ways that demonstrate an understanding of the importance of cultural diversity. Important challenges that confront us today are not simply ways of understanding the relation between culture and biodiversity but ways of grounding conservation policy and practice in a sincere respect for culture and cultural diversity and its integral relation to the ongoing protection of biological diversity.

When communities are forcibly removed from protected areas or denied access to their cultural resources, their culture and social structure suffer tremendous negative impacts and conservation-oriented knowledge and practices are often lost with serious consequences for biodiversity. How can these past wrongs be righted, and how can these damages be prevented in the future?

Dominant forms of conservation practice are increasingly coordinated at a global scale through transnational institutions, agreements, and organizations. How does this global scale of coordination affect the capacity to integrate diverse cultural perspectives into effective biodiversity conservation policy and practice?

Environmental degradation, climate change, and biodiversity loss has focused much attention on the capacity for adaptation. What are the relations between culture, cultural diversity and capacity for adaptation to environmental degradation?

Indigenous people often suffer most from the impacts of climate change. Their needs and the techniques they use for conserving their own, often complex, environment should take a far more important place in the climate change debate.

Environment Conflict and Security

In the context of the emerging challenges posed by climate change, including the increase in natural disasters, the opportunities being presented to communities by frameworks such as REDD, carbon credits, and the commitment to rights based approaches to natural resources by nation states, there is increasing potential for conflict over the governance and management of natural resources.

Models of management of natural resources will have to be reviewed and revisited in the context of the emerging challenges, especially in those parts of the world that will be most affected by climate change. In this context a number of initiatives are already underway in a number of nations to review policies and programmes for enabling better responses to the challenges and opportunities presented by climate change. Indigenous and traditional management models may have to be reviewed in the changed context to enable effective adaptation without conflict over governance and security issues.

What are the challenges posed by climate change and the responses to it in the management of natural resources? Are nation states viewing this issue from the point of security and the emergence of future potential conflicts?

Are indigenous people and local communities being included in the research being done and the new policies adopted by nation states? What about the impact of climate change on women and children? Who has benefited from the new opportunities that climate change has posed? What are the public-private partnership policies that are being adopted? What needs to be reviewed and improved?

Another aspect of conflict, environment and security pertains to the governance and management of natural resources in nations in internal conflict or those emerging from such conflicts.

Have livelihoods of indigenous groups and other local communities been affected by conflict? What have been some context specific successful coping strategies adopted by different communities? What has been the impact of conflict on women and their management of natural resources for livelihoods?

TEMTI page

Intersection between Economics and the Environment

Science and technology have performed a complex role in the process of economic change in the past two hundred years. On one hand, they have increased human welfare and have contributed significantly to increasing life expectancy. But on the other hand, science and its technological applications have inadvertently brought about many problems for the environment and for human populations. Clearly there are no “technological silver bullets” for the solution of the most pressing environmental challenges of our times.

During this period, social disparities have increased and inequality has become pervasive. And even if we acknowledge the existence of a debate regarding the evolution of some of the indicators used to measure inequality, the inescapable truth is that disturbing international trends persist. Today, according to international development agencies, more than half of the world’s population (approximately three billion people) lives in or under the poverty line. It is clear that the Millenium Development Goals will not be attained, especially the ones related to poverty, hunger and health.

In spite of the more intense economic integration that exists today, the performance of the world’s economy in the past thirty years has been marked by lower growth rates in the highly industrialized nations and the middle income countries, and moderate growth rates in the lower income economies. In addition, the forces that have contributed to this more intense economic integration (especially the elimination of barriers to capital flows) have been at the root of violent and frequent financial and economic crises in the past twenty years.

In remote areas, economic development is demanding integration of transport and energy networks at the expense of biodiversity, ecological sustainability and indigenous peoples rights to self determination. Demand for food security in some regions of the world are driving agroindustralisation of lands and resources.