A bold new frontier for conservation

18 October 2011 | Blogs

18.10.11. "We have spent these two weeks meeting with other civil society groups and talking with our government representatives and international donors, trying to receive greater support for Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas. We're telling them that this is 'a bold new frontier for conservation'”, writes Nahid Naghizadeh, from CENESTA, The Centre for Sustainable Development - an IUCN Member from Iran.

I presented some of CENETSA’s work on this topic at an IUCN side event earlier last week to put more focus on territory-based sustainable range management by nomadic pastoralists. This is an example from Iran of Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs).

Indigenous peoples and local communities play a critical role in conserving natural environments and species for a variety of purposes: economic as well as cultural, spiritual and aesthetic. Community Conserved Areas allow a community to be closely connected to a well-defined ecosystem (or to a species and its habitat) both culturally and for survival and livelihoods. Community management decisions and efforts in these areas lead to the conservation of the ecosystem's habitats, species, ecological services and associated cultural values. Communities are also major players in decision-making and implementation regarding the management of the sites, implying that community institutions have the capacity to enforce regulations.

There are thousands of ICCAs around the world, including forests, wetlands, landscapes, village lakes, water catchment, rivers, coastal stretches and marine areas. The history of conservation and sustainable use in many of these areas is much older than that of protected areas managed by governments, yet they are often neglected or not recognised in official conservation systems. Many of them face enormous threats.

The network of UNCCD Civil Society Organizations demands special attention and strong support for those areas from the Convention for Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas. ICCAs provide major benefits for conservation and livelihoods and have significant potential for responding to global changes, including climate change, combating desertification, conservation of biodiversity, maintaining ecosystem functions and providing ecological connectivity across the landscape. They are also an approved part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which in our opinion can provide a significant opportunity for cooperation among the Multilateral Environmental Conventions.

We are trying to put more focus and stress on Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas in order to get greater support from at the conference. We are continuing sharing our experiences with other civil society organizations that are present here.