teegee1_Diego Baravellipicture alliance via Getty Images_first natiosn Diego Baravelli/picture alliance via Getty Images

A Healthy Earth Needs Indigenous Peoples

A growing body of evidence shows that lands and waters that are owned, managed, and used by indigenous peoples and local communities are much healthier than those that aren’t. Governments and multilateral bodies owe it to everyone to engage them in discussions about protecting biodiversity.

VANCOUVER – In May 2019, a landmark report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services painted a bleak picture of our planet’s health. Around one million animal and plant species – more than ever before in human history – are now threatened with extinction, many within decades. Pollution is proliferating, land degradation is accelerating, and we are nowhere near on track to achieve global goals for protecting biodiversity and achieving sustainability.

But, even as media touted the report’s dire warnings, they largely missed another of its key findings: lands and waters that are owned, managed, and used by indigenous peoples and local communities are much healthier than those that aren’t. A growing body of research supports the clear implication that indigenous peoples have a vital role to play in addressing the biodiversity crisis.

Only recently have international discussions about environmental issues begun to acknowledge the role of indigenous communities. Over the last year, delegates of the 196 parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) participated in countless workshops aimed at producing a new international agreement setting common goals and targets for reversing biodiversity decline, using ecosystems sustainably, and ensuring that the benefits they confer are shared equally. And in their most recent discussions of the initial draft of the post-2020 framework, the parties recognized the importance of including indigenous peoples in the process. This was an apparent nod to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which promotes our full and effective participation in all matters that concern us.

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