Arctic conservation harnesses Native skills

Anne Henshaw

After years of relying on international NGOs, funders are beginning to value the contribution Indigenous Peoples can make to environmental conservation

In October 2020, the 15th conference of Parties for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will be held in Kunming, China. As governments who attend this historic meeting weigh their achievements over the last ten years and build consensus around the priorities for a post-2020 global framework, the contributions of, and participation by, Indigenous Peoples in meeting ‘in situ’ biodiversity targets will no doubt play an increasingly pivotal role. Yet, the road to having Indigenous Peoples more clearly recognised within the global conservation agenda has taken decades of work and is still often overshadowed by the agendas of large international NGOs and the scientific community.

Many US foundations are rooted in Western-based ideologies of environmentalism that do not easily accommodate diverse cultural ways of knowing and approaches to conservation.

The reasons for this are many. For years, conservation NGOs and their funders worked within a paradigm of ‘fortress conservation’, where the emphasis was on keeping people out of protected areas reflecting deep held notions that nature and culture are separate. Over time, this approach has shifted within academia and increasingly within the NGO sphere to where people are seen as part of nature and larger socio-ecological systems. A recent publication The Conservation Revolution[1] captures this trend and convincingly argues for a more integrated approach to practising conservation in the age of the Anthropocene. Indigenous Peoples and their deep and holistic understanding of environment have always taken this view but only recently have others realised its importance especially for producing lasting and durable conservation outcomes.

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