Native Communities Protest at UN Conference, Seek Traditional Role in Protecting Biodiversity


Leadership Newspaper, Cancun, Mexico

Environmental activists from Africa, Asia and Latin America have demanded ‎increasing roles for indigenous people and local communities in the bid to conserve biodiversity and ecological heritage.

The protesters under the auspices of International Congress and Convention Association‎ ‎(ICCA) stormed the venue of the ongoing United Nations 13th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Cancun, Mexico.

The conference, which is also hosting the the 8th Conference of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol and the 2nd Conference of Parties to the Nagoya Protocol, is expected to take further decisions on protecting 17 pe‎r cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2020.‎‎ 

However, protesters argued that ‎efforts aimed at protecting biodiversity without respect to traditional knowledge would be counterproductive. 
"‎Biodiversity without traditional knowledge is biodiversity loss,‎ governments must respect us, respect our land and our ecological assets."
President of the ICCA consortium, Taghi Farvar ‎while speaking to journalists shortly after the protest, noted that 90 per cent of biological diversity in Africa, Asia and Latin America are being protected by the indigenous people and local communities.
"Experts declared in 2003 that 90 per cent of biological diversity in Africa is conserved outside the official protected areas, and it is similar figure for Asia and Latin America. In that case, 90 per cent of the attention should be directed at the indigenous people and the local communities, conserving elephants to ants in their territories," he said. 
Farvar stated further that governments were committed to protecting interests of big companies who benefit from the destruction of biodiversity and ecological habitat, and against conservation of biological diversity.  
He added that the indigenous people, not government agencies, have knowledge on effective means of conserving biodiversity.
"Government started this business a little over 100 years ago, indigenous people's and traditional local communities have been in the business of conserving nature for thousands of years," Farvar said. "There has to be far more attention paid to the role of indigenous people's and of local communities in conserving nature, they are the ones who are conserving nature all over the world."

According to the Iranian activist, many governments are trying to protect the interests and pockets of the private sector over making real strides toward the conservation of biodiversity.
"There is achievement, we should be fair about that, but it is falling far short of the 2020 target and for humanity.‎ This organisation exists to protect the indigenous people and the local teritories, sometimes even at the costs of our lives. We have the knowledge, skills and institutions that are essential for the good governance and management of these communities."
"The consortium seek to ensure that these people are not suffocated by with what they are saying by the forces of development that are destructive of nature, culture annd communities throughout the world. We don't have big money and we are not going after the finacialisation of nature just to make our daily needs meet," he stated. 
This article also appeared in Liberty Times.