TGER - Four Year Report to IUCN CEESP Chair and SC 2009-2012

16 August 2012 | Article

Prepared by TGER co-chairs, Dr. Janis Bristol Alcorn and Juanita Cabrera Lopez The objective of the CEESP TGER (Thematic group on Governance, Equity and Rights) is improved governance and equity through a rights-based approach to conservation. TGER has maintained a steady number of around 330 members from over 40 countries over the past four years. By strengthening a positive, forward movement in ‘rights-based approaches to conservation’ (RBA), TGER members working together are helping IUCN to re-vision and reframe conservation as a more socially-just activity.

By focusing on a rights-based approach to conservation and the development and promotion of a ‘new conservation ethic’ as key topics of discussion on the TGER listserve, there has been increased activity among TGER members on the issue of tenurial rights. Land grabs and the other integrational development financing initiatives that threaten indigenous and local communities and biodiversity in traditional agricultural patchwork landscapes are some examples of the scope of work addressed by TGER members.

TGER Highlights from the CEESP Sharing Power Conference, 2011:

In January 2011, CEESP celebrated its first ever global Conference – Sharing Power: A New Vision for Development in Whakatane, New Zealand. The Sharing Power conference provided an opportunity to engage academics, indigenous leaders, scientists, and activists from various regions of the world to discuss issues at the core of TGER -- Governance, Equity, and Rights within conservation. Through shared stories, respectful dialogue, challenging current trajectory, and presenting alternatives, the lasting impact has been a recommitment from CEESP and IUCN to engage, promote and utilize governance, equity, and rights as a core of all work.

TGER produced two papers for discussion at the Whakatane meeting - "Seeking New Paths to Conservation: A Review of the Conservation Industry, the Countercurrents, and Options for Renewal" and " TOWARDS CONSERVATION AND JUSTICE: Options for Collaborative Efforts with IUCN to Address Human Rights Concerns and Complaints Related to Conservation Initiatives" discussed in Stream A, Pathways To A New Vision Of Conservation And Development ,as summarized in the Conference Report.

The Whakatane Mechanism was formalized as an outcome of the CEESP Sharing Power Conference. The Whakatane Mechanism assesses the respect of human rights in protected areas, provides recommendations to address human rights violations and facilitates a dialogue between the management authorities and indigenous peoples in order to reach joint solutions. It also celebrates and promotes best practices in conservation and successful partnerships between indigenous peoples and protected areas authorities. In collaboration between IUCN, CEESP and Forest Peoples Program, the Whakatane Mechanism process was formalized and piloted in Thailand and Nepal in 2011 and 2012. Results of those Whakatane Mechanism pilots will be discussed in a workshop at the the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Korea, to reach concensus on next steps.

Highlights of ongoing work throughout these four years:

• Communications

The heart of the CEESP TGER group is the TGER listserve for exchanging information among members to share lessons learned around the world, and to amplify awareness of new issues that threaten nature and human well-being, as well as good news celebrating new achievements in reaching conservation goals consonant with social justice and equity. In short, the listserve catalyzes and energizes thousands of activities of the members within their individual conservation trajectories around the world, furthering the objectives of IUCN.
In a sustained effort to include our Latin American members, TGER secretariat has translated messages in both Spanish-English. When the indaba listserve failed to reach all our members on a regular basis, in consultation with tech-savvy TGER members, we established an independent TGER list that maintained free-flowing communication - tger@tgerlist.urundei.net .

We are able to reach all members quickly to seek responses to IUCN secretariat queries, enabling IUCN to tap the knowledge and energies of our volunteer members. Members who are attending international meetings use the TGER list to gather input and ideas from members who are unable to go to these meetings, as well as report back on outcomes from those meetings.

To take advantage of new inexpensive video equipment and Web 2.0, TGER implemented the RRI-TGER Video Voices initiative through the TGER secretariat at Fundacion Urundei, with funding from Rights and Resources Initiative. Activities including trainings for local NGOs in the Central America region, and indigenous communities in Bolivia and Argentina, and posting of videos on You Tube. A presentation on lessons learned from the Video Voices initiative was included in the CEESP Sharing Power Conference in January 2011.

• Global Climate Change & REDD+

Global Climate Change (GCC) is the key issue facing people and nature. As multilateral and bilateral donors move to frame their programs in Reducing Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) in areas of conservation interest, areas occupied by Indigenous and Local Communities (ILC), the special TGER REDD Task Force actively focused the energies of CEESP members concerned with promoting an equitable and socially-just REDD. Simone Lovera, REDD Task Force leader, in conjunction with her work in the Global Forest Coalition, led this TGER Task Force. She participated in the UNFCCC meetings, as well as many other global and regional venues where these issues are discussed, including UNREDD and Forest Carbon Partnership Facility meetings in March 2012, and the CBD SBSTTA meeting and Permanent Forum on indigenous Issues in May 2012, and the side event organized by the ICCA Consortium in Rio+20. Global Climate Change impacts on communities, and communities´ adaptation to GCC is also a key topic of discussion on the TGER list.
Two significant REDD Task Force publications that have received global attention include: "The ‘do’s and don’ts of supporting forest conservation and restoration initiatives by local communities and indigenous peoples", and "The Hottest REDD Issues".

• Rights-Based Approaches to Conservation (RBA) -

A key focus of TGER has been to nurture positive, forward movement in the nascent RBA as a way of re-visioning conservation as a more socially-just activity. RBA is a key topic of discussion on the TGER list, particularly in relation to UNDRIP and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

TGER members contributed to the CEESP Policy Matters (2010) volume 17, entitled, Exploring the Rights to Diversity in Conservation Law, Policy and Practice, as well as to the development of the Whakatane Mechanism described above.

The JustConservation publically-accessible Facebook site was created by a TGER member to highlight the stories and situations of people working at the frontlines of conservation. This public forum was created for transparent conversations about grievances, concerns and experiences of “conservation related human rights abuses” and to discuss possible solutions to these problems. The use of Facebook was chosen because of its relatively easy access to a diverse group of people around the world and to offer an alternative space to bring attention to critical situations at the global level.

TGER compiled and shared with IUCN Secretariat the feedback from TGER members making suggestions to improve the IUCN secretariat´s draft concept statement on Rights and Conservation, and responded to IUCN´s requests for other assistance for integrating work around TGER issues and RBA into the proposed IUCN workplan for 2013-2018.

• Defending Self-Determination and Common Property Tenurial Security for Governance of Natural Resources vs The Growing Regional Market-Resource Integration Trends Threatening Biodiversity and ILCs

A growing area of concern among TGER members over these past four years revolves around tenurial rights in relation to land grabs and the other international development financing-driven initiatives that threaten ILCs and biodiversity in traditional agricultural patchwork landscapes. TGER has been discussing this growing challenge that masquerades under the banner of generating Food Security by industrializing agriculture in those areas that have been under ILC management and customary tenure. Market-driven land and water grabbing constitutes a major threat to biodiversity that is arguably greater than the threats from GCC. Through stronger understanding of land tenure by TGER members, our hope is to join in efforts for improved mechanisms to protect land rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. A key lever to slow/halt land grabs, including forced and often violent evictions are initiatives that lead to processes which recognize land ownership and collective property rights to land of indigenous peoples such as land titling and demarcation amongst other formal legal processes. By bringing forth greater attention to indigenous peoples’ property rights to lands they have traditionally used, owned, and occupied the implementation of UNDRIP can be a more tangible and viable opportunity to protect property rights and implement a rights based approached to conservation initiatives and policies.

TGER proposes that it is essential for CEESP to give higher profile of this challenge and strengthen CEESP work on Common Property Tenurial Rights (including the recognition and protection of Indigenous peoples’ territorial rights) more explicitly within the 2013-2016 IUCN workplan, in order to assist IUCN to take into account the many lessons from countries that are taking positive steps. E.g., as in India, where the 2006 Forest Act is renewing the tenurial rights of tribal communities in forests; advances in NewZealand regarding indigenous water rights, as well as the continuing advances in Latin America such as the critical ruling in Sarayaju v. Ecuador, where key rights such as community property rights, consultation, and cultural identity were upheld. Globally there is growing concern to defend nature and natural resources against market-driven economic integration projects and destructive natural resource extraction. IUCN can contribute to these positive developments by leading key efforts and providing critical spaces for continued dialogue and the creation of forward thinking policies around the world.

These are highlights from the past four years that illustrate the diverse and dedicated work of TGER members of the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP) to support the IUCN mission "to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable".