About Community Governance: III Mesoamerican Congress on Protected Areas (Merida, Yucatan)

21 May 2010 | News story

On March 7-12, 2010, more than 800 Mesoamerican participants, together with a number of researchers and scholars from around the world, discussed about the main experiences on protected areas management in the region.

In this Third Congress, held in the welcoming town of Merida, more than in previous meetings, an important participation of direct representatives of local communities and indigenous peoples from a number of Mesoamerican territories.

The IUCN Mesoamerican Commission on Economic, Social and Environmental Policies (CEESP), Conservation International (CI), the IUCN Mesoamerican Regional Office (ORMA-IUCN) and CoopeSoliDar R.L. worked together with CONANP and PRONATURA in an effort for accomplishing a Symposium devoted to discuss social and cultural issues on conservation within a human rights framework.

The Symposium was titled “Land management and governance in Natural Protected Areas.” The third session, chaired by CoopeSoliDar R.L and CEESP-IUCN concerning the strengthening of community governance experiences, was titled “Contributions by indigenous peoples and community conservation areas to food security, cultural identity, territoriality and biodiversity conservation.”

Introductory presentations to the Symposium contributed with important discussion subjects:

  • No records are available from all the community and indigenous peoples conservation areas recognized in Mesoamerica, but this type of governance is an emergent fact.
  • The issue is clearly related to four concepts: Decentralization, Governance, Human Rights and Biological and cultural connectivity.
  • Almost all these efforts concerning Community and Indigenous Conservation Areas reveal processes of participatory territorial arrangements and include efforts in which the communities clearly express their priorities concerning the management of their territories.

It is clear that the initiatives on community governance of protected areas are of common benefit, however they do not receive sufficient recognition and there are not incentives in their favor.

The session gathered important presentations and lessons learned from all the different countries of the region:

  • Indigenous governance in the Guatemala highlands: Mega-projects and protected areas.
  • Programa de Estudios Rurales y Territoriales (PERT) (Rural and Territorial Study Program), Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.
  • Santa María Guenagati, an experience of community conservation in the Mixe-Zapoteca region, Mexico. .
  • Sociedad de Solidaridad Social Llaguerda, Mexico.
  • Territories, protected areas and mega-projects -structural problems- challenges for the indigenous peoples in Nicaragua autonomous regions. Áreas Protegidas de las Regiones Autónomas de Nicaragua (RAAN y RAAS).
  • Community marine areas for responsible artisanal fishing in Costa Rica . CoopeTárcoles R.L.
  • An experience of community conservation in Oaxaca, Mexico.
  • Community participation on protected areas management: the case of the Reventazon Model Forest, CATIE , Costa Rica.
  • Socio-Environmental Governance: The case of indigenous communities in the Model Forest Lachuá, Guatemala. Fundación Laguna Lachuá. FUNDALACHUA.
  • Agricultural and hydroelectrical frontier in the Tawahka Asangni Reserve. A proposal for indigenous governance. Tawahka Asangni Biosphere Reserve (RBTA) – Corredor Biológico Mesoamericano (CBM). Honduras.
  • Oaxaca: Voluntary community conservation, Mexico.

Recommendations from the Session to the Congress Plenary

  1. To obtain the commitment of the national authorities for carrying out a review of the legal and institutional issues relevant to Community and Indigenous Peoples Conservation Areas in order to identify the difficulties for advancing towards these governance models, which recognize the contributions and participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in the conservation of protected areas.
  2. The establishment of a verification and follow-up mechanism, with indicators of progress, to provide greater visibility to the recognition and strengthening of the role of indigenous peoples and local communities in the conservation of protected areas. The resulting measurement of progress should be presented to the public in the next IV Mesoamerican Congress of Protected Areas.
  3. To establish dialog platforms as well as mechanisms for conflict resolution between Protected Natural Areas vis-à-vis Indigenous Territories and Local Communities.

The meeting in Merida turned out to be another step in a long and positivistic journey for an opening from Mesoamerica for recognizing the efforts of local communities, indigenous peoples and coastal communities concerning the conservation and land use issues.

This document has been prepared by Gonzalo Oviedo, IUCN Social Policy Advisor; Vivienne Solis Rivera, Regional Vice-chair for Mesoamerica CEESP-IUCN; Patricia Madrigal Cordero, CoopeSoliDar R.L; Erna Alejandra Salazar Dreja, Environmental Policy Office Pronatura México, AC; and Héctor Gustavo Sánchez Benítez, Director of Sierra Juarez-Mixteca, National Commission of Protected Areas CONANP, Mexico. The translation to English was done by Felipe Matos, CoopeSoliDar R.L