The 3-hour workshop was organized by TGER and TILCEPA, in cooperation with the GEF Small Grants Programme, the UNDP Equator Initiative and GTZ. The objectives of the workshop were to review progress of knowledge, policy and practice in support of ICCAs, present and discuss lessons learned about the status, needs and opportunities of ICCAs in different parts of the world, and to discuss avenues to support ICCAs within and outside national Protected Areas systems.
After a series of presentations illustrating the incredible range of diverse ICCA realities accross the globe, but also the lessons learned and some of the challenges encountered by this “oldest form of conservation”, the audience engaged in a lively discussion on the main issues faced by ICCAs today. The following are some of the points raised duting this discussion:
- The phenomenon of ICCAs is present across the globe, in many different biomes (terrestrial and marine), and in developed as well as developing countries. It is staggeringly diverse.
- ICCAs are “community phenomena”, as lively and as strong as the communities that establish and govern them through collective knowledge, capacities, rules and institutions.
- While in some conservation quarters awareness of the importance of ICCAs is mounting (some say that proper recognition of ICCAs could double the amount of protected land in the world), in some regions the ICCA concept is still poorly known and understood: protected areas continue to be imposed on top of ICCAs suffocating their endogenous conservation potential.
- Awareness of the threats and outright crises that befall upon ICCAs is mounting (ICCAs relatively intact and healthy up to a few years ago are succumbing to the market forces that push extractive industries and monocultures in the remotest corners of the globe). There should be, however, a systematic analysis of such threats and crises, and of ways to address them. How can advocacy help in protecting ICCAs from the onslaught of market forces, the rapid change of mores and the loss of land and rights?
- Type and extent of state recognition of and support to ICCAs are often crucial, and especially so for ICCAs that face internal and external threats through sudden socio-economic changes.
- ICCA recognition by state governments and conservationists (e.g. in the IUCN Matrix that recognizes ICCAs as a key governance type) should be celebrated… but it can turn out to be a double edged sword. Recognition should always proceed with care. It should respect the customary structures that have historically conserved the areas and natural resources. Imposing top-down governance structures to existing ICCAs is very likely to jeopardize conservation-friendly beliefs, behaviors, and processes.
- Support to ICCAs has to be linked with recognition of ancestral territories, customary governance and the principle of self-determination, as well as security of land and resource tenure.
- Following the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ICCAs need to be seen in that context. Indeed, ICCAs are mostly about celebrating and recognizing the conservation capacities of Indigenous Peoples and their rights to self-determination. ICCAs are about Indigenous Peoples saying “We exist! We are here! And we need legal space and opportunities to secure collective tenure to land and natural resources and customary governance institutions.”.
- Some conservation organizations are still uncomfortable with a focus on “peoples” and their rights, and may miss great opportunities with ICCAs.
- Comparative studies should be carried out of effectiveness and sustainability of conservation and livelihoods in ICCAs versus other PA governance types.
- Official recognition of ICCAs is facilitated by an assessment of their conservation effectiveness– but this raises questions around what constitutes effectiveness and who should frame and conduct its assessment.
- ICCAs are about bio-cultural diversity and, also because of that, they are a staggering diverse phenomenon. No one approach is appropriate for their recognition and support, and approaches should be tailored to the context.
- ICCAs are mostly about processes – including unique reciprocity processes between people and nature – rather than about “areas” or “resources” alone.
- ICCAs are also about local ethical principles and values, reproduced through customary institutions. These principles and values need to be recognized and respected.
- Cross-cultural dialogue is needed between the “modern” or “western” conservation world and the indigenous and community custodians of ICCAs – we have to bridge the epistemological divide in our perceptions and discourse about nature and our relationship with it.
- Many ICCAs exist in territories that the modern world considers “peripheral”. The local youth are lured out of their own cultures by a variety of forces, including state-sponsored education irresponsive to local contexts and livelihoods conditions. Special care and support need to be provided to young people willing to care for and uplift their ICCAs.
- There is a need for advocacy at the national and international level to support ICCAs, and this is importantly strengthened by networking and international alliances among indigenous peoples, local communities, human right advocates and development and conservation practitioners.