Progress Report of the Whakatane Mechanism

Since January 2011, the Whakatane Mechanism has been piloted in two places: at Mount Elgon in western Kenya and in Ob Luang National Park in northern Thailand. Discussions are underway now between IUCN, CEESP, FPP and indigenous peoples organisations to develop a framework for scaling out the Mechanism.

Meeting with communities for the pilot Whakatane Assessment in Ob Luang, Thailand January 2012

The Whakatane Mechanism was established pursuant to resolutions 4.048 and 4.052 of IUCN World Conservation Congress 2008 and a high-level meeting at the IUCN CEESP ‘Sharing Power' conference in Whakatane (New Zealand) in January 2011. The Mechanism is a process to assess, address and redress situations, primarily in protected areas, where indigenous peoples consider themselves to be negatively affected by a protected area designation or management practices.

The Mechanism assesses the situation, provides recommendations to address human rights violations and facilitates a dialogue between the management authorities and indigenous peoples in order to reach joint solutions to respect the rights of indigenous peoples. The Mechanism also aims to identify, celebrate and support successful protected areas moving towards the new paradigm of conservation. It is jointly implemented in each protected area by: the responsible government institutions, IUCN, Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), local indigenous peoples organisations and local community organisations.

Two Pilot Assessments

Since January 2011, the Whakatane Mechanism has been piloted in two places: at Mount Elgon in Western Kenya and in Ob Luang National Park in northern Thailand. The structure of both pilot Assessments was similar: a first roundtable that brought together the different institutions involved in the protected area to explain the concept of the Whakatane Mechanism and plan ahead. This was followed by a scoping study of several days in the protected area to meet with communities and local officials. A second roundtable followed to present and agree on the findings and recommendations of the Assessment. The pilot Assessments will now be followed by efforts to build a broader consensus on the implementation of the recommendations and practical steps to secure necessary resources.

Ob Luang National Park, Thailand

The pilot Assessment in Ob Luang National Park took place in January/February 2012 at the request of the Karen indigenous peoples and with the collaboration of the Department of National Parks. In Ob Luang, the park authorities, local communities and NGOs have been working together since 2004 to develop and put in place a joint management system.

The pilot Whakatane Assessment was carried out by a team of indigenous people as well as nearly all of the institutions involved in the Park. They spent several days visiting communities in the Park and local government staff to hear their views and recommendations. The team found that the joint management approach was supported by everyone due to its visibly positive effects for the communities, nature and the park officials, including reduced tensions between the government and communities, increased protection of forests and watersheds, and improved livelihood security for indigenous peoples and local communities.

Ob Luang is one of a limited number of national parks in Thailand where joint management practices are being actively promoted Joint-management practices which allow people to live inside national parks are however going against some outdated laws so that the communities and Indigenous Peoples living in the majority of Thailand's parks live there illegally. Those involved in the joint management of Ob Luang want to use the pilot Assessment to reinforce the case for reforming old national laws and policies in order to enable this type of successful experience to be replicated and scaled-up in other protected areas.

Mt Elgon, Kenya

The pilot Assessment in Mt Elgon, Kenya took place in November/December 2011 after several preparatory visits by FPP and preparatory work by the IUCN East and Southern Africa Area Office (ESARO) to secure the buy-in of decision makers to the process. The management practices of the government in the protected area of Mt Elgon were in stark contrast to that of Ob Luang; the Ogiek indigenous peoples requested urgent help from FPP to prevent new evictions from their ancestral land on the high moorland and forest land of Mt Elgon, gazetted as a National Reserve in 2000.

Like in Thailand, the team for the scoping study in Kenya involved the rights-holders and the relevant institutions, including the government agencies. This allowed the Ogiek to enter into new dialogues with the government and other organisations. For example, the Ogiek were initially suspicious of IUCN's involvement in the Assessment because they believed conservation organisations had been responsible for encouraging the Mount Elgon County Council in its decision to gazette their land and expel them. However, over the course of the Assessment, it became clear to the Ogiek that IUCN was equally committed to and a champion of a new, rights-based conservation paradigm. Meanwhile, they also talked for the first time with the County Council about the possibility of returning the land to community ownership.

While numerous events during the Assessments demonstrated how powerfully some institutions continue to marginalise the Ogiek, the pilot Assessment created a better sense of awareness of the sustainable livelihood practices of the Ogiek and allowed all to recognize that their presence in the area has most likely been key to protecting the forests, fauna and water catchment areas. The sustainability of the livelihoods of the Ogiek had been a much disputed fact and even used as an argument to repeatedly evict them, take their cattle and burn their houses. At the end of the Assessment, a programme of work was validated by all participants who agreed on steps to establish evidence-based co-management structures to ensure respect of the Ogiek's sustainable management of their land.

Scaling Up

In order to scale up the Whakatane Mechanism, a framework is currently being drafted by CEESP -SPICEH, FPP and the Global Director of IUCN's Nature-Based Solutions Group in collaboration with regional and global IUCN staff, and feedback from the IIFB Working Group on Protected Areas and the IPOs involved in the two pilot Assessments.

Several channels are currently being developed to communicate about the Whakatane Mechanism. A website ( ) will be created to present the Mechanism and disseminate the findings of the pilot Assessments and future work. A side event on the Mechanism will also be organised at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju in September 2012, as a collaboration between 4 IUCN member organisations, 3 Commissions and 5 departments of the secretariat (funding is still sought for this event).

For more information:

  • Georgina Peard at IUCN:
  • Emmanuel Freudenthal at FPP:

Pilot Whakatane Assessment in Ob Luang, Thailand:
The team included staff from the Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT), Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Forest Peoples Programme, IUCN, local NGOs, indigenous peoples and local community networks (the Watershed Network and Highland Nature Conservation, Chomthong).

Pilot Whakatane Assessment in Mount Elgon, Kenya:
The team for the scoping study fieldwork included: Ogiek, Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, Mount Elgon County Council, IUCN, FPP, IPACC and IMPECT.Institutions participating to the second roundtable in Nairobi included: Ogiek representatives, Ministry of Forests and Wildlife, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service, Office of the President, Mount Elgon County Council, IUCN, FPP, IPACC, ERMIS mapping, Peace and Rights (a local peace building NGO) and IMPECT from Thailand.

Work area: 
Social Policy
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