Meso & South America

Meso and South America, a wealth of biological and cultural diversity

The biological diversity of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is exceptional. South America is the most biologically riche region on the planet, with more than 40% of the biodiversity and more than 25% of the forests; Mesoamerica has the second largest barrier reef in the world and in the Caribbean we find up to 50% of unique plant life on the planet. Likewise, LAC stands out for its rich cultural diversity, with 826 Indigenous Peoples, including peoples in isolation, with a population of close to 58 million people. Despite so much wealth, we are experiencing increases in poverty and inequality, an unprecedented increase in unemployment and government development priorities that directly threaten the conservation of biodiversity and the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities; all of which has further exacerbated the historical structural problems of the region.

With more than 8.8 million km2 of terrestrial and marine protected areas, it is the most protected region in the world. We have achieved the protection of 24% of the terrestrial territory and 19% of the marine-coastal territory, exceeding the coverage component of the Aichi Target 11, although without reaching the expectations related to governance. To this must be added the 404 million hectares occupied by Indigenous Peoples, of which 269 million have collective property or usufruct rights. LAC is home to 142 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, of which almost 70% have been designated for their cultural and mixed cultural-natural value. Regarding the Territories and Areas Conserved by Indigenous Peoples and local Communities (ICCA), we have 11 formally registered in Brazil, Ecuador and Mexico and many others in the process of recognition. LAC is also the spearhead of the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas with certified areas or in the process of being certified in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico and Peru.

It is for all this wealth and work carried out in favor of conservation, that the region has the duty to effectively protect its biological and cultural diversity, and promote the fair and equitable distribution of the benefits derived from the use of said biological resources. It is necessary to rescue and strengthen the cultural and spiritual values, capacities and comprehensive knowledge of Indigenous and local communities to optimize the effectiveness of territorial management and face threats.

In relation to governance, we know that the types of governance by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, private and shared, are not adequately recognized in the region and therefore are underrepresented in the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA, and that state governance overlaps with models of Indigenous and local community governance. Thus, we must generate institutional and legal mechanisms to recognize and give operation to other forms of governance, and prioritize the analysis of its quality.

Work priorities in the region

From LAC we join the CPAES initiative "Reimagine Conservation ", a people-centered, empathetic movement that listens to the various voices: women, youth, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, from which together we re-imagine a new way of caring for and protecting the planet and others, promoting a process of greater participation and leadership in conservation. From this vision, the Work Plan for the region is structured around the priorities identified by the Union and approved through Resolutions in the different WCCs:

A pioneering region in the defense of human rights defenders in environmental matters

Since its inception, IUCN has recognized the importance of access rights to build fair, transparent, participatory, sustainable and peaceful democratic societies, in line with the 2030 Agenda on sustainable development. However, year after year, our region reaches the dramatic record of the number of human rights defenders in environmental matters killed globally.

The recognition of environmental defenders has not been an easy road, but on March 4, 2018, Latin America and the Caribbean made history by adopting, in Escazú (Costa Rica), the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, the Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, adopted by 24 countries and entered into force in April 2021. Thanks to it, we are pioneers in the defense of human rights defenders, as it is the first treaty in the world that obliges the States Parties to protect and promote the rights of human rights defenders in environmental matters.

Based on the great work done by experts from the Commissions and Members who stand out as defenders, and from those leaders with whom we work, and in compliance, among others, with Resolutions 2.37 Support for defenders of the environment (Amman , 2000); 051 Regional Agreement on access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters in Latin America and the Caribbean and 115 Protection of defenders (Marseille, 2021), technical support will be provided to the Members of the IUCN in the region and in capacity building. Events and activities will be promoted for wide dissemination and capacity building throughout the region.

The Amazon is a unique biome that is on the verge of a point of no return

The Amazon biome is the largest coherent ecosystem of tropical forest and freshwater, represents one fifth of the world's forests, has a key role in supporting global climate stability and safeguards 10% of all biological diversity. But 18% of the basin's forests have been deforested, with an additional 17% suffering degradation, and a "point of no return" has been established at 20-25% of deforestation and degradation combined, from which the Amazonia would produce massive carbon dioxide emissions, with catastrophic consequences for global climate stability.

Aware of the risk situation in which it finds itself, the IUCN has declared it a priority region for conservation and fire prevention. It should be noted that most of the Indigenous Membership in South America is in the Amazon and that in the last World Congress Resolution 129 promoted by COICA was approved to avoid the point of no return in the Amazon, protecting 80% by 2025 .

Gender in environmental issues

Protecting the environment, promoting gender equality and ending violence against women are positively linked and help ensure a safe, sustainable and equitable future. Joining the mandate to consider gender equality in the strategic activities and issues of IUCN (Resolution 3.009, Bangkok) and the IUCN Gender Equity and Women's Empowerment Policy, from CEESP we will promote and amplify the voices and action of women in our region, incorporating a gender-responsive approach in our actions, which involves the identification active gender gaps and sources of discrimination. The integration of the gender approach in conservation is key to advance in other ways of doing conservation, to approach it from other perspectives, for which we will advance the points agreed in the Joint Declaration of Women in Conservation of the III CAPLA. To this end, the articulation with networks of women and youth in protected areas, climate justice and conservation, among others, will be strengthened.

A Union stronger every day

To strengthen the governance of IUCN, we will promote the articulation at the national level of the members of the CEESP and the participation of delegates before the National and Regional Committees. This is thanks to the momentum and experience in LAC, which has promoted a change in the Union's statutes, approved at the last World Conservation Congress (WCC Marsella, 2021). Thus, the CEESP Vice Presidency has already been invited to participate in the meetings of the South American Committee.

In the same way, and being Meso and South America where the largest number of Indigenous Member Organizations of the IUCN are found, in the region we will redouble efforts to strengthen and promote the indigenous membership of the Union and advance in the implementation of its self-determined Agenda, the Global Indigenous Agenda for the Governance of Indigenous Lands, Territories, Waters, Coastal Seas and Natural Resources .



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Regional Vice Chair, South America Pablo Crimer has more than 15 years’ experience providing legal advice on environmental, social, governance and sustainability matters to corporations. He focuses ...

Regional Vice Chair, South America Pablo Crimer has more than 15 years’ experience providing legal advice on environmental, social, governance and sustainability matters to corporations. He focuses on project development, stakeholder engagement, environmental impact assessment, risk management, compliance, permitting, and public policy, among others.

He is a Senior Associate at the Environmental Law practice area of Bruchou & Funes de Rioja Law Firm (Argentina), and a part-time professor at Universidad de San Andrés Law School (Argentina).

His recent work features advice on carbon credits and markets, green financing, natural-based solutions, community engagement, indigenous people consultation, regulatory advocacy, supply chain ESG due diligence, among others.