Blog | 31 Juil, 2023

"Who is not on the map?": Why Equity Is Vital to Achieving 30x30

In the accelerated push towards conserving 30% of the Earth's land and water by 2030, asking who, as well as what, is on the map must be at the heart of the conversation. IUCN and Esri teamed up in San Diego to explore pathways towards recognising the hidden actors conserving nature. 

The IUCN Protected and Conserved Areas Team were recently in San Diego, California where we were invited to speak as part of a panel entitled "Advancing Equity in 30x30" at the annual 2023 Esri User Conference. The special session was organised and chaired by David Gadsden, Director of Conservation Solutions at Esri, and I took part along with my fellow panellists James Hardcastle, Head of the Protected and Conserved Areas Team, IUCN and Dr. Kelsey Leonard, a water scientist, legal scholar, policy expert, writer, and enrolled citizen of the Shinnecock Nation.

Esri is a global technology leader on all things related to geographic information system (GIS) software, location intelligence, and mapping.  They are leading a 30x30 programme of work, and are keen to explore avenues towards advancing equity through GIS. Equity, a concept from environmental justice, is at the heart of the 30x30 ambition. It speaks to recognition of rights, and diversity of identities, values, knowledge systems, and institutions. It calls for inclusiveness of rule- and decision-making, and it implies that costs and benefits are equitably shared. And, while we can use GIS to map where protected areas and other high biodiversity areas are, in our session, we were challenged to answer a more difficult question - who conserves these areas, and are they too on the map when considering 30x30?

In our panel, we discussed how Indigenous peoples and local communities have been conserving nature voluntarily, in some places for millennia. They govern, or take decisions, through their own systems of values, laws, knowledge, innovations and worldviews. Their contributions are immense, and much of the worlds remaining biodiversity is found on the territories and lands of these local actors. And, incredibly, their actions are often done without any external recognition or support. 

Under the global policy, these local actors could seek recognition through protected areas frameworks, or as other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs), but these need to happen in part through  ‘recognizing indigenous and traditional territories’ an additional pathway that provides flexibility in diverse contexts—a key aspect of self-determination.

Ultimately, these local actors will achieve recognition and support through various avenues.  National laws may recognise Indigenous and traditional territories as areas that contribute to conservation without having to legislate them as protected areas or identify them as OECMs. Financial, technical, social and other support for Indigenous Peoples and local communities needs to be provided, including directly to them. Part of the solution also requires that IUCN, Esri and other global actors listen and provide space for the voices, leadership and perspectives of Indigenous peoples and local communities. A shift in power will signal the true transformational change that is required to recognise these hidden actors for conservation. 

To this end, IUCN has partnered up with Esri to launch the 2023 ArcGIS Storytelling maps competition, this year seeking to elevate and celebrate the work of Indigenous peoples and local communities, through their own voices and experiences. See 2023 ArcGIS StoryMaps Competition ( for more information or get in touch for further information:


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