Story | 28 Jun, 2022

Statement on human rights abuses in conservation

IUCN CEESP rejects human rights violations in the name of marine and terrestrial conservation.


IUCN CEESP is deeply concerned by global reports of threats, violence and forced displacement of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in the name of marine and terrestrial conservation worldwide. These acts constitute gross violations of human rights - and can never be condoned in the name of marine or terrestrial biodiversity conservation.

IUCN CEESP considers any threats, violence against, or forced eviction of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to be entirely unacceptable and holds that they constitute gross violations of human rights. 

The history of conservation is replete with examples of involuntary resettlement of communities, dispossession of traditional territories, and displacement from areas of land or sea used for livelihoods. Unfortunately, conservation driven human rights violations are still happening on land and in the ocean. A 2016 report from Victoria Tauli-Corpuz - the UN Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the rights of Indigenous Peoples - documents how protected areas have been associated with ongoing human rights violations worldwide. We are particularly concerned about news emerging from Tanzania regarding human rights violations of the Maasai in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Loliondo and urge the Government of Tanzania to take responsibility to immediately stop all human rights violations, to provide remedy and security to those harmed, and to ensure appropriate peaceful measures are undertaken towards recognizing, respecting and protecting the rights of the Maasai communities. We are also deeply saddened by the killing of British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous advocate Bruno Pereira. 

In September 2021, IUCN CEESP released a 3 volume issue of  Policy Matters to provide a broad and diverse perspective on the current reality of the struggle of environmental defenders, stressing the urgent need to change the mindset of the conservation community and spread awareness of these issues with the aim of supporting approaches that are that are respectful of Indigenous Peoples and local communities and have better biodiversity outcomes. 

A commitment to human rights should go hand in hand with commitments to conserve biodiversity. Efforts to protect nature should respect human rights and allow for the full and effective participation of stakeholders and rights holders, especially Indigenous Peoples and local communities. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests Indigenous peoples and local communities provide the best long-term outcomes for nature conservation; thus, the conservation community should first and foremost support their efforts.  

IUCN CEESP is committed to working and supporting Indigenous Peoples and local communities and all stakeholders in collaboration with other relevant international and national bodies to reimagine conservation so that we effectively protect the planet for future generations while upholding the human rights of those closest to nature. IUCN CEESP continues to work with environmental defenders on land and in the ocean through our efforts and in the implementation of IUCN resolution 115 Protecting environmental human and peoples’ rights defenders and whistleblowers. We will continue to actively support, defend and promote human rights at the national and global environmental policies levels, and to support and uphold Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ rights.