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The role of Indigenous peoples and local communities in effective and equitable conservation

Neil M. Dawson, Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, International Union for the Conservation of Nature; European School of Political and Social Sciences (ESPOL), Lille Catholic University, Lille, France; Centre for the Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity (CESAB), French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB), Montpellier, France; Global Environmental Justice Group, School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
Brendan Coolsaet, European School of Political and Social Sciences (ESPOL), Lille Catholic University, Lille, France; Centre for the Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity (CESAB), French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB), Montpellier, France; Global Environmental Justice Group, School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
Eleanor J. Sterling, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, USA
Robin Loveridge, Department of Environment and Geography University of York, UK; The Biodiversity Consultancy, Cambridge, UK
Nicole D, Gross-Camp, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
Supin Wongbusarakum, One People One Reef; University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program; Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa
Kamaljit K. Sangha, Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research (DCBR), Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods (RIEL), Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia
Lea M. Scherl, The Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Australia
Hao Phuong Phan, Institute of Education, University College London, UK
Noelia Zafra-Calvo, Basque Centre for Climate Change, Scientific Campus of the University of the Basque Country, Bilbao, Spain
Warren G. Lavey, School of Earth, Society & Environment and College of Law, University of Illinois
Patrick Byakagaba, School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
C. Julián Idrobo, Aurora Research Institute, Aurora College, Canada
Aude Chenet, Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability, The Pacific Community (SPC), Noumea
Nathan J. Bennett, Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, International Union for the Conservation of Nature; The Peopled Seas Initiative, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Stephanie Mansourian, Mansourian.org, Crassier, Switzerland; University of Geneva, Geography and Environment Department, Geneva, Switzerland
Francisco J. Rosado-May, Universidad Intercultural Maya de Quintana Roo, Mexico

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-12625-260319

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Abstract

Debate about what proportion of the Earth to protect often overshadows the question of how nature should be conserved and by whom. We present a systematic review and narrative synthesis of 169 publications investigating how different forms of governance influence conservation outcomes, paying particular attention to the role played by Indigenous peoples and local communities. We find a stark contrast between the outcomes produced by externally controlled conservation, and those produced by locally controlled efforts. Crucially, most studies presenting positive outcomes for both well-being and conservation come from cases where Indigenous peoples and local communities play a central role, such as when they have substantial influence over decision making or when local institutions regulating tenure form a recognized part of governance. In contrast, when interventions are controlled by external organizations and involve strategies to change local practices and supersede customary institutions, they tend to result in relatively ineffective conservation at the same time as producing negative social outcomes. Our findings suggest that equitable conservation, which empowers and supports the environmental stewardship of Indigenous peoples and local communities represents the primary pathway to effective long-term conservation of biodiversity, particularly when upheld in wider law and policy. Whether for protected areas in biodiversity hotspots or restoration of highly modified ecosystems, whether involving highly traditional or diverse and dynamic local communities, conservation can become more effective through an increased focus on governance type and quality, and fostering solutions that reinforce the role, capacity, and rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities. We detail how to enact progressive governance transitions through recommendations for conservation policy, with immediate relevance for how to achieve the next decade’s conservation targets under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Key words

biodiversity conservation; customary tenure; environmental justice; environmental stewardship; equity; governance; human rights; institutions; IPLC; protected areas; tenure security; traditional ecological knowledge; well-being

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087