WPC Dialogues: Sydney, Australia 2014
WPC Dialogues: Sydney, Australia 2014: Day 6
Human Rights in Conservation: Progress Since Durban, Conservation Initiative on Human Rights
Saturday 15 November 2014
The session reflected on the progress made with the Durban Conservation Initiative on Human Rights, launched at the last World Parks Congress in 2003. The partners to this initiative have published a white paper to reflect on developments since the Initiative’s inception.
Helen Schneider from Flora and Fauna International reported that her organization has developed formal policies and position papers to implement a rights-based approach in Flora & Fauna International’s work. Tools, capacities and technical advice is provided to partners on the ground. A key achievement is that the organization’s “work on REDD has been a strong driver of a rights-based approach.” On the work ahead, she noted that power relations are rarely spoken about. Communities should be empowered to defend their rights themselves, to be duty bearers without external assistance.
Michael Painter from the Wildlife Conservation Society said that the Durban Conservation Initiative on Human Rights led to a concentration of efforts in the field of human rights, complementing the organization’s efforts to engage deeply with local actors through long-term presence in the field. There was also a realization that conservation organizations need to be consistent in how international standards and rights function in different local circumstances. Painter pointed out that at as science driven organization, it has at times been challenging to identify the political nature of field activities.
David Thomas from Birdlife International explained that as an organization that emphasizes grassroots community action, a key responsibility with regards to human rights is to build capacity in these communities to more effectively incorporate human rights in project activities. This is done through the development of tools and training materials, aiming to enable partners to build skills and confidence to address human rights issues.
Kristen Walker, Senior Vice President at Conservation International, reflected on how the participation of indigenous peoples in the Initiative: “We need to listen better to indigenous communities, and they need to be engaged better in policies.” Conservation International has opened its Board of Directors to more indigenous representatives, developed new policies and worked both bottom up and top down to enable a broader dialogue on the issue: “We wouldn’t dare having a meeting now without having community dialogues.” On challenges, she said that “we often fail to highlight indigenous and traditional knowledge.” More exchanges are needed between scientists and traditional knowledge keepers.
For the Nature Conservancy, Nina Hadley reported that the human rights based approach has led to a more formally recognized engagement with communities. She said the role of TNC here would be connect communities and indigenous partners, and provide conduit for voices. There has been a stronger emphasis on partnerships to achieve human rights objectives, such as working with health organizations.
Christina Eghenter from WWF Indonesia reported that a stronger engagement with human rights topics was launched within WWF in 2002. The Durban Conservation Initiative on Human Rights “allowed us to reaffirm our commitment”. She said it is a real challenge to move from a Do No Harm approach to actively promoting human rights.
Gonzalo Oviedo from IUCN’s Social Policy Programme observed that organizations have made a lot of progress in the past 10 years. He named a few challenges, such as delivering on the connection between rights and conservation. Specific capacities and actual practices would need to receive a stronger focus. He admitted that IUCN has a weak monitoring system to measure social standards.
In the following discussion, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples criticized the Durban Conservation Initiative members for their leniency in establishing monitoring and evaluation processes: “We will question your sincerity if we don’t see changes in the monitoring process.” She also questioned the initiative against the backdrop of the scientific orientation of its members: “You need to think about how to reconcile the now recognized traditional knowledge systems with the science-based policies you are providing.”