Equator Initiative at Thirteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity

Indigenous People and Local Communities Day @ Rio Conventions Pavilion -8 December 2016

Session 1- Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities- Local Action for Aichi Targets and SDGs

Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) are among the best managers of the world’s biodiversity and ecosystems. When empowered to manage their biodiversity and ecosystems, indigenous peoples and community-based organizations are capable of delivering benefits well beyond environment and conservation, including in health, education, energy and water access, food security, conflict resolution, disaster recovery and more: in other words, they can deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Panelists in the first session of the IPLC day discussed how facilitating the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in biodiversity conservation could contribute to achieving the CBD Aichi Targets and the SDGs.

Eva Gurria, from Equator Initiative, UNDP moderated the session. Jamison Ervin, UNDP, suggested IPLCs should be central to SDG work because they are innovative, take risks, are adaptive, and dynamic. Equator Prize winner,Angela Fajardo, Organización Manejo y Conservación, Guatemala, discussed how her organization helps sustainably manage the largest community-managed area in Mesoamerica via certification of timber products and community-led forest conservation. Equator Prize winner, René García, Grupo de Estudios Ambientales y Sociales (GEA), Mexico, discussed how GEA has worked with indigenous farmers in Guerrero state since 1977 to improve agricultural practices, restore soil and watersheds, enhance capacity, and improve food security.

John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, said indigenous peoples’ rights are clear but often poorly implemented, while rights of non-indigenous communities need to be clarified, particularly regarding the right to prior and informed consent. Viviana Figueroa, CBD, noted the CBD’s acknowledgement of IPLCs rights in Article 8j (on traditional knowledge, innovations and practices), 10c (on sustainable use), Cartagena and Nagoya Protocols, highlighting that this provides leverage for IPLCs to request implementation of effective national policy. Andrew Rhodes Espinoza, CONANP, Mexico, outlined the evolution of the Protected Areas (PAs) model in Mexico, from the classic model of isolated PAs, PAs with a buffer zone, and connected PAs, to PAs integrated to the land-use matrix. Tehmina Akhtar, UNDP implemented GEF-Small Grants Programme, presented a GEF-SGP perspective, stating that IPLCs are not passive recipients of development assistance, but that they have agency, vision, knowledge and capacity to take charge of their own development. She highlighted a key strategic focus, on among other things, participatory consultations and support to community grant-making.

During the ensuing discussion participants reflected on requisite support for IPLCs, enabling polices, learning from success stories and scaling up. John Knox called for respecting the rights of IPLCs environmental defenders who are opposing government and private interest development projects, often at high risk.


Session 2- Sustainable Forest Management and Wildlife Conservation: Best Practices from Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities

Conserving the world’s forests represents the most cost-effective climate solution available today. Actions to protect, restore, and manage forests sustainably will also contribute to inclusive growth, poverty eradication, achieving food and water security, and maintaining biodiversity, among many other environmental and development benefits. It is more important than ever to acknowledge the role indigenous peoples and local communities have in forest protection. The session shed light on the role of IPLCs as indispensable partners for sustainable forest management and wildlife conservation, and served as a platform to discuss how investing in their rights, entitlements, and empowerment can help ensure a sustainable future for all.

Carmen Miranda, from ICCA Consortium, moderated the session. Equator Prize winner, Daniel Ancapan, Comunidad Indígena Manquemapu, Chile, described his association’s work on sustainably managing ancestral forestlands and rivers by making handcrafted wood products, furniture and through the creation of a fisher cooperative. Equator Prize winner, Ana Isabel Arroyo, Asociación de Artesanas Unidas de Los Límites, Colombia, described how female artisans promote the protection of endangered monkeys by handcrafting stuffed toys and recycling over three million plastic bags into carrier bags embossed with conservation messages. Equator Prize winner, Carolina Alvarado, Asociación de Comunidades Forestales de Petén, Guatemala, explained that her organization represents communities conserving over 500,000 hectares of forest within the Mayan Biosphere Reserve, while producing sustainable wood products for the fair trade market. Equator Prize winner, Héctor Anguiano, Comunidad Indígena Nuevo San Juan Parigaricutiro, Mexico, detailed community efforts to manage 18,000 hectares of communal forest while producing sustainable timber and non-timber forest products.

Diego Flores, Ministry of Environment, Chile, stressed that mainstreaming biodiversity has to be a bottom-up activity, highlighting his country’s new forest policy vision that includes native forest conservation and involves small owners and indigenous communities. Flores stressed the need for further collaboration between states and communities. Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Conservation International, called for halting deforestation outside community schemes, for secured indigenous communities’ rights over their territory and for 50% of the planet to be protected through conservation schemes such as Protected Areas (PAs). Bente Herstad, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, emphasized that recognition of rights, including those of IPLCs, is a perquisite for sustainable use but that this is sometimes difficult when governments have other priorities. Emphasizing communication, she said the Equator Initiative was important for showcasing local experiences. Eva GurriaEquator Initiative, UNDP, stressed that community-based forest models are underutilized and encompass a wide range of activities. Highlighting how forests contribute to the SDGs, she noted that 50-90% of income for 100 million people comes from forests. She also acknowledged Norway’s contribution to the Equator Initiative’s Equator Prize.

The ensuing discussion focused on: the links between the avocado production boom, land use change and deforestation; defending indigenous territories; and the importance of land ownership in the context of sustainable management of forests.




Session 3- Sustainable Fishing and Protection of Marine and Coastal Habitats: Learning from Local Action

Sustainable fishing and marine protected areasare critical components to ensure a steady food supply, the preservation of marine biodiversity, and a key source of livelihoods for local communities and indigenous peoples around the world. The interactive session explored how communities are responding to diverse challenges to safeguard their marine resources. IPLCs shared best practices from locally managed marine protected areas and discussed how to focus these initiatives can be scaled up and replicated to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Handoko Adi Susanto, from Rare, Indonesia and Lisa Pharoah, from Rare moderated this session. Equator Prize winner, Oscar Pihuave, Junta de Manejo Participativo Pesquero de Puerto Cayo, Ecuador, described his association’s work restoring fish populations by improving shrimping methods to prevent by-catch of larval and juvenile shellfish and finfish. Equator Prize winner, Rigoberto Bonilla, Comité para la Defensa y Desarrollo de la Flora y Fauna del Golfo de Fonseca, Honduras, outlined the committee’s efforts to create artificial reefs, regenerate mangroves, promote artisanal fishing, and co-manage 10 Protected Areas. Equator Prize winner, Jordán Solórzano, Coope Tárcoles, Costa Rica, described how his artisanal fishers’ co-op successfully petitioned the government to prohibit commercial shrimping in a community-managed marine area. Equator Prize winner, José Canto Noh, Pescadores de Vigía Chico y Cozumel, Mexico, outlined how his co-op manages eight fishing reserves, with a focus on Caribbean spiny lobster for which it is seeking Marine Stewardship Council certification in order to sell to international markets.

Suzanne von der Porten, University of British Columbia, Canada, outlined strategies for marine conservation and revitalization of indigenous culture. These strategies include legal challenges; negotiating with governments; protests and demonstrations; maintaining traditional indigenous fishing practices; applying indigenous law, and strengthening indigenous identity and pride. She also stressed inter-community collaboration and direct negotiations with the fisheries industry. Leonel Requena, UNDP implemented GEF-Small Grants Programme, presented a video on the GEF-SGP experience in Belize focusing on indigenous peoples. Gerald Singh, University of British Columbia, Canada, discussed how healthy oceans contribute to different SDGs including poverty, hunger, sanitation and energy. Focusing on Guatemala, he described how the country’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) contributes to SDG targets on oceans- noting this has to be linked to community needs and goals.

The ensuing question and response discussion addressed the participation of fishers in ocean conservation; the role and empowerment of women in local fishing communities; linking conservation to improved quality of life; industrial waste and pollution; and mangrove management. Lisa Pharoah, Rare, closed the session noting the importance of transformational change to generate innovative local adaptive solutions to achieve Aichi Targets and the SDGs.


Session 4- Sustainable Agriculture and Crop Diversification

Indigenous peoples and local communities have contributed greatly to the conservation of the world’s agricultural diversity and its related biological diversity. Their resource management practices contribute to the maintenance and adaptation of productive and sustainable ecosystems, and they play a key role in the domestication, conservation and adaptation of genetic resources. Presenters shared best sustainable agricultural practices for resilience, discussed effective land tenure policies and examined the role of indigenous and local knowledge in preserving biodiversity for human development.

Joji Carino, from Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) moderated the session. Equator Prize winner, Yolanda Contreras, Asociación de Artesanas de Arbolsol y Huaca de Barro del Distrito de Mórrope, Peru, shared her association’s experiences of reviving native cotton cultivation and explained she had 7 colors of cotton. Equator Prize winner, Angela Gómez, Asociación de Productores Indígenas y Campesinos, Colombia, explained how modern coffee bean production practices in the Caldas region had degraded the environment. She highlighted community efforts to restore traditional production methods, revive seeds, and move to sustainable production and diversity cultivation. Equator Prize winner, José del Carmen Huichin, Koolel Kab/Muuch Kambal, Mexico, discussed the impact of transgenic soya bean production on artisanal beekeeping, as well as the successful lawsuit to stop this soya bean cultivation. Equator Prize winner, Jose Juárez, Café la Selva, Mexico, explained how local organic coffee producers have organized themselves in order to market their coffee, conserve natural resources, and establish alliances with other stakeholders.

Juan Bezaury, TNC, Mexico discussed TNC’s work replicating the European natural regional parks concept in Mexico. He explained that the concept worked by enabling local communities to have communal lands certified as protected areas (PAs), which means that they are able to receive financial support and trademarks for PA. Emile Frison, International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, advocated transitioning from an industrial agriculture model based on input-intensive crop monocultures to one that replaces chemical inputs, optimizes biodiversity, values traditional knowledge, and reestablishes the role of farmers as innovators.

The ensuing discussion focused on: the value of the Equator Initiative in spotlighting transformative community initiatives; shifting public investment from industrial agricultural systems; the need to preserve traditional seed systems; and initiatives to declare the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, a “transgenic free” zone.


Session 5- Sustainable and Inclusive Tourism: Respecting Culture, Protecting Nature

Increasingly, indigenous peoples and local communities worldwide are harnessing the finances generated through tourism, to ensure biologically diverse areas are protected, and that local cultures and practices are respected. Indigenous peoples and local communities are leading in innovative ecotourism and ethno tourism ventures that can help promote sustainable and inclusive tourism, as well as local development, on their own terms. The session was an opportunity to share examples of local best practice in the tourism industry, showcase successful partnerships between local communities, governments, the private sector, that can help localize the SDGs, as well as examples of legal frameworks and decision-making processes affecting the tourism industry today.

Alejandra Pero, from Equator Initiative, UNDP, moderated the session. Equator Prize winner, Guido MamaniAlbergue Ecológico Chalalán, Bolivia, described his community’s ecotourism activities noting they facilitate the education of young people; enhance the community’s quality of life; increase the visibility of indigenous peoples, contributing to their self-esteem and belonging; and inspire the creation of other eco-shelters in the region. Equator Prize winner, Roman Caamal, Community Tours Sian Ka’an, Mexico, underscored his company’s 15-year experience in conducting PA eco-tours. He said the visitor’s experience is enhanced through the sharing of indigenous culture, adding that limiting the number of visitors per trip reduces the impact on the PAs. He noted that the Equator Initiative recognition opens doors and the company is now considered a serious enterprise. Equator Prize winner, Galindo Parra, Federación Plurinacional de Turismo Comunitario del Ecuador, explained that the federation’s community-based tourism activities are focused on organizational strengthening, with all members of the communities participating in tourism-related activities, and cultural revitalization, through the transfer of knowledge between the generations. Equator Prize winner, José Antonio Medina Oviedo, Red Indígena de Turismo, Mexico, observed that the reason for transitioning to ecotourism, besides generating economic benefits, was to preserve territory and cultural identity. On opportunities, he cited participation in decision-making processes and the exercise of indigenous peoples’ rights.

Cristina Eghenter, WWF-Indonesia, said Indonesia’s communities could learn a lot from the Latin American Equator Prize winners. She said WWF is trying to help promote community-based ecotourism in Indonesia. She recommended two strategies: community-private enterprise partnerships, and the adoption of community protocols that establish rules and safeguards for stakeholders. Gonzalo Merediz, Amigos de Sian Ka’an (ASK), Mexico, described the evolution of ASK efforts to promote conservation in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Quintana Roo through sustainable fishing of lobster, eco-tourism boat trips, and organic agricultural products. He explained that ASK is trying to share experiences with others in the Yucatan region.

Participants then broke into four discussion groups. Reporting on lessons learned, participants agreed that “social investments” must be consistent in the long term, participation by all stakeholders is crucial and that local culture should be respected. On success factors, participants cited long-term community commitment, innovation, organization, visionary leadership, networking and empowerment. On scaling up and replication, participants highlighted collaboration with like-minded associations and NGOs, and the sharing of successful experiences. In her concluding remarks, moderator Pero reminded participants that 2017 if the international year of sustainable tourism, and that a sustainable tourism summit would be convened in Colombia in March 2017. She suggested both would provide IPLCs with opportunities to make the case for community tourism.

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Launch of the 15-year Anniversary of the UNDP Equator Initiative and 25-year Anniversary of the UNDP-implemented GEF Small Grants Programme

For 15 years, the Equator Initiative has worked to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature, and resilient communities. For 25 years, the UNDP-Implemented Global Environment Facility's Small Grants Programme (SGP) has worked with communities around the world to grapple with critical global environmental problems while generating sustainable livelihoods. Since their inception, both initiatives have witnessed an extraordinary groundswell of grassroots innovation for the environment and for more prosperous and resilient communities. The evening reception brought together Equator Prize winners/SGP grantees, UNDP staff, partners, and donors to celebrate the respective achievements of the Equator Initiative and SGP.

Jamison Ervin, Manager of UNDP’s Global Biodiversity Programme, opened the evening, emphasizing the powerful role of local action to mainstream biodiversity, generate impressive returns on investments, and offer scalable solutions to meet the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Sustainable Development Goals. Inger Holten, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commented that: “The [Equator] Prize winners’ work to safeguard biodiversity is a key strategy to reduce poverty, enhance livelihood options, strengthen food security, and empower women and marginalized groups”. She stressed that the benefits provided by these groups provide a key message to governments and policymakers. Equator Prize winner and SGP grantee, Jose Ines Loria Palma, Fundación San Crisanto, Mexico spoke of his community’s work to restore local ecosystems – including 11 kilometers of mangroves – and to generate livelihoods through coconut production, salt production, and ecotourism. Matthias Kraus, German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development, celebrated the role of indigenous peoples and local communities as key to deliver on protected areas and preservation of ecosystems and ecosystem services. He noted Germany’s long-term and continued support for the Equator Initiative.

Equator Prize winner and SGP grantee, Juana Baltodano, Iniciativa Talamanca, Costa Rica said their work started with the community in mind and that the recognition by the Equator Initiative has been key. She shared her community’s holistic approach to organic agriculture, ecotourism and biodiversity conservation. Kristin Walker, Conservation International (CI), brought the room to a standing applause for Equator Initiative and SGP; she reflected that CI has been a proud partner to the Equator Initiative and acknowledged the role of Equator Initiative in increasing visibility of indigenous peoples and local communities at international fora such as the CBD. Tehmina Akhtar, Global Manager, a.i., Small Grants Programme, reflected on 25 years of SGP. She highlighted the strength of local level solutions and noted that experience from across SGP’s portfolio indicates that community grants are capable of producing multiple benefits, and that economic development and social empowerment go hand in hand with environmental conservation. The evening concluded with a celebratory reception.


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