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Francisco Cali Tzay SR on indigenous peoples

HRC45 – MRG welcomes the new Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples and highlights the growing problem of “fortress conservation” projects violating indigenous peoples’ rights

24 September 2020

Human Rights Council – 45th Session
Geneva, Thursday 24th September 2020

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples – item 3 & 5

Mister Special Rapporteur,

At the outset, Minority Rights Group (MRG) would like to warmly congratulate you on your appointment. As highlighted yesterday during the panel discussion, you are starting your term at a time of great challenges for indigenous peoples and their defenders. This is especially true for those who seek to claim or defend their right to land, who face not only land-grabbing but also threats, intimidation and violence, in the name of the promotion of development projects or conservation initiatives.

On this last point, MRG wishes to bring your attention to the growing problem of “fortress conservation” projects, that are too often designed and enforced at the detriment of the rights of indigenous peoples.

It is now well established that no one has contributed more and benefited less than indigenous peoples with respect to protecting our environment. They occupy, own and manage the most biologically intact ecosystems, safeguarding 80 percent of Earth’s remaining biodiversity. A growing body of evidence shows that securing indigenous tenure is the most effective form of environmental protection. Despite this unassailable track record, conservation has become a major threat to indigenous territories. About half the land selected for protection by conservationists and governments over the past century was either occupied or used by indigenous peoples. The creation of these protected areas often results in their displacement and continued exclusion from their traditional territories without compensation, consultation or their free, prior and informed consent.

Indigenous peoples who merely seek to return to their territories to engage in subsistence activities and cultural and religious rites are routinely arrested or killed by park rangers in protected areas in Nepal, Northeast India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cameroon, among other States.

As the international community stands poised to sequester even more land for protected areas under the 30% target being considered in the Convention on Biological Diversity’s post-2020 agenda, urgent measures are necessary to protect indigenous communities from further conservation-related displacements and human rights abuses. Doing so is not only required under international human rights law, it is also urgently needed to protect the environment.

MRG stands ready to work with your mandate to address this major challenge to the rights of indigenous peoples.

I thank you.