08 Mar 2024
13:00–14:00

Venue: Palais des Nations, Room XXV

Organization: United Nations Environment Programme, Geneva Environment Network

This side event to the 55th session of the Human Rights Council brings together experts from a range of relevant backgrounds to discuss to the process of examination and clarification of the applicable standards, with particular attention to the role of conservation organizations and conservation funders. This event organized by the UN Environment Programme and the Geneva Environment Network.

About this Session

Despite awareness of the importance of respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples and other rights-holders in conservation, recognized most recently in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), the creation and administration of protected areas and other conservation initiatives have often violated their human rights. An important part of the problem appears to be the lack of widespread understanding of the relevant human rights norms by conservation organizations and conservation funders.

The international community is facing a global loss of biological diversity on a scale unprecedented in human history, as reported by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES 2019). At the same time, the international community has often emphasized the importance of respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples and other rights-holders in conservation, most recently in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) adopted in late 2022.

The crisis of biodiversity is also a crisis of human rights. Everyone on the planet is affected by the loss of biodiversity, but those who are and will be most affected are those on the front lines: the Indigenous Peoples and others who depend most directly on natural ecosystems for their material and spiritual well-being. The forces destroying the natural world, including poaching, land-grabbing and illegal logging, also directly threaten Indigenous Peoples and and other rights-holders who live in natural ecosystems. When they defend their homes, they are often harassed, detained, arrested, beaten, and even murdered. Of the 1,733 environmental and land defenders killed because of their work between 2012 and 2022, more than one-third were from Indigenous Peoples and other traditional forest dwellers (Global Witness 2022).

To be successful, efforts to conserve nature must respect and protect the rights of those already working to defend it. Studies have shown that protecting Indigenous rights in their ancestral homes can do more than governmental control to conserve natural ecosystems (IPBES, 2019 & FAO and FILAC 2021) However, the international conservation movement historically treated Indigenous Peoples with some degrees of hostility or indifference. Governments and conservation organizations often developed national parks and other protected areas with the goal of excluding human presence, and Indigenous Peoples were violently dispossessed of their land (A/71/229).

Although it is far from the entire problem, an important factor is the lack of clear understanding of the applicable human rights standards. Conservation organizations do not seem to share a common view of the applicable norms, and funders of conservation projects fail to ensure that their support does not inadvertently contribute to human rights abuses. It seems evident that there is a need for clear human rights guidance for both conservation organizations and major funders of conservation.

This side event is organized to bring together experts from a range of relevant backgrounds to discuss to the process of examination and clarification of the applicable standards, with particular attention to the role of conservation organizations and conservation funders.

Participation

This event will take place only in person. Participants registered for the 55th session of the Human Rights Council can attend the event.

Environment @ HRC55

The 55th regular session of the Human Rights Council (HRC55) is taking place in Geneva and online from 26 February to 5 April 2024. This regularly updated page highlights the environmental-related activities of this session.

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