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Contributed by Jonathan Mazower, Survival International
The One Planet Summit for biodiversity in Paris last month confirmed the agenda of many governments, and the conservation industry, to push ahead with a plan to place at least 30 percent of the Earth’s surface under conservation status by 2030.
Organized by France in cooperation with the UN and the World Bank, the summit launched the “High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People,” to drive progress towards the “30×30” target.
But two hundred NGOs and experts have now signed a warning that the drive to increase global protected areas such as national parks could ruin the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and do nothing to preserve biodiversity.
In a letter to the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), the NGOs warn that as many as 300 million people could be dispossessed unless there are much stronger protections for the rights of indigenous peoples and other land-dependent communities.
Later this year, the Conference of Parties to the CBD is set to agree on the new 30×30 plan. It would double the current protected land area over the coming decade.
Together with Survival International, the global movement for the rights of tribal peoples, they’ve declared that it will constitute the biggest land grab in world history and reduce hundreds of millions of people to landless poverty. Survival’s campaign calls the plan the #BigGreenLie.
In many parts of the world a Protected Area is where the local people who called the land home for generations are no longer allowed to live or use the natural environment to feed their families, gather medicinal plants or visit their sacred sites. This follows the model of the United States’ nineteenth century creation of the world’s first national parks on lands stolen from Native Americans. Many US national parks forced the peoples who had created the wildlife-rich “wilderness” landscapes into landlessness and poverty.
This is still happening to indigenous peoples and other communities in Africa and parts of Asia. Local people are pushed out by force, coercion or bribery. They are beaten, tortured and abused by park rangers when they try to hunt to feed their families or just to access their ancestral lands. The best guardians of the land, once self-sufficient and with the lowest carbon footprint of any of us, are reduced to landless impoverishment and often end up adding to urban overcrowding.
Around the world, indigenous peoples are increasingly denouncing the conservation industry as a “source of threats and a source of violation of indigenous rights,” and repeatedly speak out against threats to evict them in the name of conservation.