Legacy Article | 03 Feb, 2022

NEW: Inclusive Conservation Initiative prioritizes Indigenous and local community led solutions to global environmental crises

Today, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Conservation International announced the launch of a new global initiative to support the leadership of Indigenous peoples and local communities in stewarding land, water and natural resources.

The Inclusive Conservation Initiative (ICI) will support enhanced Indigenous and community stewardship across 7.5 million hectares of landscapes, seascapes and territories with high biodiversity and irreplaceable ecosystems. Recognizing the continuing historical role of Indigenous peoples and local communities in safeguarding natural ecosystems, ICI will provide direct financial support to Indigenous and locally-led initiatives in Africa, Central and South America, Asia and the Pacific.

While making up just five percent of the world's population, Indigenous peoples steward 25 percent of land and 40 percent of intact ecosystems on Earth. Yet, many have lacked financial support to improve and scale their sustainable management of these territories.

The journey as Indigenous Peoples to have more inclusive conservation is becoming reality through the Inclusive Conservation Initiative. It is another step in the advancement of Indigenous Peoples’ rights globally. Our work on environmental conservation will bring us together in restoring the land and territories for our future generations,” said Lucy Mulenkei, Chair of the GEF Indigenous Peoples’ Advisory Group and member of the ICI Interim Steering Committee.

With guidance from its Indigenous Peoples’ Advisory Group, the GEF decided in 2019 to pilot a new initiative for increased direct financing to indigenous and local community organizations to conserve biodiversity, deliver multiple global environmental benefits and support related cultural and economic development initiatives.

“For the Mayan and Guna peoples of Mesoamerica, the Inclusive Conservation Initiative will strengthen Indigenous systems of use, management and conservation of natural and cultural resources across Ru K'ux Abya Yala lands and territories, scaling local knowledge and solutions to national and international levels. We welcome this innovative initiative and congratulate the GEF, CI and IUCN on taking on this exciting path in conjunction with us,” said Ramiro Batzin, sub-project lead for Mesoamerica.

Investing $25 million of GEF resources, ICI will support nine IPLC-led initiatives taking action to address the climate and biodiversity crisis in Argentina, Chile, Cook Islands, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fiji, Guatemala, Kenya, Nepal, Panama, Peru, Tanzania and Thailand. The project will also include global components to strengthen Indigenous and community leadership in international policy, build knowledge-based action and support capacity development.

“Globally, Indigenous peoples and local communities are facing increased pressure from development, mining, farming and in some instances, climate change mitigation efforts, yet they are key to protecting our planet. Through the ICI, IPLC’s self-determined and led conservation initiatives in their territories will be supported and highlighted. Conservation International is pleased to be part of this transformative model,” said Minnie Degawan, Director of the Indigenous & Traditional Peoples Program at Conservation International.

“ICI recognizes and supports the rights and leadership roles of Indigenous Peoples and local communities as stewards of nature. IUCN is honored to join this landmark effort to make biodiversity multilateral funding more accessible to them,” said Jenny Springer, Head of IUCN’s Human Rights in Conservation Team.

“I am very pleased to see the Inclusive Conservation Initiative take off as an Indigenous-led model for local stewardship that will lead to global benefits. We cannot reach global goals on marine and landscape protection without supporting the leadership of Indigenous communities. We hope that this initiative will encourage other funders and governments to adopt more inclusive approaches,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, GEF CEO and Chairperson.

Preparation of the ICI has been guided by an Indigenous Interim Steering Committee and will be governed by an Indigenous Steering Committee in the years ahead. Through a project advisory group, ICI will also engage with wider networks of support organizations who, together with the project partners, collectively leverage $90 million in co-financing towards the goals of Inclusive Conservation.

This piece was originally published by Conservation International.

About the Indigenous peoples and local community organizations and consortiums partnering under the Inclusive Conservation Initiative:

Asia and Pacific

House of Ariki is a constitutional and statutory agency in the Cooks Islands comprised of 24 paramount traditional Ariki (High Chiefs) members representing the 24 tribes of the nation who work to advocate and promote the traditions and customary values of the Cook Islands.

The Bose Vanua o Lau is the formal association of the traditional chiefs of Lau, representing 30 inhabited islands and their 10,000 inhabitants. The body of chiefs holds the customary authority to make decisions regarding its Indigenous population.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Foundation for Education and Environment (IPF) is an Indigenous Peoples’ Organization led by Indigenous leaders with support from local academia in Thailand to promote Indigenous Peoples’ rights, including education, self-determined development and customary land use and natural resource management.

Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) is an autonomous and the sole representative umbrella organization of the 59 Indigenous nationalities or peoples, recognized by the government of Nepal. NEFIN currently consists of 56 distinct Indigenous member organizations, and district chapters across the country, and works to strengthen Indigenous Peoples’ rights and identity.

Central America

Sotzil is an Indigenous organization based in Guatemala aiming to advance the development of Indigenous Peoples by promoting the respect, recognition and encouragement of the use, management and conservation of natural resources, within the framework of the collective rights, culture, values and based on Indigenous cosmovision emphasizing utz k’aslemal or “good living” associated with collective wellbeing in harmony and balance.

South America

FENAMAD Indigenous regional organization representing 37 communities grouped into seven Indigenous Peoples in Peru‘s Madre de Dios river basin and defender of isolated groups in the Amazon. Fundacion Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN) is a non-governmental, non-profit, non-partisan organization promoting sustainable development through policy, law and societal governance. In Argentina, FARN is collaborating with Confederación Mapuche de Neuquén y sus Consejos Zonales to implement the region’s ICI work. Observatorio Ciudadano is a non-profit and non-governmental organization devoted to the advocacy, promotion and documentation of human and Indigenous rights in Chile. Under ICI Observatorio Ciudadano will collaborate with Parlamento Koyagtun de Kurarewe, Parlamento de Koz Koz de Panguipulli and Coordinación Feria Walung Kurarewe.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Association Nationale d'Appui et de Promotion des Aires du Patrimoine Autochtone et Communautaire en République démocratique du Congo (ANAPAC) is a non-governmental organization for the promotion of the rights, development and culture of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in the conservation of nature in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Indigenous Movement for Peace Advancement and Conflict Transformation (IMPACT) is an Indigenous Peoples led organization working to catalyze grassroots social movements, building voice and agency around identity, heritage, land and natural resources stewardship in the Northern Frontiers of Kenya.

Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT) is a non-profit environmental and social justice organization that works with Indigenous groups of different cultures in northern Tanzania on sustainable communal resource management that underpins livelihoods. UCRT works to strengthen village welfare and participatory natural resource governance, including by building on customary institutions, community-based land management practices and traditional resource governance systems.

Media contacts:

Conservation International
Jessica Brown
+1 734 748 7361

International Union for Conservation of Nature
Media relations
+41 22 999 0392

Global Environment Facility
Laura MacInnis
+1 202 473 6978