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Conservation, Development, and Customary Uses of Natural Resources in an Era of Biocultural Rights The rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities, particularly related to their roles in environmental governance, are increasingly being recognized at the international level. Gaps remain, however, between international recognition of these rights and their realization at the national and local levels. One of the main reasons is that natural resources (and related ecosystem functions) that are critical to local livelihoods are often owned and controlled by governments, companies, and non-profit organizations in the name of national sovereignty, economic development, and environmental conservation. This has resulted in widespread environmental and human rights abuses around the world, with conservation and development policies and programmes being conceptualized and implemented at the expense and in exclusion of communities’ rights and livelihoods. In contrast, the movement for rights-based approaches to conservation and development is essentially a call for the decentralization of environmental governance to ensure sustainable and equitable livelihoods. It promotes the full and effective participation of communities in any activities taking place on their traditionally occupied or used lands, waters, and territories. It also argues that such activities should only be undertaken if communities provide their free, prior and informed consent to do so. There are various rights-based approaches and tools to assist in these processes, including participatory mapping, community protocols, multi-stakeholder dialogue, and legal empowerment. Yet certain rights-based approaches are also critiqued for being regimented and procedurally prescriptive, thus running contrary to their intended aim by restricting communities’ ability to make meaningful choices about their own futures (i.e. the right to self-determination). This session will include a back-to-back panel of presentations and organized session. It will, among other things, describe and constructively critique: the environmental issues of greatest contention, including climate change, forests, and biodiversity; the long-held view that communities’ traditional ways of life and customary uses of natural resources are incompatible with externally-driven conservation and development policies and programmes; the interplay between communities’ biocultural rights and other stakeholders’ responsibilities at the international, national, and local levels; tensions between large-scale conservation organizations and human rights concerns (including through the Conservation Initiative on Human Rights); the use of various rights-based approaches in different parts of the world; and community perspectives on legal empowerment. The discussion session will draw on participants’ experiences and insights to explore practical and constructive community-based approaches to address the above issues. It is anticipated that a short publication will be produced based on the presentations and subsequent discussions. If you are interested in presenting at or attending this session, please contact: Ms. Holly Shrumm (firstname.lastname@example.org) Mr. Harry Jonas (email@example.com) Note that there are limited spaces available for presentations.
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