NEW YORK, NY, April 18, 2024—The following statement was released jointly on April 16, by the Inclusive Conservation Academy (ICA), Programme Intégré pour le Développement du Peuple Pygmée au Kivu (PIDP), Securing Indigenous Peoples' Rights in the Green Economy Coalition (SIRGE Coalition), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) at the 23rd Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues:

Chair, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Indigenous Brothers and Sisters, Colleagues,

We address you today on behalf of Inclusive Conservation Academy (ICA), Programme Intégré pour le Développement du Peuple Pygmée au Kivu (PIDP), Securing Indigenous Peoples' Rights in the Green Economy Coalition (SIRGE Coalition) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

We collectively believe in the need for a holistic approach to conserving nature that includes and values people, and reconceptualizes conservation taking into account Indigenous Peoples’ rights and values. We also believe in supporting Indigenous science, as well as in bringing together both Indigenous and other scientific systems in co-production for collaborative impact. We advocate for Indigenous Youth leadership, while simultaneously recognizing the impact of colonial history, post-colonial structures, and racism on Indigenous communities which further marginalizes Indigenous systems.

We know that biological and cultural diversity are interconnected, mutually reinforcing, interdependent, and often co-evolved and through this joint partnership with Inclusive Conservation Academy, and PIDP we are implementing it in practice. We recognize and support Indigenous Peoples as leaders and partners in our conservation efforts and place heavy priority on Indigenous-led solutions, while also working to co-design initiatives together.

When we talk of honoring and implementing Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Self-determination, we work within the conservation sector to help it become more inclusive, and bring in a paradigm shift by implementing a human rights-based approach (HRBA) to conservation programs through Indigenous value systems. Apart from supporting Indigenous-led institutions, this also means that internal processes of decision making are opened up within conservation organizations—government, private sector, and NGOs—such that self-determination principles can be incorporated into decision making of institutions that previously have made decisions to the exclusion of Indigenous Peoples. This is particularly salient when it comes to addressing a range of threats facing Indigenous Peoples in order to protect their lands and territories, biodiversity, and wildlife.

In response to the theme of this session, we would like to request the UN Permanent Forum to prioritize the following in its recommendations:

1. Provide further practical guidance and continue its dialogue with UN Member States on what it means to support Indigenous sovereignty and rights through the lens of self-determination: Governments have primary responsibility and duty to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and international human rights treaties in order to address significant challenges that emerge in conservation practice when dealing with historical and legacy issues, which perpetuates a cycle of mistrust from Indigenous Peoples towards governments and different parts of the conservation sector.

2. Bridge Indigenous Youth access to traditional land and cultural teachings: We urge Governments, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations to prioritize funding and resources to prevent the loss of Indigenous language, cultural values, and knowledge of the land by supporting cultural revitalization programs and creating incentives in rural conservation areas which provide opportunities for Indigenous Youth to receive and sustain oral history and cultural traditions which are central to the transmission of Indigenous knowledge. In particular, we advise for a shift in approaches that rely on colonial frameworks which disconnects the integral relationship of Indigenous Peoples to their territories, worldviews and biodiversity. We also advocate to stop further marginalization of Indigenous languages, cultural values, and knowledge of the land so that Indigenous Youth can be leaders to bridge the present biodiversity and climate crises towards a sustainable, justice-centered future.

3. Provide protection to Environmental Human Rights Defenders through funding and capacity building at the local, state and national level: Governments, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations must acknowledge the deep, intricate and reciprocal relationship between nature and culture of Indigenous Peoples. This recognition should be the basis of protecting and resourcing the rights of Indigenous Peoples and defenders of nature.

4. Respect Indigenous knowledge and worldviews by proactively supporting Indigenous-led resources and Indigenous governance systems in any market discussions: Carbon and biodiversity credits must involve Indigenous Peoples in any discussion from the inception stage taking into consideration their worldviews of Indigenous Peoples while respecting their sovereignty through Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). We would also like to emphasize the concerns from several Indigenous Peoples who emphasize that consultation should not translate into consent. In any given capacity, the processes and frameworks for consultation and consent should be separated.

5. Ensure energy and digital transition that centers a human rights-based approach and protects Indigenous Peoples’ rights: We urge emphasizing justice in the transition to a green economy and avoid a future that repeats the mistakes of the past where a green economy exists in some parts of the world, and moonscapes - on the lands of Indigenous Peoples. Therefore, we urge to fully operationalize the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the rights to self-determination and Free, Prior and Informed Consent in all endeavors and decisions relating to the building of green economies.

# # #