Editor’s note: Today marks the last day of the United Nations conference on indigenous issues in New York, a session that marks the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. While this historic milestone affirmed indigenous peoples’ rights on a global scale for the first time, the world’s indigenous groups — stewards of nearly a quarter of Earth’s land and the vast majority of its wildlife — still face critical challenges.
With that in mind, Conservation International helped create an Indigenous Advisory Group to collaborate directly with global indigenous leaders in strengthening conservation efforts alongside the communities that rely on nature the most. At a recent meeting of the group, Human Nature sat down with six experts — including Joenia Wapichana, Brazil’s first indigenous lawyer — to get their perspectives on indigenous-centered conservation.
Question: What is the greatest conservation challenge facing indigenous peoples today?
Ole Kaunga, Kenya: Right now, there’s a lot of conflict between conserved areas and access to resources for cultural and traditional reasons. In order to be complementary and not competitive, conservation needs to strike a critical balance between indigenous rights to natural resources and conservation. We need community-led and -owned initiatives to reduce conflicts and dispel the notion that conservation is a way to dispossess people of their lands.