Call for conservation to respect tribal peoples' rights

May 22, 2015

Tribal peoples like the Soliga are generally the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world. © Shrenik Sadalgi/Survival

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An open letter signed by Indigenous organizations, environmentalists and other prominent people such as U.S. academic Noam Chomsky calls for a new approach to conservation. The letter, published by The Guardian, reads:

We, the undersigned, are calling for a new approach to conservation, one that respects tribal peoples’ rights, for all of humanity.

Tribal peoples are generally the best conservationists; they have managed their lands sustainably for many generations. Forcibly removing tribal peoples from their land usually results in environmental damage. Such removals are a violation of human rights and should be opposed by conservationists.

The cheapest and quickest way to conserve areas of high biodiversity is to respect tribal peoples’ rights – studies show reduced deforestation and forest fire rates and greater biodiversity on tribal land. The world can no longer afford a conservation model which destroys tribal peoples: it damages human diversity as well as the environment.

Signed by: Lord Avebury, Noam Chomsky, Ben Goldsmith, Zac Goldsmith MP, Tony Juniper, George Monbiot, Jonathon Porritt, Sir Ghillean Prance, Sir Tim Smit, Davi Yanomami, Greenpeace and Survival International, and the following Indigenous organizations: ALDAW Network, Palawan (The Philippines), Associação Huni Kui da Terra Indígena Henê Bariá Namakiá – AHHBN (Brazil), Federação do Povo Huni Kui do Acre (FEPAHC) (Brazil), La Federación Nativa del Río Madre de Dios y Afluentes – FENAMAD (Peru), First Peoples of the Kalahari (Botswana), Hutukara (Brazil), La Communauté des Potiers du Rwanda – COPORWA (Rwanda), Noroeste de Rondônia e Sul do Amazonas – OPIARA (Brazil), Organização dos Povos Indigenas do Acre (Brazil), Organization of the Agta People of Casiguran – SAKBIBI (The Philippines), Programme d’Intégration et de Développement du peuple Pygmée au Kivu – (PIDP) (Democratic Republic of Congo), Taluk Soliga Abhivrudhi Sangha (India) and Zila Budakattu Girijana Abhivrudhi Sangha (India).

The letter forms the 5 principles for conservation behind Survival International’s Parks Need Peoples campaign, which is fighting abuses against tribal peoples committed in the name of “conservation.”

Baka “Pygmies” in southeast Cameroon face arrests, beatings and torture by wildlife officers who are funded and supported by WWF. Bushmen in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve are being criminalized for hunting to feed their families. And tribal peoples in India are being illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of tiger conservation.

- Learn more about Survival’s “Parks Need Peoples” campaign