By Vivienne Solís Rivera and Kim Sander Wright, ICCA Consortium.
Indigenous peoples, local communities and small-scale artisanal fisherwomen and fishermen are the rights-holders and custodians of marine life within their coastal and marine territories. All around the world, these people have deep bonds with specific areas or bodies of natural resources and over generations have developed a huge variety of effective forms of governance in the form of customs and rules that ensure nature is conserved and livelihoods are sustained. These “territories of life” are fundamental for the conservation and thriving of life on our planet.
To sustain the health of our ocean, we must recognise the rights and responsibilities and support the efforts of these communities to govern and care for their territories. For example, the work done by CoopeSoliDar R.L. adopts a human rights base approach to marine conservation in Central America. Recognising traditional knowledge related to territories of life of fisherfolks, CoopeSoliDar R.L enables the shared governance of those territories, taking into consideration the contribution of both women and men in decision making.
In our commitment to ‘RISE UP – A Blue Call to Action’ we are contributing to the implementation of several international commitments. In particular, we are ensuring that the Objectives of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), are implemented. Both the sustainable use of marine biodiversity and the fair and equitable distribution of the benefits derived from this use must be a priority at all scales, in all processes.
These CBD objectives are reinforced by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which must be implemented in an integrated way to incorporate a human rights-based approach to conservation. When SDG 14 for ocean conservation comes together with other SDGs that address social issues, it places a greater focus on the customary practices of indigenous peoples, local communities and artisanal small-scale fishers as the future of ocean conservation and sustainable and equitable livelihoods.
This commitment requires recognition of the value and importance of all protected and conserved area governance models, beyond private and state models, to marine territories of life governed by indigenous peoples and local communities. By learning and respecting their history and culture and recognising their interrelated rights, we achieve marine conservation with human rights at its core.
In practice, the ocean conservation initiatives of indigenous peoples and local communities are strengthened by collective governance and action; networking; acknowledgement of the value of indigenous and local knowledge; work to collect, codify and adapt this knowledge for decision-making; and, integration with scientific knowledge when necessary to achieve shared technological innovation.
Such holistic approaches to conservation include recognition that land and sea are an ecosystem continuum, the health of which is inseparable from the livelihoods and wellbeing of local people and their cultures. Because collective action toward conservation goes hand in hand with the localised economic visions of these communities and peoples, there is a need to transcend out-dated notions of top-down, exclusionary protected areas to explicitly embrace sustainable livelihoods and wellbeing as the basis for effective and equitable conservation.
Small-scale artisanal fisheries are a way of life, and in order to guarantee their vitality they require healthy ecosystems, access to fish, and fair access up the value chains to markets. This will achieve a more equitable distribution of the benefits of conservation efforts to local communities and small-scale fishers.
There needs to be a fair and equitable way of distributing the benefits derived from the sustainable use of all marine and coastal biodiversity, across the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to these small-scale actors. As most offshore species rely upon clean, ecosystem-rich inshore waters for stages in their lifecycles, indigenous peoples and local community rightsholders and small-scale fishermen have much to contribute. Their contributions to and perspectives on marine conservation issues should be more broadly valued, including in the governance of fisheries throughout the EEZ.
The objective of the ‘E’ section of the ‘RISE UP’ for the ocean campaign is to empower and support the capacity of indigenous peoples, local communities and small scale fishers and fish workers, to conserve biodiversity, guarantee food security, build resilience to climate change and eradicate poverty. This objective must be implemented with special attention to women and youth, the latter of who are in search of an intergenerational dialogue that allows the transmission of knowledge, experience and the implementation of technological innovation.
In order to achieve ocean conservation commitments by 2030, priority must be placed on supporting the fair and equitable participation in decision-making and which includes the appropriate recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to govern and manage their marine ecosystems and biodiversity.
Building relationships with communities takes time and requires long-term commitment. It begins with the recognition of cultures with their own governance systems for conservation and sustainable use that existed prior to our arrival in each of those marine territories of life and acknowledging their contribution to the biodiversity that we want to protect today.
We must initiate a true dialogue between the sectors, actors, stakeholders and rights holders. We must share technology, innovation and knowledge. We must share power when governing our ocean and when deciding who benefits and who does not in a fair and equitable way.
The path towards 2030 is a unique opportunity to empower and support coastal communities through the integrated, equitable and inclusive governance of our ocean.
The ICCA Consortium is an international association dedicated to promoting the appropriate recognition and support of ICCAs (Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Areas and Territories) in the regional, national and global arena. The Consortium is directly linked to the grassroots through its Members, which include both Indigenous Peoples (IP) and Local Community (LC) organizations and civil society groups working with IPs/LCs, and honorary members (individuals with relevant concerns and expertise). For more information visit http://www.iccaconsortium.org/
This post is part of Ocean Unite’s blog series. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Ocean Unite.