Jennifer (Jing) Tauli Corpuz. Photo by Matthew Omilianowski.
Jennifer (Jing) Tauli Corpuz (Kankana-ey Igorot), Managing Director of Policy at Nia Tero, shares her perspective on Indigenous rights and representation at COP15, the critical outcomes from this UN Conference on Biological Diversity (CBD), and next steps to implement the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. COP15 took place in Montreal, Canada from December 7-19, 2022.
What were your goals for the representation of Indigenous peoples’ rights and knowledge going into the COP15 negotiations and were those achieved? What was the process for the negotiations?
When the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 14) decided to establish a process to develop a post-2020 global biodiversity framework, the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) decided to participate in the process equipped with the best available science, knowledge and evidence on the contributions of Indigenous peoples and local communities to achieving the objectives of the Convention. The IIFB, which is the caucus of all Indigenous peoples and local community representatives participating in CBD meetings, was also mindful of the impacts of the establishment of exclusionary protected areas and enforcement of wildlife conservation rules on Indigenous peoples and local communities, which included eviction, involuntary resettlement, and criminalization.
When the 5th edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO 5), the Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the 2nd edition of Local Biodiversity Outlooks (LBO 2), and numerous scientific studies were published showing the disproportionately positive contribution of Indigenous peoples and local communities to maintaining habitat and species health, especially in cases where their tenure of land and territory was secure, the positions and proposals that the IIFB needed to take were clear: the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities needed to be fully embedded and central in the framework and there needed to be pathways for recognizing and respecting the centuries-old governance system of Indigenous and traditional territories.
The process originally envisioned that 3 meetings of the working group on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework (WG2020) and contributions from the subsidiary bodies on implementation and on scientific, technical and technological advice (SBI & SBSTTA) and the working group on Article 8(j) and related provisions (WG8J) would lead to the adoption of the framework after two years at COP 15, originally scheduled for 2020. However, because of the pandemic, the process was prolonged to 4 years. The IIFB needed to gather the views and proposals of Indigenous peoples and local communities from all seven socio-cultural regions of the world and come up with unified proposals that address the diversity of contexts and legal frameworks where they may be found.
Once the IIFB had developed unified and concrete proposals and selected its technical team and spokespersons, they had to identify and participate in all avenues possible and open to them, given that only Parties could make proposals in the process and that any proposals by non-Parties needed to be supported by a Party in order to be reflected in the text. It was an arduous and grueling process, which required many hours of internal consensus building, lobbying and advocacy with the Parties, and participation in negotiations, but in the end the IIFB succeeded in getting IP and LC rights language throughout the text of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
How does the Global Biodiversity Framework support the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs)?
The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework contains strong language on respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities, including in the preamble, in the considerations for implementation, spatial planning (Target 1), area-based conservation (Target 3), customary sustainable use (Targets 5 and 9), traditional knowledge (Goal C, Targets 13 and 21), participation and respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities to lands, territories and resources (Target 22), and in direct access to biodiversity finance (Target 19f). The Framework should be celebrated as a historic step towards transforming how we approach biodiversity conservation. The text provides a strong basis for countries to walk hand in hand with Indigenous peoples in addressing the biodiversity crisis and in ensuring that the negative legacy of conservation on Indigenous peoples will be corrected.
Many Indigenous protected areas are already meeting the 30 percent target identified in 30x30. Does that mean the countries in which they are located have done their part and no longer need to work toward preserving biodiversity?
The language of target 3 or the 30x30 target says that Parties, countries, and non-state actors should “Ensure and enable that by 2030 at least 30 per cent of terrestrial, inland water, and of coastal and marine areas…”. This means that the effective conservation of land and sea areas by 2030 is the floor and not the ceiling. Countries can and should aspire to exceed that 30% target where possible.
The recognition and counting of Indigenous and traditional territories towards the 30% target is not automatic and will require a process of ensuring that Indigenous peoples and local communities themselves that their territories and areas should count towards the 30% target. Protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) will have a process for establishment and recognition, and recognition that Indigenous and traditional territories contribute towards the 30% target will require a process determined with the full and effective participation and free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples and local communities.
In areas where rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities, including to traditional territories, are not yet recognized or respected, it may take more time for a process and the basis for partnership towards meeting the 30x30 target can be established. The language on respect and recognition of rights is a strong basis for establishing necessary partnerships between countries and Indigenous peoples and local communities.
Now that the GBF goals and targets have been adopted, what are the next steps for implementation? Is there a timeline for implementation and who holds nations accountable in meeting these goals? What does that process look like?
Now that the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework is adopted, Parties will need to either revise their National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs) or develop their National Commitments consistent with the Framework and with the full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples and local communities. The targets in the NBSAPs and National Commitments must be aligned with and contribute to achieving the goals and targets of the Framework, and must be adopted immediately. Parties, countries, and the whole of society must strive to achieve the targets by 2030.
The enhanced monitoring, reporting and review process requires Parties to submit national reports every five years. Non-state actors, including Indigenous peoples and local communities, may also submit their reports including to the Local Biodiversity Outlooks. There will be periodic peer reviews of how Parties are working to meet their targets. Given that the Framework clearly references human rights, the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environments, access to justice, and protection of environmental rights defenders, the UN Human Rights System, including the special procedures and treaty bodies, may be called upon to ensure accountability. Finally, Indigenous and customary laws may play a role in ensuring accountability of Parties.
Why is this work – advancing the rights of IPLCs in the GBF – important? How does respecting the rights of IPLCs benefit us all?
The work of advancing the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities in the GBF is important and will benefit us all because it will support Indigenous and local governance of areas and territories important for biodiversity, which has been proven to be most effective and delivers the best biodiversity outcomes. It will also support and enable Indigenous peoples and local communities to continue and strengthen their resistance to activities that destroy or degrade the areas, lands, territories and resources that they care for, nurture and love.