Canada backs 30 x 30 despite concerns of conservation by dispossession and the militarization of conservation

Published by Brent Patterson on

In September 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s support for the “high ambition coalition” and the 30 x 30 initiative.

Mongabay has explained: “Their core proposal is called ‘30 by 30’ – a plan to conserve 30 per cent of Earth’s land and sea areas by 2030 through ‘area-based conservation measures’ like protected national parks.”

That may sound like a good plan, but the article then highlights: “Some Indigenous advocates and their allies have sharply criticized the plan, saying it takes the wrong approach to conservation and, if implemented poorly, could result in millions of people being evicted from their ancestral territories.”

Critics say it builds on the legacy of conservation by dispossession.

Open Democracy reports: “Historian Mark Spence put it over two decades ago, an untouched wilderness needed to be created before it could be protected. That is, millions of people have been dispossessed in the name of conservation.”

The article highlights: “30×30 threatens to dispossess many more.”

UN Rapporteurs express concern

Last year, José Francisco Cali Tzay, who is Maya Kaqchikel from Guatemala and the UN special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, commented: “Throughout conservation’s checkered history, we have seen exclusionary conservation as a gateway to human rights abuses and militarized forms of violence.”

At the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this year, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, the former special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, emphasized: “There is no nature-based solution for climate change if Indigenous Peoples are not central to every proposal.” 30×30 is considered a “nature-based solution.”

She highlighted Indigenous peoples at COP26 are calling on policymakers to: “recognize and enforce their territorial rights, stop the criminalization and murder of forest guardians, and the right to free, prior and informed consent.”

Furthermore, this past August, 49 organizations expressed concern with this initiative: “While protecting at least 30% of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030 is on its face a worthy goal of responding to biodiversity loss, the Framework’s focus on ‘protected areas’ will likely continue to lead to human rights abuses across the globe.”

One of the signatories, the Swift Foundation, says: “How it’s working right now is a militarized form of conservation. You have guards with guns, people imposing fines, building fences and kicking people out of their traditional lands. And if communities react in defense they are perceived as anti-conservation.”

Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Kenya

Countries that are members of the so-called “High Ambition Coalition” backing 30×30 include Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Kenya.

This past January, the Colombian minister of climate and sustainable development stated his government was “committing to the 30×30 target.” At COP26, Colombian president Ivan Duque to promised protect 30 per cent of his country’s territory by 2022. Duque stated: “We can’t wait until 2030, we must act now to protect our forests.”

Last month, The Guardian reported: “[The Indigenous Tzeltal ejido of San Sebastián Bachajón, Chiapas] is leading the first lawsuit against one of 500 or so barracks planned across [Mexico]” Ivette Galván, a lawyer with the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (Centro Prodh), says: “This is the first [injunction] presented by an indigenous community against these barracks on the infringement of their collective rights.”

And ten years ago the Guatemalan government opened six new military detachments in the Laguna del Tigre National Park and announced its decision to carry out evictions in the park. The government said this was to protect the environment and combat drug trafficking. At the same time, it extended an oil extraction contract in the park.

COP15, April-May 2022

30×30 is expected to be a headline outcome of the UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) COP15 summit in April-May 2022.

We will continue to follow this issue.

Instagram post by Catherine McKenna, Canada’s former minister of the environment and climate change, endorsing 30×30.

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