Land defenders and the COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal, December 5-17

Published by Brent Patterson on

A Black Hawk helicopter flies over Tinigua National Park in Colombia. Photo from How Colombia’s deforestation campaign is targeting subsistence farmers.

The Guardian reports: “Ahead of the latest round of negotiations in Nairobi this week [June 21 to 26], the UN convention on biological diversity confirmed that the Cop15 biodiversity conference will now take place in Montreal, Canada, from 5 to 17 December.”

The BBC also reports: “The talks are aimed at setting global policy for the next decade.”

That article adds: “The outcome will decide how the world will address the challenges of reducing the extinction risk threatening more than one million species, protecting 30% of land and sea, eliminating billions of dollars of environmentally-damaging government subsidies and restoring degraded ecosystems.”

Biodiversity and environmental human rights defenders

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has stated: “Biodiversity loss, pollution and the climate crisis constitute some of humanity’s gravest challenges, contributing both directly and indirectly to human rights violations around the world. To effectively address the drivers of biodiversity loss, we must take concrete steps [including] to protect environmental human rights defenders from harm.”

But an initiative being discussed at COP15 could put Indigenous communities, environmental human rights defenders and others at further risk.

The 30×30 target and militarized conservation

Agence France-Presse now notes: “A central pillar of the planned nature pact [that could be finalized at the Montreal summit] is to conserve at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030.”

Reuters adds: “Already, more than 90 countries, including the United States [Canada, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Kenya] have committed to the 30-by-30 target, according to the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People.”

But Mongabay has explained: “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.”

According to Survival International, an organization campaigning for Indigenous rights, 30×30 would be the biggest land grab in history.

Sophie Grig of Survival International says: “Up to 300 million people could be directly displaced and dispossessed. Many will be Indigenous people, who have protected their lands for millennia. Those who have done the least to damage the environment, stand to lose the most. Because they rely on their lands for survival – eviction from these will be completely devastating for them.”

Margot Lurie has also warned: “Millions of people have been dispossessed in the name of conservation. 30×30 threatens to dispossess many more.”

And in August 2021, 49 organizations stated: “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.”

This letter from April 2021 also notes among its principal concerns about 30×30 that: “Protected areas have led to displacement and eviction of Indigenous Peoples and other land-dependent communities and brought serious human rights abuses by conservation organizations and enforcement agencies.”

The 249 signatories to the letter include the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), ProDESC (Mexico), CENSAT Agua Viva (Colombia), Community Land Action Now (Kenya), Amnesty International (UK), the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-net), Corporate Europe Observatory (Belgium), FIAN International (Germany), and David Suzuki (Canada).

We continue to follow this.

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