UNSR: Conservation policies must fully respect Indigenous Peoples' rights
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz testifies before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.
States must fully recognize and respect Indigenous Peoples' rights when implementing conservation and biodiversity initiatives, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, said in testimony before the Inter-American Court. Addressing the court in Costa Rica in early February, she said that conservation projects have too often involved governments seizing and nationalizing indigenous territories and subjecting the people who managed them to impoverishment, cultural deterioration, and other severe human rights violations. The court is considering a case brought by the Kaliña and Lokono Peoples against the government of Suriname, which created three nature reserves in their territory without their consent. Despite being party to international treaties requiring respect for indigenous rights, Suriname still does not legally recognize the Kaliña and Lokono's land rights and has not consulted them about the nature reserves.
The Special Rapporteur determined that the reserves were "non-consensual and fail to recognize and respect indigenous peoples' rights." She added that "because they are by law owned by the State, I would classify these reserves as an ongoing and outwardly illegitimate dispossession of indigenous lands that requires redress, not just in relation to property rights but also with regard to the full spectrum of rights."
Tauli-Corpuz noted that the Convention on Biological Diversity, which Suriname is party to, mandates that state nature reserves meet the same Indigenous Peoples' rights standards as all other government activities. A decision adopted by the Conference of Parties to the Convention in 2004 states that "the establishment, management and monitoring of protected areas should take place with the full and effective participation of, and full respect for the rights of, indigenous [peoples]."States are also required to provide restitution to Indigenous Peoples whose land has been incorporated into protected areas.