Keynote address by Stan Stevens (University of Massachusetts) – CICADA Conference, October 23, 2015
Re-thinking Protected Areas: Opportunities for Indigenous Peoples and Supportive Research, Advocacy, and Activism
Over the past twenty years new international conservation policies have been adopted and promoted that repudiate the principles of exclusionary, “protection paradigm” protected areas — fortress conservation — and move far beyond the community based natural resource management and integrated conservation and development projects of the 1980s and 1990s.
Implementing new standards of rights-based conservation and the governance of protected areas by and with Indigenous peoples arguably will require reform in the governance and management of a vast number of the now more than 200,000 protected areas worldwide, most of which are established in the territories of Indigenous peoples and local communities. These policies, moreover, will promote kinds of protected areas grounded in Indigenous peoples’ continuing affirmation of their values and their custodianship of their territories. In so doing this “new paradigm” of protected areas may create opportunities for Indigenous peoples to gain recognition, respect, and support not only for their conservation achievements but also for securing, recovering, and defending territory and for maintaining self-governance, identities, and livelihoods.
There are now many examples in diverse parts of the world of protected areas governed by Indigenous peoples (Indigenous protected areas or ICCAs – Indigenous peoples’ and community conserved territories and areas), as well as protected areas with shared governance (or at least co-management). While there persists a gap between policy and practice, efforts are underway to improve implementation. There should be increasing opportunities for Indigenous peoples to gain redress for past and continuing injustices associated with protected areas and to use protected areas and other kinds of conservation areas for advancing their aspirations, life plans, and recognition of their rights. This has implications for research, advocacy, and activism.