WWF report: The custodians of nature crucial to any and every effort to protect our planet


An article by Lilian Gikandi from World Wide Fund For Nature (reprinted according to Creative Commons Attribution- Share Alike 3.0 License)

2021 is the super year for our planet. Global leaders will convene in a series of meetings to determine solutions to the planet’s climate, nature and sustainable development challenges and it is critical they support nature’s original custodians – the world’s Indigenous peoples and local communities. Any global conservation efforts including calls to protect and conserve at least 30% of the world’s land, freshwater and oceans by 2030 hinge on strong IPLC participation and leadership and will be unattainable without them.

A new, first of its kind collaborative study compiled by conservation organizations and experts, with guidance from and peer reviewed by Indigenous Peoples experts and organizations highlights the importance of recognizing and respecting the rights, governance, and conservation efforts of Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLC) as custodians of their lands. 

Photo © Luis Barreto / WWF-UK

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Question for this article

Indigenous peoples, Are they the true guardians of nature?

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The study finds that Indigenous peoples and local communities’ lands and territories cover at least 32% of the planet’s terrestrial surface and the majority (91%) are considered to be in good or fair ecological condition today. This is mostly because IPLCs have lived sustainably for generations in their ‘territories of life’ and safeguard many of the world’s remaining natural landscapes. Many of these areas support unique cultural and spiritual values and practices, and are critical in combating nature loss and climate breakdown. 

IPLC knowledge and practices have helped preserve their lands for generations. And yet, more than a quarter of IPLC lands could face high development pressures in the future, underlining the need to secure the rights, governance and practices of those who are best-placed to safeguard many of the natural systems on which we all depend.

As countries meet to negotiate a new Global Biodiversity Framework  later this year, we hope the findings of this report catalyze  support for Indigenous peoples and local communities so that they can defend and restore their lands and territories as part of global conservation efforts.   

Only with IPLCs leading, will conservation that benefits both people and the biodiversity on which we all depend, be fruitful.

Read the The State of the Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ lands and territories report here.