An Indigenous woman wearing a yellow feather headdress and a black and white face stands between two other activists wearing similar attire at a demonstration in Brazil. Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

Biodiversity: COP15 deal a ‘missed opportunity’ to protect Indigenous peoples’ rights

The Global Biodiversity Framework agreed at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal, which aims to preserve biodiversity globally by calling on states to commit to declaring 30% of the earth protected for conservation by 2030, is a missed opportunity to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples, Amnesty International said today.

The accord, known as the 30 x 30 agreement, sets significant targets aimed at arresting the alarming decline in biodiversity seen in recent decades. States at COP15, however, fell short of explicitly recognizing Indigenous peoples’ lands and territories as a separate category of conserved area, which ultimately threatens their rights.

“This COP15 conference offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set ambitious goals aiming to protect the diversity of flora and fauna on the planet. While the accord contains a number of highly important environmental targets and human rights safeguards, which states will now be held accountable for, it fails to fully protect and uphold Indigenous peoples’ rights,” said Chris Chapman, Amnesty International’s Adviser on Indigenous Rights.

COP15 deal doesn’t incorporate key Indigenous demands

“In the Global Biodiversity Framework agreed today at COP15, states present at the Conference did not wholly incorporate Indigenous peoples’ demand for their lands and territories to be fully recognized as a category of conserved area, a plea that was intended to protect them from the predations they often experience in areas such as state-run national parks.

“Consequently, states have failed to fully recognize Indigenous peoples’ immense contribution to conserving biodiversity, putting them at greater risk of human rights violations.

“The Global Biodiversity Framework negotiated at COP15 only partly acknowledges Indigenous peoples’ outstanding contribution to conservation. Despite constituting just 5% of the world’s population, Indigenous peoples’ lands host 80% of the world’s biodiversity.

“Over the four years that the accord has been negotiated, the protections of Indigenous peoples’ rights have been much strengthened, thanks to the tireless work of the Indigenous leaders and activists involved.

“Yet regardless of the safeguards in the document, a number of Indigenous peoples remain opposed to calls to expand protected areas, given the appalling abuses that are committed in such areas in many countries.”

Right to a healthy environment

Biodiversity is an essential element of a healthy environment. In a landmark resolution passed this year, the UN General Assembly agreed to recognize the right to a healthy environment as a human right, in a move that may transform efforts to fight climate change and protect the right to live in dignity for billions of people. Failing to address biodiversity loss will lead to severe repercussions for future generations, who will inherit its irreversible results.

“Considering the gaps in the framework, monitoring the deal’s implementation and combatting any human rights violations arising from the establishment of protected areas will now prove absolutely crucial,” said Chris Chapman.

COP15, which ran from 7-19 December in Montreal, marked the latest conference held to discuss the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, an agreement adopted in 1992. The talks aimed to set specific goals for 2030 and targets to 2050.

Amnesty International stresses the urgent need to address the loss of biodiversity as an essential step towards climate justice and to protect the right to live in a safe, clean and sustainable environment.