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Appendix D — Consideration of Human Rights in Conservation Projects: The Nature Conservancy’s Approach

With 18 per­cent of the world’s land for­mal­ly des­ig­nat­ed for indige­nous and local com­mu­ni­ties, and with their lands con­tain­ing 20 per­cent of glob­al for­est car­bon, and much of the world’s bio­di­ver­si­ty, indige­nous peo­ples are impor­tant part­ners. The Nature Con­ser­van­cy has two pri­ma­ry doc­u­ments guid­ing our work with indige­nous peo­ples. First is the Con­ser­van­cy’s guid­ance, that is cur­rent­ly in devel­op­ment, for work­ing with indige­nous peo­ples. Sec­ond is the Con­ser­va­tion Ini­tia­tive on Human Rights (CIHR) frame­work. The Nature Con­ser­van­cy is a found­ing mem­ber and sig­na­to­ry of CIHR, com­mit­ting to sup­port and pro­mote the pro­tec­tion and real­iza­tion of human rights with­in the scope of our con­ser­va­tion pro­grams through­out all stages, includ­ing the design, imple­men­ta­tion and mon­i­tor­ing. The CIHR out­lines the fol­low­ing guidelines:

  • Respect human rights. Respect inter­na­tion­al­ly pro­claimed human rights, and make sure that we do not con­tribute to infringe­ments of human rights while pur­su­ing our mission.
  • Pro­mote human rights with­in con­ser­va­tion pro­grammes. Sup­port and pro­mote the pro­tec­tion and real­iza­tion of human rights with­in the scope of our con­ser­va­tion programmes.
  • Pro­tect the vul­ner­a­ble. Make spe­cial efforts to avoid harm to those who are vul­ner­a­ble to infringe­ments of their rights and to sup­port the pro­tec­tion and ful­fill­ment of their rights with­in the scope of our con­ser­va­tion programmes.
  • Encour­age good gov­er­nance. Sup­port the improve­ment of gov­er­nance sys­tems that can secure the rights of Indige­nous Peo­ples and local com­mu­ni­ties in the con­text of our work on con­ser­va­tion and sus­tain­able nat­ur­al resource use, includ­ing ele­ments such as legal, pol­i­cy and insti­tu­tion­al frame­works, and pro­ce­dures for equi­table par­tic­i­pa­tion and accountability.
  • Address con­ser­va­tion-human rights links in the design, imple­men­ta­tion and mon­i­tor­ing of our pro­grammes. This can be done by: 
    • Under­tak­ing impact assess­ment and con­sul­ta­tion in advance of con­ser­va­tion interventions.
    • Con­duct­ing pri­or eval­u­a­tion of the scope of pro­posed con­ser­va­tion poli­cies, pro­grammes, projects and activ­i­ties, so that the links between human rights and con­ser­va­tion are iden­ti­fied. Fur­ther, it is impor­tant to ensure poten­tial­ly affect­ed per­sons are informed, prop­er­ly con­sult­ed, and able to par­tic­i­pate in deci­sion mak­ing about rel­e­vant inter­ven­tions. This includes respect for the right of Indige­nous Peo­ples and local com­mu­ni­ties with cus­tom­ary rights to lands and resources to free, pri­or, informed con­sent to inter­ven­tions direct­ly affect­ing their lands, ter­ri­to­ries or resources. One resource for iden­ti­fy­ing lands with legal or cus­tom­ary rights and uses can be found here.
    • Reflect­ing local con­cerns in design and imple­men­ta­tion. Ensure that the design and imple­men­ta­tion of con­ser­va­tion inter­ven­tions reflect pri­or eval­u­a­tion and par­tic­i­pa­to­ry decisions.
    • Mon­i­tor­ing and adapt­ing. Mon­i­tor and eval­u­ate inter­ven­tions and their impli­ca­tions for human rights, as a basis for ongo­ing improvement.
  • Estab­lish account­abil­i­ty mea­sures. Estab­lish process­es to mon­i­tor and eval­u­ate com­pli­ance with our poli­cies and prin­ci­ples on a reg­u­lar basis. Include effec­tive, acces­si­ble, and trans­par­ent pro­ce­dures to receive and resolve complaints.
  • Apply the poli­cies and prin­ci­ples in agree­ments with sub­con­tract­ing orga­ni­za­tions and imple­ment­ing part­ners. Include appro­pri­ate pro­vi­sions on com­pli­ance with these poli­cies and prin­ci­ples in sub­con­tracts, part­ner­ship agree­ments and capac­i­ty-build­ing activ­i­ties with oth­er imple­ment­ing organizations.


In addi­tion, the Con­ser­van­cy rec­om­mends the fol­low­ing guid­ance on social safe­guards for when teams are work­ing with indige­nous peoples.

  • Free and Pri­or Informed Con­sent (FPIC) is a spe­cif­ic right for indige­nous peo­ples as rec­og­nized by the Unit­ed Nations Dec­la­ra­tion on the Rights of Indige­nous Peo­ples (UNDRIP). When work­ing on projects with indige­nous peo­ples, FPIC should be sought at the ear­li­est stage pos­si­ble (and through­out the life­cy­cle of the project or pro­gram, if it pro­ceeds), to under­stand the indige­nous peo­ples’ pri­or­i­ties, con­cerns and per­spec­tives, and to share infor­ma­tion about all aspects of the project. Remem­ber that con­sent is not an “end point,” but an on-going process root­ed in rela­tion­ship man­age­ment, account­abil­i­ty, and trans­paren­cy. As it aris­es from a human rights frame­work, the prin­ci­ple of FPIC does not define con­sent as a sim­ple “yes” to a pre­de­ter­mined deci­sion, or as a means to val­i­date a pro­gram or activ­i­ty that may dis­ad­van­tage affect­ed indige­nous peo­ples. Con­sent must be giv­en freely, just­ly, and on an informed basis that pro­tects indige­nous peo­ples’ rights. Ensure the mean­ing­ful par­tic­i­pa­tion of indige­nous peo­ples, and do not car­ry out a project or activ­i­ty where they have refused to engage or give their consent.
  • Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties should define for them­selves their own intel­lec­tu­al and cul­tur­al prop­er­ty, and require­ments for its protection.
  • The con­ser­va­tion project should respect the rights of indige­nous peo­ples to pur­sue their own devel­op­ment pri­or­i­ties for their lands and territories.
  • Address and work to avoid any imbal­ances of pow­er that may arise between the Con­ser­van­cy and indige­nous peo­ples, as well as poten­tial­ly mar­gin­al­ized sub­groups, in the case where the par­ties’ inter­ests are not shared. Has engage­ment with indige­nous peo­ples been car­ried out via their own rep­re­sen­ta­tive insti­tu­tions and in adher­ence with their cul­ture and traditions?
  • Indige­nous women often face dou­ble dis­crim­i­na­tion as indige­nous per­sons and as women. It is impor­tant to pay par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to the poten­tial impacts of con­ser­va­tion projects on indige­nous women dur­ing each stage of the project, while respect­ing indige­nous peo­ples’ own laws and institutions.
  • Pro­vide access to redress through griev­ance mech­a­nisms that are: acces­si­ble, pre­dictable, trans­par­ent, effec­tive, rights-based, respect­ful, appro­pri­ate, and responsive.
  • Is a for­mal agree­ment in place with the impact­ed com­mu­ni­ties? This may be a help­ful tool for clar­i­fy­ing roles, respon­si­bil­i­ties, and expec­ta­tions; ensur­ing trans­paren­cy and account­abil­i­ty; and pro­tect­ing the com­mu­ni­ty’s rights. In any agree­ment with indige­nous peo­ples, include, as appro­pri­ate, spe­cif­ic terms to safe­guard and pro­mote indige­nous peo­ples’ exer­cise of their rights, mit­i­gate any adverse impacts, ensure fair com­pen­sa­tion and ben­e­fit-shar­ing, and pro­vide for mean­ing­ful indige­nous par­tic­i­pa­tion in man­ag­ing the project.

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