Written By Savannah Schulze
Through out many of my sessions during the WCC I have noticed a call and attention to the pursuit of human rights along side conservation efforts. While listening to a panel devoted to incorporating human rights into the management and establishment of World Heritage Sites one panelist commented “this should be a no brainer” but past histories indicate that this is not always the case when ascribing this designation. They suggest that we need to move towards a systemic rights based approach that considers these issues from the start of such designations rather than just ”firefighting” when problems erupt. We must remember that people engage in the processes of establishing World Heritage Sites because they have their own invested interests (e.g. ecotourism or economic) however we must ensure that Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is right in there at the start securing consent from indigenous peoples and local communities. The push for profit often ends up trumping the rights or needs of indigenous peoples. When you fail to obtain consent from indigenous peoples we can do harm, not only to Indigenous Peoples, but also cause ecological harm to the site. It is affirming to see the implementation of rights-based approach to conservation within the World Heritage Convention, as well as the establishment of the IUCN WCC Resolution 047 (2012) on implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
While the session above focused on incorporating human-rights at the institutional level or “scaling-up", another presentation given by Joseph Itongwa from the Democratic Republic of Congo reminded me of how we need to consider human rights on the ground. Joseph spoke of his work with IPACC (Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee) who was invited by WWF (World Wildlife Fund) to work with the indigenous peoples of CAR (Central African Republic). Their focus was to facilitate indigenous-to-indigenous capacity building and human rights training to assist the BaAka communities living in Tri-National de la Sangha Park and World Heritage Site. The BaAka face strong cultural discrimination and serious human rights violations by the state. Through various partnerships they work to provide human rights training and establish long-term monitoring capacity of indigenous and human rights in the region. Many BaAka communities live in isolated regions and are therefore unaware of international norms and rights. The designation of the park seems to have limited the BaAka’s traditional life ways and Joseph recommends that IUCN/UNESCO (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) take into account the cultural world heritage of the site. And also the value of solidarity between actors as key for long term protection of such sites. A key lesson learned here is that designation alone can not ensure conservation success.
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Dr. Kimberly R. Marion Suiseeya, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University
Dr. Laura Zanotti, Department of Anthropology, Purdue University
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