By Kate Yeater
Waking up to our first sunrise in Honolulu, I looked out the hotel window and saw dark foggy clouds in the distance, sandwiched between high-rises. As the morning fog dissipated and I put on my glasses, I realized those weren’t clouds at all but mountains! Since that moment I longed to get out of the tourist-filled city around us and explore the natural wonders of O’ahu. Our busy research schedules at the World Conservation Congress paused for a moment on Thursday, September 8th, as the Congress took a free day. This allowed our team a rejuvenating day away from the Convention Center and exploration of the island. While Savannah, Liz, and Kate H. went to Hanauma Bay to snorkel with sea turtles, fish, and coral, Sarah and I walked to Diamond Head on the southern coast of the island. Diamond Head, known locally as Lēʻahi, is a 300,000-year-old volcanic crater. Sarah and I hiked through tunnels, across the crater, and up stairs to reach the summit, which overlooks the coast and Pacific Ocean beyond.
Our afternoon was spent shopping for gifts for friends and family, laying on the beach, paddle-boarding, and catching up on homework. We ended our day off with a team dinner to share our stories from the day. With just two days left of the Member’s Assembly, the 2016 WCC is quickly coming to an end and our flight back to the mainland will come much too quickly. It was wonderful to spend a day in the fresh air, salty sea, and sunshine here in Honolulu before we begin the last push of this whirlwind research trip.
Today was the first day of the member’s assembly and it was long. I was at the Congress until past ten listening to an argument about whether to include ancient, primary, and intact forests in the same motion. It was soon apparent that the group wanted to create two motions. We tracked down a legal representative of the IUCN or at least an expert on the motions process and she informed us that yes we could split the motions if we absolutely had to. But, it was not ideal since groups are already supposed to have these things figured out before the WCC convenes. The consensus in the room was still the need for two separate motions and so we proceeded to go over nitty-gritty details of the text and what language to include or delete. It was interesting to see “policy” in the process of being made, albeit a very unique type of policy.
WCC passes what are called motions, which aren’t actually policies at all. Motions become resolutions which are voted on by IUCN members and these resolutions set the precedent for the international conservation agenda. Governing bodies, NGOs, and other organizations look to these resolutions to craft their agenda on conservation and other issues related to sustainability. The IUCN explains “members may, through the motions process, promote and discourage action by governments and other actors and put forward conservation issues that are then discussed in a public forum where governments, NGOS, and environmental agencies are sitting side-by-side” (2012).
Motions are taken up in contact groups. Experts and others can sit in and offer their opinions, but only members of the contact group can propose changes to the text of the motion. These changes can seem really mundane – put a comma here or a semi-colon there or, they can be really interesting. In my contact group someone proposed someone proposed a concern about the text that discussed indigenous peoples and a short discussion followed on the appropriateness of the text language. I was surprised to see this consciousness surrounding language but also impressed to see “influence” in action.
For the next five days, the WCC team will be following contact groups and the motions to resolutions process. I figure I’ll being seeing some of the same people for the next few days and hopefully the strange atmosphere I experienced today won’t carry over into tomorrow. I wouldn’t categorize the atmosphere of the room as negative or positive, but a weird space that I didn’t feel unwelcome or welcome in. Part of this could have been the lateness of the hour and the exhaustion of everyone involved. I still feel like I missed the dynamics of the room as someone completely emerged in the process would understand. As an outsider observing a process I am foreign to, I found myself confused and lost at moments. But, I’ll be at the contact group again tomorrow and piece by piece, I’ll begin to understand.
IUCN (2012). “How the World Conservation Congress Motions Process Works.”
Written By Kate Haapala
If you have been reading this blog, or following other media outlets focusing on the World Conservation Congress (WCC), you now know that the event is being hosted in Honolulu, Hawaii. Bearing this in mind, it is no surprise that the ocean has become a key theme across the event. On the first day when the team walked into the Conference Center, the “Rainbow Archipelago” of Hawaii was on display on the atrium through vibrant images of various species that can be found here in Hawaii. Absent in the images, however, were images of communities and individuals that are also apart of the diverse land and seascapes of this archipelago. Since the first day here at the Congress, the ocean has been a focus in many events, but I am going to focus on just one.
The room buzzed with conversation and excitement as 15 different groups engaged in conversations. I walked in late, and seeing no other seats available at the white cloth linen tables, I joined a group sitting on the floor in the corner talking about the culture and heritage of the ocean. The group here was diverse, but it became clear that many people had a deep connection to the ocean. For instance, an older man sitting on the floor said “there is a spiritual aspect to the ocean. You can feel ancestors in the ocean if you are willing to open yourself up.” Not only is the ocean heritage, but it is also survival. Another man at the knowledge café, said “The ocean is survival for our people. There can be no separation.” These sentiments bring to light the deep interconnectivity between people, their local environment, their sense of place, and therefore their identity.
These sentiments are subject to being overly romanticized and so it seems relevant to make it clear that these communities and cultures are deeply impacted by climate change and a history of colonization. There will be no easy solutions to climate change or deconstructing power imbalances that show themselves in the lives of Native communities here in Hawaii and throughout other Pacific island cultures.
By now you may be wondering why I opened with the story of the Rainbow Archipelago. The art in the Rainbow Archipelago exhibit has remained on display throughout the week. However, it is still void of pictures of people and communities that also make the land and seascapes here diverse, vibrant, and are deeply intertwined with the ocean and the diverse range of species here. Hearing peoples’ stories about climate change, their heritage, and the ways in which their relationship with their ancestors and future descendants are changing is both heavy and impactful. The reality is that we are losing more than just biodiversity as climate change continues. This is not a new argument, but it bears repeating because the ways in which we frame the images, problems, and impacts of climate change matters for what solutions we will design to solve intractable problems.
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.
Written By Sarah Huang
Gender mainstreaming is a UN strategy to addressing gender equality. This term is used in different environmental development contexts, including at the WCC and COP21. It is a strategy that includes the goal of gender equality and gendered perspectives into all aspects of policies or programs, thus mainstreaming policies to be gendered.
I remember following an event at COP21 on gender that was sponsored by the UNDP where the presenter said, "This slide talks about gender, but I'll just skip over it because you all know about that". This is an example of a critique of gender mainstreaming; that even though we are including gendered perspectives into all aspects of policies, is this creating a radical enough change for women to have meaningful participation? This example shows how including a gendered perspective acts as a checklist item where we identify that gender is included and then we move on.
I have similarly seen this "checklisting" of gender here at the WCC. During an event a few days ago titled "Engaging the other half", the discussion surrounded on how including women in conservation management leads to better results and more effective management. While they were highlighting that women play an important role within conservation management and pointing to studies that supported these claims, there was a general ignorance of the intersectional identities of women. Even the title itself refers to only two genders that overlooks LGBTQ identities. But also, there was a lack of recognition of how minority women's experiences are often excluded from high level management positions. Finally, the conversation ended on the point that we need to stop talking about cultural differences. One woman made the point that all cultures are the same and we need to understand these similarities in cultures if we are going to achieve gender equality in conservation programming.
I think what we are seeing in this event is how gender mainstreaming can lead to homogenizing "women" as a collective group, detached from other identities. This process does not recognize that women of color, indigenous women, women from diverse classes, women from particular regions of the world hold diverse life ways and experience conservation management in different ways. And that by gender mainstreaming, we are firstly, including women and secondly, putting women into a boxed category that does not take into account the complexities of intersectionality. Does this help lead to gender equality? I personally don't think it does, because there are many examples of where gender mainstreaming can only exacerbate existing inequalities that women face. We need a radical shift in how we aim to address gender equality that does not categorize or truncate the experiences of women all over the world.
By Kate Yeater
During our first team meeting in Hawai’i, it was mentioned that the World Conservation Congress (WCC) is more than just some meetings about the environment; it’s a space where thousands of different people, ideas, and experiences can intersect and be shared. Our experiences walking to and from the Convention Center, eating lunch in the middle of the bustling Congress, and talking with fellow participants, including indigenous leaders, can all contribute to our research project and data collection.
Today marked the first full day of our team attending events at the Hawai’i Convention Center. Prior to our brisk walk to the Center, we had a team meeting to discuss our schedules for the day and highlight any issues or questions team members had before embarking on the day’s adventures. I spent the majority of the day in the United Nations Development Programme and the Equator Initiative’s “Community Kauhale ʻŌiwi,” a room intended to be a hub for indigenous peoples at the Congress. It will also be a host of events “for indigenous peoples and local communities to exchange knowledge and best practices in sustainable environmental management,” according to the pamphlet I picked up inside the door. I’m sure our team will be seeing a lot of this room over the next few days as many of the events held here center around topics like the Sustainable Development Goals, conservation and protected areas, partnerships, and the rights of indigenous peoples; all topics directly related to the analytics of our research project, Presence 2 Influence.
While I spent time in the Kauhale Room hearing from indigenous peoples and their partners, my team members were also in their own scheduled events, participating in frustrating and redundant discussions about gender and mainstreaming or exploring the variety of Pavilions located on the first floor. In between events, with the intention of catching up on my field notes, I found an area overlooking the cityscape and the Hawaiian mountains in the distance. Distracted by social media and texts from friends, a quick Google search of Jane Goodall’s schedule at the WCC led me to realize that she was just a few rooms away and speaking at that moment! Without hesitation I rushed to Room 320, hoping that participants could still enter and knowing nothing about the event I was going to enter. The door supervisor approved my entrance, although he encouraged me to be quiet as I entered. Just a few yards away, Jane Goodall sat with Jeff Horowitz of Avoided Deforestation Partners as they discussed the role of forests in climate change and what young people can do to help protect the planet. It’s necessary to note that prior to coming to the WCC I joked with my friends that it was my life goal to share the same breathing space with Jane Goodall. Her career working with great apes, fighting for forest conservation, and encouraging community activism and partnerships inspire my own career interests. I was fortunate to have been in the right place and at the right time to see my lifelong hero in real life!
With projections of up to 9,000 people in attendance and 1,300 different events over the ten-day Congress, the WCC is full of informative sessions and spontaneous opportunities. In this first full day at the Convention Center I took on the roles of photographer, field researcher, super fan, and colleague. After a long day at the Congress, processing our notes and these experiences can be cumbersome. However, as I walked back to our hotel after catching up with colleagues from my internship with Amazon Watch, I could not help but be inspired and eager for the next several days ahead. Far from being just a meeting about conservation, the World Conservation Congress has hidden surprises and opportunities that make data collection and our own personal experiences both overwhelming and extremely exciting!
Today, we began bright and early. We left the hotel at 5:30 to attend the unofficial opening ceremony: the arrival of state delegates in traditional Vakas (canoes). Because of inclement weather (there are multiple hurricanes in the Pacific), the arrival was canceled. But everything else was business as usual. We pushed on with the other ceremonial activities, even in the midst of some heavy wind. The sky was clear and beautiful while the wind rumbled like thunder around the beach. I thought it was drums at first. Those who attended (there were surprisingly few of us, maybe 150 or so) got to witness a beautiful ritual ceremony. The state delegates asked permission to enter Hawaii by presenting gifts of nature to a man, who then arranged them on the sand in front of him.
The state delegates than spoke to the crowd. Today, the planet at the crossroads was repeatedly emphasized. Speakers discussed the sustainable initiatives that governments and individuals have taken and how our future is optimistic. Instead of emphasizing our failures, the speakers emphasized the unity of earth’s peoples and how we can come together and make a change. Another big theme of the day was community.
Hawaii’s state model is the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. I think this motto is rather fitting for a state hosting the WCC. The life of the land is disappearing and this disappearance won’t be stopped without the intervention of righteous people. Today, we heard from righteous people, people trying to implement and promote change. They reminded us of our moral obligation to protect the environment. They reminded us of our moral obligation to our ancestors and to future generations.
We heard from many important politicians: the governor of Hawaii David Ige, the president of Palau Tommy Remengesau, the president of the Federation of States of Micronesia Peter Christian, and many more. They reminded us that the Pacific Islands is on the front lines of climate change. There are more hurricanes and cyclones than ever before. The coral reefs are disappearing and Islands are being washed away. But, they were not pessimistic. Today, the first day of the conference, was filled with hope and promise. I learned that if we stand together, anything is possible.
Our journey began at 9:30 am in front of the Purdue Memorial Union. We huddled into a sleek black mini-van, equipped with power outlets and leather seats, and began a comfortable ride to O’Hare international airport. The first leg of our journey over, we waited around the airport until our flight at 2:00 pm. Four hours later we arrived in Seattle. Seven hours later we arrived in Hawaii. Our exhausted team stumbled into bed at 5 am Lafayette time and 11 pm Hawaii time, but we’d made it to Honolulu and the WCC.
The World Conservation Congress, WCC, is associated with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This year is the 22nd Congress and the United States is hosting the WCC for the first time (in our president’s home state)! This year’s theme is “planet at the crossroads,” indicating just how pivotal conservation is for the earth’s future and her people.
Themes at this year’s WCC include declining biodiversity and the protection of marine resources, threatened by climate change and human intervention. The WCC sets the agenda for conservation around the globe and its final resolutions are taken up by conscientious NGOs, local governments, and nation-states. But, these resolutions are not legally binding like the COP21 Paris Agreement, and thus the influence of WCC's recommendations are hard to gauge.
Local communities, indigenous peoples, and civil society will be at the WCC striving to ensure the future of their peoples and local resources. We will be following representatives of communities as they make claims for conservation and self-governance of protected territories.
The Presence to Influence team seeks to identify and examine how historically underrepresented groups such as indigenous peoples influence policy-making and governance processes at global environmental events. The majority of protected areas are inhabited by indigenous peoples, yet their territory's resources are often governed by outside agencies and illegally encroached upon by extractive industries. Land management is changing as NGOs, governments, and organizations like the IUCN, began to realize the stewardship capabilities of indigenous communities. But even so, there are still barriers to the participation of indigenous peoples in governance processes and events like the WCC. There are unequal power relations between indigenous peoples and local and national governments. Indigenous peoples often do not have the resources or financial means to attend events like the WCC and thus are unable to share their stories and knowledge of conservation and climate change at these large international conferences. This project hopes to identify indigenous peoples' strategies for inclusion and influence in global environmental governance. We are interested in the claims for justice and recognition from indigenous peoples, such as those made at events like the WCC and the COP21.
This photo was taken today at the WCC and represents multiple interests of the team: the inclusion of indigenous knowledge and storytelling as a strategy for political influence within conservation governance.
As part of our research project, we were interested in mapping out the spaces that we collected data as well as attended various events related to COP21. Here is an interactive Google Map that displays the sites around Paris where we attended events. If you click on each site, you will be able to learn more about the event that took place at this location.
Today was our last day here at COP21 in Paris, France. Please enjoy this gallery of photos from our adventure these past two weeks.
In the field...
Follow our team as we cover international environmental policy making meetings.
Dr. Kimberly R. Marion Suiseeya, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University
Dr. Laura Zanotti, Department of Anthropology, Purdue University
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