Catalyzing Rights-Based Conservation for a Secure Planet
Rights and Resources Initiative
17 .02. 2023  
4 minutes read

RRI marked the beginning of 2023 with a global dialogue on Rights-Based Conservation and Climate Approaches, co-hosted with the Embassy of Sweden in Washington DC.

Joined by over 600 people in person and online, the event also launched RRI’s 2023–2027 Strategic Plan, which lays out its priorities and action framework for the next five years as agreed upon by its global coalition. Importantly, the event provided a unique opportunity for our coalition members and their allies to forge and strengthen their partnerships to promote a sustainable and rights-based conservation model to achieve global climate and conservation targets.

A diverse set of participants from the environmental and human rights spaces as well as American media and academics joined the dialogue. The event included two discussion panels: the first presented rich exchages between Indigenous and community leaders from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and the second with members of multilateral institutions, global conservation organizations, and the private sector.

The panelists shared their organizations’ visions, strategies, and experiences to promote equitable and sustainable conservation models that recognize and respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and Afro-descendant Peoples.

From left to right: Cécile Ndjebet (Cameroon); Stanley Kimaren Ole Riamit (Kenya); Gustavo Sánchez Valle (Mexico); and Archana Soreng (India).

Their exchanges touched on the importance of traditional knowledge in protecting biodiverse lands and the need for new alternatives to traditional funding models to ensure support for community-led conservation projects. Community leaders also spoke of the importance of communities working together rather than competing against each other for scarce resources.

RRI also shared its new Blue Skies Synthesis Report, which provides insights from hundreds of interviews with Indigenous and community leaders in 22 countries in more than six languages. These interviews present local peoples’ hopes, dreams, and fears for the future of their movements, livelihoods, and the lands they have claimed and managed for generations.

Indigenous Peoples and local communities customarily own over 65 percent of the world’s land area through customary, community-based tenure systems, but have legal rights to a tiny fraction of these lands.

Solange Bandiaky-Badji, RRI Coordinator, said, “Despite the growing call for Indigenous and local community involvement in decisions that affect them, their voices remain peripheral in the actual design and implementation of initiatives by governments and non-state actors.”


Gustavo Sánchez Valle, RRI Board member and President of the Mexico-based Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests said that the global climate financing system has been designed by governments to satisfy their needs or wishes (or) to cater to large NGOs. He called for a fundamental rethinking of these current neocolonialist, elitist, and profit-driven models.

Sánchez said that RRI’s CLARIFI, a regranting mechanism that allocates funds to Indigenous and community rights holders, and the Shandia Mechanism, a platform created by Indigenous Peoples and local communities to guarantee and facilitate access to direct financing, present two new alternative models that can ensure communities’ leadership and participation in the global community’s quest to fight climate change and biodiversity loss.

Cristián Samper who leads the Bezos Earth Fund and joined a panel with representatives from the global conservation organization IUCN and the private corporation Nestlé, agreed:

“There is just no way that we can achieve the global 30×30 conservation target unless we empower local communities to lead.”


From left to right: Johnson Cerda (Conservation International); Cristián Samper (Bezos Earth Fund); Asyl Undeland (EnABLE Fund); and Michele Zollinger (Nestlé)

The discussion also highlighted the need to amplify the role and leadership of women and youth—two largely overlooked groups within the sector—in achieving this mission. Cécile Ndjebet, president of the Africa Women’s Network for Community Forest Management introduced the Women in Global South Alliance for Tenure and Climate, a new network launched last year by 41 women’s organizations to call upon climate finance donors to scale up direct funding for Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and local community women’s initiatives.

Ndjebet said, “We must recognize the leadership role women and girls are playing in conservation efforts. We cannot save nature unless we put Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and rural women at the center.”


Indigenous youth leader Archana Soreng from India who is part of the UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change emphasized the importance of listening to the ideas and concerns of the new generation of Indigenous and local community youth, who are now on the frontlines of fighting climate change and defending their communities’ lands. She said, “Along with all the stakeholders, we need intergenerational learning, intergenerational support, and we need young people to be the center of all of these processes and initiatives.”

RRI’s interrelated and mutually reinforcing targets between 2023 and 2027 prioritize securing at least USD 10 billion in funding to recognize and protect the land and resource rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and Afro-descendant Peoples, particularly the women and youth within these groups, to achieve broader global conservation and sustainable development goals. Read the full framework here.

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