Brief: Putting Commitments on Community Rights-Based Approaches to Action

Advancing Community Rights-Based Approaches to Achieve Climate and Conservation Goals

Author: Rights and Resources Initiative

Date: December 1, 2023

A large proportion of the world’s remaining high-biodiversity and carbon-rich lands, forests and waters are held by Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and Afro-descendant Peoples, and a robust body of evidence demonstrates the positive environmental outcomes of their governance of these resources. Growing recognition of these roles and contributions is reflected in a range of international commitments, such as the new language on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities adopted in the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), commitments regarding Indigenous and community rights in international forest and climate initiatives, and significant funding pledges from climate and conservation donors.

However, translating this emerging support into tangible actions with clear and practical meaning for local peoples remains a serious challenge. Long histories of colonialism, dispossession and fortress conservation have marginalized the rights, governance and knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, leaving persistent structural barriers that risk undermining global efforts to advance human rights-based approaches to climate and conservation.

While paradigms have begun to change, more deliberate and concerted actions will be needed to overcome these barriers and elevate rights and community leadership in responses to the global environmental crisis. Without such transformations, the push to achieve climate and biodiversity goals risks following well-established top-down pathways, leading to further marginalization of those on the front lines, the continued infringement of their rights, and failure to stem climate change and biodiversity loss.

The purpose of this policy brief is twofold:

  • identify the structural constraints to rights-based climate and biodiversity action, particularly with respect to GBF Target 3 and UNFCCC Articles 5 and 6; and
  • develop a concise action framework to help governments, development institutions, conservation organizations and the private sector realize their commitments for rights-based action in support of local peoples. In doing so, it identifies the gaps to be addressed and presents ways forward for rights-based interventions that can be used to mitigate risks and scale the adoption of good practices.