Most nations across the globe have been slow in accepting and acknowledging the successes of Indigenous peoples in proven community-led conservation of forest and wetland ecosystems.
By Salam Rajesh
The current scenario on climate change discussions is in finding ways to mitigate and adapt to the processes of human-induced climate change wherein the core focus is on adapting to Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for achieving wholesome success in some measure to check further deterioration in the natural systems.
One of the suggested ways is to go for Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) which is a strategy that ‘harnesses biodiversity and ecosystem services to build resilience of human communities and societies to the impacts of climate change’.
As a part of the ongoing global discussions on climate issues, it is being inferred that for people and society in general, adaptation to climate change means not ‘only adapting infrastructure, but adjusting behaviour, such as how people choose to live, how people manage their food and health systems, the way people plan their cities, and how people protect, conserve and utilize the natural resources’.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which represent an urgent call for action by all countries – both developed and developing – in global partnership.
The SDGs are indivisible and interdependent, with each supporting the overall vision of the 2030 Agenda to ensure that the planet continues to support the needs of the present and future generations such that their potential in dignity, equality and in a healthy environment is fulfilled. Collectively, the SDGs aim to address global challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.
At the core of sustainable development are the issues of human rights, climate action, and nature conservation, and EbA recognizes the symbiotic connections between people and ecosystems. By creating more resilient populations, such approaches can have far-reaching benefits in improving the capacity of humans to withstand not only climate hazards, but also economic shocks and stressors.
The nature-based climate solutions have an interconnected role across sustainable development goals – from health, water and nutrition to clean energy, sustainable infrastructure, and equality – with incredible potential to drive progress across the SDGs while building more equitable and resilient societies.
With an emphasis on inclusive and participatory process, the success of the SDGs inherently requires local communities, women and men, youth and the elderly, and the marginalized groups to engage and supply their knowledge to design and implement strategies. Inclusive participation is critical to designing and implementing EbA that contributes to climate justice and equity within and between communities.
Referring to the Principles to Guide the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the broad engagement on EbA entails that ecosystem restoration ‘promotes inclusive and participatory governance, social fairness and equity from the start and throughout the process and outcomes’.
The guiding principles fairly states that ‘ecosystem restoration contributes to the UN Sustainable Goals and the goals of the Rio Conventions’ while it ‘aims to achieve the highest level of recovery for biodiversity, ecosystem health and integrity, and human well-being’.
While asserting that ecosystem restoration ‘addresses the direct and indirect causes of ecosystem degradation’, the guiding principles acknowledges that ecosystem restoration ‘incorporates all types of knowledge and promotes its exchange and integration throughout the process’.
It is quite important to focus on the assertion that ecosystem restoration ‘is tailored to the local ecological, cultural and socio-economic contexts while considering the larger landscape’, and that ecosystem restoration ‘includes monitoring, evaluation and adaptive management throughout and beyond the lifetime of the program’.
It, therefore, is fairly significant to understand the principles in order to have a clear definition of the goals outlined to have some measure of success in both the short and the long term, where Ecosystem-based Adaptation measures can ensure the pathway in realizing the goals actually on the ground.
While it is being asserted that EbA process ‘promotes inclusive and participatory governance’, it has to be reasserted time and again that the active participation of Indigenous peoples and local communities in conservation is key to achieving the goals that the United Nations has outlined for the years 2030 and 2050 – in committing to climate issues.
Most nations across the globe have been slow in accepting and acknowledging the successes of Indigenous peoples in proven community-led conservation of forest and wetland ecosystems. The UN has specifically acknowledged the contributions of Indigenous peoples in extending the forest cover throughout the world, while it observed that Governments are yet to commit to their stated goals.
At the same time, too, case studies across nations had revealed the amount of rights violation committed upon Indigenous peoples by Governments and large companies in their agendas for expansion of Protected Areas, extractive industries, and many other human-oriented activities that are broadly seen as impacting negatively on the natural environment, destroying ecosystems, and displacing people and the wildlife.
The push and pulls where many a times Indigenous peoples lock in horns with States over issues on the controversial model of ‘fortress conservation’ or the outright displacement of communities due to Government’s plans for “development” often than not threatens to derail the goals outlined by the UN.
The Principles to Guide the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration states that ecosystem restoration ‘is enabled by policies and measures that promotes its long-term progress, fostering replication and scaling up’. In understanding this statement, it fairly is understood that States while framing policies to achieve meaningful conservation must definitely incorporate communities as co-partners in management and restoration of ecosystems to achieve the stated goals.
(The writer looks at environmental stories through the journalistic lens. He can be reached at [email protected])