ILC and Rainforest Trust Partner to Advance People-Centered Conservation

May 23, 2023—The climate and biodiversity crises are the gravest threats facing the planet and a new partnership is promising to reverse the unprecedented destruction of nature, by putting people at the center.

As the first step in an ongoing partnership, Rainforest Trust has committed $3.5 million to the ILC network to work closely with communities who already integrate conservation efforts into their daily practice. Globally, 1.87 billion people live in important conservation areas and rely on the local biodiversity for their livelihood and wellbeing. Eighty percent of the world’s biodiversity is reportedly found in Indigenous lands.

Nature-centric conservation initiatives that close off access to traditional territories—commonly referred to as fortress conservation—infringe on the human rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Solutions begin and end with these communities and so a cultural shift is needed that embraces—not resists—their taking the lead.

“Rainforest Trust’s collaboration with the International Land Coalition forms a powerful alliance that resonates with the urgency of our time. Together, we work hand in hand to safeguard not only biodiversity but also the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities worldwide. These communities and individuals are the guardians of Earth’s greatest treasures, for within the delicate balance of nature lies the future of our planet and the very essence of our shared existence. Simply put, by destroying biodiversity, we also undermine our own societies.” says James Lewis, Vice President of Conservation for Rainforest Trust.

According to the WWF, 91% of Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ land and territories are in good or moderate ecological condition. Yet they receive less than 5% of financing for conservation.

“We’re sending a strong message to the world that now is the time to recognize the true defenders of nature. We call on all climate and biodiversity financing institutions to follow this example by investing in Indigenous Peoples and local communities, because the survival of humanity depends on it.” said Timothy Salomon, Facilitator of the National Land Coalition in the Philippines.

The first phase of the partnership will focus in Peru and the Philippines, creating more than 260,000 ha of community-protected areas, while further safeguarding at least 80 globally threatened species. In the Philippines, through ILC members PAFID and Kaisahan, chair of ARNow!, one ancestral domain—Indigenous Peoples conservation areas—and one community-managed watershed will be further mapped and documented.

While in Peru, ILC member CONAP will support closing land titling gaps and improving the management of Indigenous Peoples territories in the Amazon. “The initiative will enable the titling of the lands of 23 native communities, which will safeguard more than 200,000 ha of the Peruvian Amazon. This is key because we Indigenous Peoples have demonstrated that land in our hands is well conserved and protected. Securing our right to land allows us to not only address the climate crisis but also strengthen our wellbeing.” Reiterates Oseas Barbarán, President of CONAP.

Peer-to-peer learning between Indigenous Peoples, local organisations, communities and others will be an integral part of the projects. Opportunities for learning will focus on data production and use, monitoring and evaluation, policy dialogue with policymakers and donors, gender approaches, networking strengthening and advocacy.

“This partnership is an important step in recognizing that securing land and territorial rights is a critical solution in any biodiversity and climate efforts. When people have secure rights to their land and territories they are in a position to make and enforce climate smart decisions and have incentives to invest in sustainable land management practices.” says Michael Taylor, ILC Director. Adding “their way of living and the land they keep is the solution itself. Recognising their rights is key to a thriving planet.”