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As the world's governments advocate and work toward protecting at least 30 percent of the Earth's lands by 2030, a new study warns against exclusionary conservation strategies and its costs, as well as outlining an inclusive alternative.

The latest study published by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a nonprofit that fights for forest preservation sustainable to both the environment and its local communities, stresses the need to empower Indigenous Peoples (IP), local community (LC), and Afro-descendants (AD) who maintain customary rights to at least half of the lands on Earth.

Together with Campaign for Nature, the study illustrated that more than 1.65 billion of these peoples live within the world's most important biodiversity conservation areas. The study also showed that more than half, or 56 percent, of people living in these areas, are located in low- and middle-income countries, with only 9 percent coming from high-income countries. This gap only underscores the disproportionate impact of current conservation attempts at the Global South.

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Investing in the Human Resource for Sustainable Environment Conservation

"This report shows that as far as both the science and economics are concerned, investing in Indigenous peoples' and local communities' land and resource rights should be a primary strategy for reaching global biodiversity targets," said Campaign for Nature director Brian O'Donnell. He stressed that the 190 countries that are currently in talks about adopting the UN's Global Biodiversity Framework are tasked with the important chance of protecting the planet and expanding human rights.

While not all conservation efforts are in conflict with IPs and local communities, most approaches taken around the world attempted biodiversity preservation by relocating natives and prohibit access. The RRI study, first published last November 24, estimates the cost of these exclusive conservation attempts somewhere between $4 trillion and $5 trillion, involving the relocation of 1.2 to 1.5 billion people in the process. This data was drawn from previous financial forecasts of resettling action plans generated by the International Finance Corporation, among others. 

The paper also outlines a series of recommendations separately addressed for Intergovernmental Organizations and Institutions, Conservation Organizations and Philanthropists, and Governments. Most of these recommendations focus on the creation of legal and institutional reforms to ensure that IPs, LCs, and ADs are granted rights, as well as efforts focused on recognizing their self-determination and governance.

United Nations' Race Against Time

In January 2020, the United Nations revealed a plan that aims to conserve at least thirty percent of the Earth's surface by 2030 in an attempt to ensure the viability of ecosystems necessary for the survival of mankind. 

The so-called "Zero Draft" details the post-2020 global biodiversity framework that proposes a "theory of change" approach, involving planning, implementation, and evaluation of impacts of the actions to be taken in the future. This framework allows different stakeholders involved in the project to articulate challenges, work together, use a common language in sharing information, and ensure that all actions are aligned towards the attainment of common goals.

About Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI)

RRI is a global collective including more than 150 different organizations worldwide focused on advancing forestland and resource rights of IPs, LCs, and ADs, including the women in these communities. In advancing a strategic understanding of the global threats and opportunities from insecure land and resource rights, the Coalition develops and promotes rights-based approaches for business and development to improve sustainable resource governance.

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