• Non-ICIMOD Publication
No Cover Photo

Conservation with social justice? The role of community conserved areas in achieving the Millennium Development Goals

  • Kothari, A.
  • Roe, D.
  • Pathak, N.

A great proportion of the world&rsquo;s poor are vulnerable to the degradation of natural resources and ecosystems. The standard approach to the conservation of these resources (the establishment of &ldquo;protected areas&rdquo;) has in many cases actually exacerbated the poverty of local people by undermining traditional access and tenure rights. This paper seeks to highlight the importance of traditional Community Conservation Areas (CCAs), as well as the role they can play in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Community Conserved Areas are ecosystems containing significant biodiversity, ecological and cultural values, which are voluntarily conserved by local communities through customary laws or other means. CCAs can help achieve the MDGs in different ways: <ul class='square_dot_ul'> <li>eradicating extreme poverty: livelihoods can be supported by guaranteeing access to ecological services and economic opportunities;</li> <li>promoting gender equity: community conservation efforts that acknowledge the role of women as primary resource collectors, can help improve their status;</li> <li>ensuring environmental sustainability: this is often effected through social sanctions and locally adopted rules and regulations. These sanctions are often deeply linked with the beliefs, practices, and livelihood strategies of the communities that manage them;</li> <li>sustaining cultural diversity and security: culture is an important driver of CCAs, as many of them are sacred sites, conserved for religious and spiritual purposes. Indirectly, CCAs can become a tool for the protection of cultural diversity.</li> </ul> CCAs do face a number of critical challenges to their existence and growth. Pressure from alternative development models, value systems, centralised political systems and wider market forces can impact negatively on local communities, undermining conservation efforts. Consequently, recommendations for national governments include: <ul class='square_dot_ul'> <li>promote a process for recognising, enlisting, evaluating and delisting CCAs;</li> <li>recognise and promote CCAs as a legitimate form of biodiversity conservation, where relevant include them within national systems of protected areas, with appropriate changes in legal and policy regimes;</li> <li>ensure that official policies recognise local arrangements for the management of CCAs;</li> <li>facilitate existing CCAs through financial, technical, human, information, research, public endorsement, capacity-building and other support measures;</li> <li>acknowledge that it may be appropriate for some existing protected areas to be managed as CCAs;</li> <li>respect the sanctity of CCAs in operations that could affect CCAs and their communities, and apply principles of prior informed consent, participatory environmental impact assessments, and other measures in accordance with the provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity.</li> </ul>