Vision for a Sustainable World
A Challenge to Conservationists
Excerpted from the November/December 2004 WORLD WATCH magazine
© 2004 Worldwatch Institute
A Challenge to Conservationists
As corporate and government money ﬂow into the three big international organizations that dominate the world’s conservation agenda, theirprograms have been marked by growing conﬂicts of interest—and by a disturbing neglect of the indigenous peoples whose land they are in business to protect.
A WAKE-UP CALL
In June 2003, representatives of major foundations concerned with the planet’s threatened biodiversity* gathered in South Dakota for a meeting of the Consultative Group on Biodiversity. On the second evening,after dinner, several of the attendees met to discuss a problem about which they had become increasingly disturbed. In recent years, their foundations had given millions of dollars of support to nonproﬁt conservation organizations, and had even helped some of those groups get launched. Now, however, there were indications that three of the largest of these organizations—World Wildlife Fund (WWF),Conservation International (CI), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC)—were increasingly excluding, from full involvement in their programs, the indigenous and traditional peoples living in territories the conservationists were tryEditor’s Note We anticipate that this article will launch an open and public discussion about a complex and contentious issue that has been debated behind closed doors inrecent months. While the fresh air may at times be chilly, we believe that active, engaged discussion is essential to resolving these issues and to strengthening the conservation and indigenous community movements. The author of the article is an active “player” in that debate, and we look forward to publishing other views in the January/ February issue. We therefore invite all interested readers,including staff of the “Big Three” conservation organizations discussed herein, to submit responses for publication. We welcome the views of indigenous people, NGOs that are working with indigenous groups, foundations or agencies that fund such work, and others concerned with these issues.
ing to protect.† In some cases, there were complaints that the conservationists were being abusive. Themeeting led to a series of soul-searching discussions, led by Jeff Campbell of the Ford Foundation, who initiated two studies—one to assess what was really happening between the indigenous communities and conservationists, and the other to look into the ﬁnancial situation of each of these three big groups. The work plan (or “terms of reference”) given to the investigators contained two keyobservations about the three conservation giants: they had become extremely large and wealthy in a short period of time; and they were promoting global approaches to conservation “that have evoked a number of questions— and complaints—from local communities, national NGOs and human rights activists.” Because the two studies provided only a quick ﬁrst foray into terrain that is undeniably complex,geographically extensive, and diverse (WWF, for example, works in more than 90 countries around the world),
* Among those foundations represented were Ford, MacArthur, Moriah, Wallace Global, C.S. Mott, and Oak.
“Indigenous and traditional peoples” is a more inclusive category than simply “indigenous peoples.” “Traditional peoples” includes nonindigenous groups that are long-standing residentsof wilderness areas, such as the rubber tappers of Brazil and long-term Ladino and Creole residents of the Caribbean coastal region of Central America. Documentation of this article is presented here in two forms: footnotes (flagged by asterisks and daggers) elaborating on key points; and source references (flagged by superscripts) listed in sequence at the end of the article.