Fostering community conservation II conference – Protection of the environment in light of threats such as climate change had become a significant issue for communities and governments around the world. However, many of the policies that governments have implemented are coming under fire at the Fostering Community Conservation II Conference that is taking place in Montreal between July 4 and 8. The criticism of those policies was reiterated during a press conference by some of the members of Global Forest Coalition, the NGO behind the international gathering held at the Grey Nuns Residence of Concordia University. “Our assessments show that when communities self-organize to govern and manage their territories and areas, their conservation efforts can be more resilient, more effective and contribute more to local livelihoods than top-down approaches like state protected areas,” said Simone Lovera, one of the speakers at the press conference.
Hindou Ibrahim a representative from Chad, for her part, put the emphasis on the importance of traditional knowledge in the task of conservation, and the role of women as preservers and transmitters of that knowledge. She also decried the displacement of people that often some of the state-sponsored conservation policies entail. She also addressed the need to change the strategy to deal with climate change, the emphasis once again, must be on local initiatives and actions, she said.
Diego Cardona, from Colombia, indicated that when you find the best places for conservation, they are in the basin of the Congo, in south-east Asia, and in the Amazon because the people there have the best traditional knowledge. But he also stated that “there is no just one model of conservation. Different experiences and conditions may determine a variety of models.” Conservation is also linked to the need for a green economy, he added.
Ayda Valia, from the Solomon Islands for her part made a point in criticizing the official conservation policies that lead to “people-less areas” the main example is the notion of the national parks. “No conservation without people,” said Ms. Valia, reiterating the principle that it is precisely the presence of communities what contributes to a better, more effective way of implementing conservation policies that come from the grassroots.
On the question of how to link the demands and concerns of local communities with policies that are usually decided at the level of a central government, the different speakers coincided on the need for lobbying governments and official agencies and acting politically too. Very important also, the communication with the people, which could be done through the media or through the social networks. This communication process is seen as very crucial to close that gap between government and people.
During the conference to be held these days, “community representatives are presenting the results of over four years of grassroots assessments in 68 communities of 22 countries which detail a diversity of community conservation efforts spearheaded by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities” according to a document issued by the organizers.
Feature image: From left to right: Diego Cardona (Colombia), Hindou Ibrahim (Chad), Simone Lovera (Paraguay), and Ayda Valia (Solomon Islands)