Ecosystems are the main backbone supporting all life on Earth, and their health determines the health of the planet and people. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration aims to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems across the globe. It addresses poverty eradication, climate change, and mass extinction.
Local initiatives on managing ecosystems are the most effective tool and the cornerstone for achieving biodiversity and ecosystem conservation goals. Their efforts need to be recognized as an effective response to increasing economic pressures and the current climate crisis, by documenting, replicating, and advocating for policies and programs through people-centered land governance principles.
Understanding the importance and urgency of global action to restore ecosystems, ILC Asia Platform on Ecosystem Restoration has decided to organize a knowledge-sharing event on the global movement of ecosystem restoration.
- Dr. Roel Revilla Ravanera, Xavier Science Foundation (XSF), Philippines
- Makiko Yashiro, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Asia and the Pacific Office
- David Rubio, International Land Coalition (ILC)
- Kuluipa Akmatova, Rural Development Fund (RDF), Kyrgyzstan
- Gam A. Shimray, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), Thailand
- Barna Baibhaba Panda, Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), India
- Dr. Kuralai Karibaeva, Institute of Ecology and Sustainable Development (IESD), Kazakhstan
- Dewi Sutejo, Indonesian Community Mapping Network (JKPP), Indonesia
UN DECADE ON ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION
COMMITMENT TO ENSURING LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLES HAVE A SAY
The goal of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is to prevent, halt and reverse the continued degradation and loss of ecosystems, cutting across all ecosystem types from forests, grasslands, croplands, wetlands, savannahs, and other terrestrial ecosystems to inland water ecosystems, marine, coastal, and the urban environment. Makiko Yashiro of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Asia and the Pacific Office said that the UN Decade aims to share best practices and lessons learned in order to enhance the technical capacity of local communities and implement restoration initiatives. The UN Decade Strategy also talks about the need for building capacity to integrate indigenous knowledge, traditional practices, and the ability to apply Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) into ecosystem restoration initiatives.
David Rubio of the ILC Secretariat and Kuluipa Akmatova of the Rural Development Fund (RDF) shared ILC's commitment to locally-managed ecosystems. There is widespread recognition of land rights playing a key role in adapting to climate change, restoring ecosystems, and reversing land degradation - all these are factors that contribute to ILC's commitment to pursuing people-centred land governance. ILC is focused on the role of local land users in territorial and ecosystems management and aims to achieve this goal by convening as a working group at the regional level and contributing to the implementation of the UN Decade.
ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION AND LAND RIGHTS: LEARNING FROM ILC ASIA MEMBERS
LOCAL SOLUTIONS FROM THE GROUND UP
"Indigenous peoples and local communities are an integral part in ecosystem restoration and this is why their tenure rights need to be recognised as they provide a foundation for the stewardship of land and natural resources," according to Gam Shimray, Secretary-General of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP). Tenure rights provide a foundation for local governance, stewardship of land and natural resources, local livelihoods, benefit-sharing, and empowerment.
"Indigenous peoples and local communities are an integral part in ecosystem restoration and this is why their tenure rights need to be recognised as they provide a foundation for the stewardship of land and natural resources" Gam Shimray, Secretary-General of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
Based on a recent study in 2020, an estimated 300 million people inhabited lands targeted for tropical forest restoration, meaning that this could impact indigenous peoples and local communities negatively or positively. But in order to ensure the positive contribution of these groups to protecting the environment, Gam emphasised the enabling factors such as the self-determination of indigenous peoples and local communities. Without this and proper accountability mechanisms, it would be challenging to achieve the goals of ecosystem restoration.
ILC Asia members further shared their best practices in engaging with local communities in India, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan to preserve the ecosystems.
Barna Panda from the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) India underlined the importance of ecosystems in providing livelihoods and food security for the local communities. Commons land in India, for example, is not only a safety net for the locals but also provides the foundation for agriculture and livestock production. An estimated 350 million people in India directly depend on the Commons and they contribute hugely to the income of poor households in the country. FES believes that secure community land rights coupled with community-led forest resource management will equate to ecological health and resilient livelihoods for rural communities. The key here is to foster collective action and provide space for marginalised groups to equally participate in developing the resource management and governance plans.
Moving on to Indonesia, Dewi Sutejo of the Indonesian Community Mapping Network (JKPP) shared with us the importance of documentation in advocating for the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples. Documentation captures more in-depth information on aspects of conservation values, governance, sustainable management of natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystems, local potentials to challenges, threats, and opportunities. In Indonesia, there is no recognition of indigenous peoples reserve areas but in 2013, a Constitutional Court policy was issued declaring that customary forests claimed and governed by indigenous peoples would not be considered as state areas. However, the implementation on the ground has been slow, hence there is a need to expedite the process by doing on-the-ground documentation and participatory mapping.
Lastly, Dr. Kuralai Karibaeva of the Institute of Ecology and Sustainable Development (IESD) in Kazakhstan, noted the national level efforts in Kazakhstan and Central Asian countries. In comparison to other regions, due to Central Asia's political and historical background, local initiatives on managing common goods have only started in the region in the last few decades. This indicates that there is a shift in understanding and attitude towards common goods and shared resources. More importantly, Kazakhstan and most Central Asian countries have been adversely impacted by climate change and other external factors like urbanisation, pollution, and uncontrolled tourism that aggravated the use of land.