By Jayalaxshmi Mistry, Deirdre Jafferally, Grace Albert & Rebecca Xavier, 8th February 2023
In December 2022, nations at the Convention on Biological Diversity COP15 agreed on a landmark package of measures to address the biodiversity emergency. The “Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework” (GBF) comprises four goals and 23 targets for achievement by 2030. Target 3 is focused on conserving and managing at least 30 percent of global ecosystems ‘through ecologically representative, well-connected and equitably governed systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures’ which recognize and respect the rights of Indigenous and local communities, whose territories overlap with over 25% of the world’s state and privately governed protected and conserved areas. But what does equitable governance of protected areas look like, and how can it be achieved?
In our research, we explored three aspects of equity in conservation: recognition of rights, values, interests and priorities of various actors; procedure around decision-making and on the inclusive and effective participation of all relevant actors; and how the distribution of costs, risks and benefits are allocated between different actors. Acknowledging the fact that these elements of equity cannot be achieved in situations where people have vastly different capabilities to participate, we used participatory video to uncover overlooked and hidden perspectives, address unequal power dynamics, and build new relationships between communities and protected area agencies.
Working in Guyana, and with Indigenous peoples and decision-makers involved in the management of three protected areas, we facilitated a series of video-mediated dialogues or two-way communications based on participatory videos produced by the Indigenous communities. These videos were screened to protected area authorities, which then led to the development of a response video that was subsequently taken back to the communities for feedback (and further participatory video making and dialogue).
We found that although Indigenous Peoples themselves overwhelmingly understood the role of their everyday livelihood practices such as farming, hunting, fishing and gathering in sustaining biodiversity, the video-mediated dialogue process allowed protected area managers to better recognise how traditional knowledge contributed to biodiversity conservation, and how this traditional knowledge is being eroded and could be strengthened. At the same time, the video-mediated dialogue allowed Indigenous Peoples themselves to reflect on their own practices and impacts, both positive and negative, on biodiversity, and look for ways in which their traditional knowledge could be supported.
Issues of procedural and distributional equity surfaced in the participatory videos, and the video-mediated dialogue gave Indigenous communities the opportunity to challenge protected area authorities on several issues, including the day-to-day running of the protected areas, limited Indigenous leadership positions, wider governance of the protected areas and benefit sharing from tourism and other activities. In response, protected area managers were able to better understand local issues and priorities, and action and/or address misunderstandings on specific claims.
In the context of many protected areas excluding people, Target 3 of the GBF has been subject to considerable controversy and debate. Any increase in protected areas, alongside the governance of current protected areas, must place the rights and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples and local communities at its heart. Participatory video provides a means to bring unheard voices to the conservation arena, particularly where people do not have the confidence, capacities, access or resources to present them in person, or if the communication spaces do not enable them to be meaningfully included. The video-mediated dialogue process can contribute to building long-term, trustworthy and accountable relationships between Indigenous and local communities and protected area authorities to jointly produce just outcomes.
See here for the video-mediated dialogues:
The article ‘Video-mediated dialogue for promoting equity in protected area conservation’ is available in Oryx—The International Journal of Conservation.