On 8 November Natural Justice and the ICCA Consortium co-convened a meeting near Cape Town, South Africa, on Indigenous Peoples and Local Community Controlled Territories and Conserved Areas (ICCAs) in Southern and East Africa, to identify examples and best practices from the region.
Following a comprehensive introduction to ICCAs and their recognition under relevant international law by Natural Justice, two expert panels introduced and discussed ten individual examples of ICCAs in the region.
On the basis of experiences from Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania, the 25 participants from the region discussed various strategies and best practices for communities to protect their ICCAs. The discussions revolved around management of ICCAs, documentation of ICCAs, and strategic litigation.
Regarding management, the experiences from Namibia and Ethiopia, in particular, highlighted the importance of developing strong community management structures that integrate customary governance while also supporting livelihood generation.
The discussion on documentation focused on resources and land documentation ‘on paper’, for instance through geo-referencing, as well as on documentation ‘in the landscape’ through the establishment of signposts and other visual aids. Especially the case studies on pastoralist communities, sacred sites and large land areas with weak enforcement structures underlined the importance of documentation as key to obtaining formal recognition of the areas, as well to protecting areas from other external interferences.
Finally, the discussions on strategic litigation emphasized the importance of directly involving communities in litigation-related stakeholder negotiations and adjudicative processes. Empowering communities to hold meetings on their own ground, to speak on their own behalf, and to determine the overall strategy is key to ensuring positive outcomes and to increasing their confidence as actors in their own rights.
The participants from the region concluded that portraying community conserved areas as ICCAs can be key to linking different resources and land rights issues with livelihood objectives and intra-community processes.