On June 26, 2014, Natural Justice and the ICCA Consortium held a side event during SBSTTA 18 on Indigenous peoples’ and community conserved territories and areas (ICCAs) and how they can help in achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. The side event focused in particular on Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs), a type of ICCA that encompasses coastal and ocean territories and areas. This topic was particularly relevant given SBSTTA 18 Agenda Item 4 on marine and coastal biodiversity (link to agenda).
The side event featured two speakers, Onel Marsadule, Executive Director of the Foundation for the Promotion of the Indigenous Knowledge, and Taghi Farvar, President of the ICCA Consortium. Onel’s presentation focused on the Kuna Yala people of Panama, whose territory includes a large marine ecosystem on Panama’s Caribbean coast. Onel noted that the Kuna people have their own system of governance for the protection of marine and coastal biodiversity of their territory. For the Kuna, the importance of protecting marine resources and ecosystems is not only food dependency, but also on a holistic, cultural and spiritual relationship with the marine ecosystems. The Kuna have codified their customary laws into a written text, and one provision requires any project or activity affecting natural resources and biodiversity (which would include marine resources and biodiversity) to have an environmental impact study. He concluded by observing that it is essential to recognize indigenous resource management of marine ecosystems and called on Parties to strengthen customary laws and practices of conservation and traditional institutions.
Taghi discussed marine ICCAs in Iran, and highlighted the contribution that ICCAs can make to all of the Targets, in particular Target 11 regarding equitably managed areas. He noted several different kinds of marine ICCAs, which include coral reefs, mangrove forests, and coastal wetlands. Communities have used participatory mapping to identify ICCAs that include these and other marine features in the Persian Gulf & Oman Sea. Taghi also noted the ways in which communities in Iran have gone about obtaining recognition for their ICCAs. Rather than waiting for the government to recognize ICCAs, a bottom up assessment process has been developed to assess territorial, ecological and governance aspects of a potential ICCA. Once the assessment process has been completed, and the community has determined that an ICCA exists, that decision is then sent to the government to inform it of the community’s decision. In this way, communities exercise control over the process and are actively involved, rather than waiting for the government to decide on classification.
Overall, the side event highlighted the importance of ICCAs to achieving the Aichi Targets, and made clear that ICCAs are important not just for terrestrial areas and territories, but marine and coastal ones as well.