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Calling for more dialogue and joint efforts

We need to really change the relationship between Indigenous peoples and governments to advance joint actions for conservation. Much more openness and political will from governments is needed,” says Myrna Cunningham, former Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).

Q: Myrna, you were a Patron of the IUCN World Parks Congress in 2014, representing Indigenous peoples’ issues. What do you think are the main challenges for protected areas and for Indigenous peoples living in or around them?

A: A very big challenge is the current development paths and priorities of countries. The objectives of creating and maintaining protected areas are in many cases in direct conflict with the prevailing interests of countries’ economic development. The tremendous growth in concessions granted to extractive industries, the expansion of monocultures, and other such activities are priorities for most countries, especially in the developing world, and this is accentuated by economic crises. At the same time, many Indigenous peoples are also interested in the social and economic development of their communities. I don’t mean that protected areas are not important – on the contrary, they are more important than ever – but this is a good moment to reflect on protected area strategies and find ways to make them viable and effective. Simply asking for continuous expansion of protected areas and more ambitious targets under the conventional paradigm is not going to change the picture. What we will have is more protected areas that are only declared to satisfy the agenda of conservation organisations and are not managed effectively. There needs to be a realistic analysis of governments’ political will in relation to protected areas.

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