Mobile Indigenous Peoples at the IUCN 5th World Parks Congress

Article excerpt

Durban, South Africa 16 September 2003

We, the mobile indigenous peoples drawn together from all regions of the world, met for the first time in a World Parks Congress (WPC) to share our experiences in environmental and biodiversity conservation. The WPC created a unique opportunity for us as nomads, pastoralists, shifting agriculturalists and hunter-gatherers to come together during a preparatory meeting during the 6th and 7th of September to identify the dominant misconceptions popularly held about us and to articulate the problems we are facing as our unique input to the streams and workshops of this Congress.

We are pleased to announce that as a result of our work at the WPC, we have established the World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples, with the vision: to establish solidarity among mobile indigenous peoples worldwide; complementarity with other societies; just policies leading to freedom and respect for the rights of mobile indigenous peoples; to maintain livelihoods in balance with nature; and to restore our empowerment.

As part of the Congress, we contributed with a Workshop on Mobile Indigenous Peoples and Conservation (held 12 September) that covered community conserved areas, co-management of protected areas and our recommendations on Mobile Indigenous Peoples and Conservation for the Durban Accord and Plan of Action, which were adopted by the Congress by consensus.

The mobile indigenous peoples present at the V World Parks Congress urge governments to adopt before the end of the International Decade on the World's Indigenous Peoples (1995-2004) the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples currently under discussion at the United Nations Working Group of the Commission on Human Rights (Geneva, 15-26 September 2003), and send a message of support to our indigenous brothers and sisters present at the Working Group.

Our mobility is a way of life that holds both a management strategy for sustainable land use and conservation, and is a distinct source of our cultural identity, our connection with our past, and our livelihoods. As such, we have special needs due to our mobility and we share many problems in common. Our situation is little understood and we are here to raise awareness on the following particular issues that concern us:

* Mobile land use is based on local and specialised knowledge.

* There is no real alternative to mobility for our survival.

* Experience has shown that change of land use is not sustainable in arid and semi-arid zones, and other types of ecosystems.

* Mobile land use in areas that have been traditionally used by mobile indigenous peoples have been shown to conserve biodiversity by virtue of our mobility.

* The change from mobile to sedentary land use is only productive in the short-term and requires high external inputs (fertilisers, pesticides, introduction of non-native species).

* Productivity means many things--not just sacks of grain per hectare. Diverse valuations must be taken into account, including benefits such as wildlife, water quality, scenic values, and culture.

* Mobile indigenous peoples whose lifestyles and environments are maintained intact are mainly self-supportive.

* We can be major producers of livestock and sustain secondary industries.

* There are many underlying contributions to the economy.

* The statement is a defence mechanism by governments to justify marginalisation and place conditions for forced sedentarisation of mobile indigenous peoples.

* Many mobile indigenous peoples prefer to maintain our own social structures and norms, and this right should be respected, while those who want social services should be given equal access in culturally appropriate ways.

* When desired, it is possible to develop the capacities of mobile indigenous peoples to provide mobile services for themselves. …