Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

Mobile Peoples and Conservation: An Introduction

Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

Mobile Peoples and Conservation: An Introduction

Article excerpt

In April 2002, nearly thirty experts--social and natural scientists--from around the world attended a five-day conference in the Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan. They came together to address a difficult and sensitive issue: the relationship between mobile indigenous peoples' and conservation. After intensive debate, in which contrasting perspectives were offered, common ground was successfully developed around an agreed statement of principles--the Dana Declaration on Mobile Peoples and Conservation (see page 159 and also This special issue of Nomadic Peoples documents those proceedings by presenting edited versions of the keynote addresses of both the social and natural scientists as well as the case studies prepared by invited individuals and teams which were delivered at the meetings. Only one paper was prepared after the conference and that was especially commissioned by the Dana Declaration Steering Group to examine, from multiple perspectives, the growing concern over eco-tourism planning, conservation and mobile peoples in a United Nations Development Programme Global Environment Facility funded activity at Wadi Rum, Jordan. This issue also appears as a supplement to the Journal of Biological Conservation (BIOC 13:2).


In 1999 at an open conference, 'Displacement, Forced Settlement and Conservation', held at the University of Oxford, the urgent need to bridge disciplinary divides between social and natural scientists was identified as a major social and research concern, if misunderstanding and conflict between conservationists and mobile peoples were to be overcome or ameliorated. The focus of most debate concerning conservation and sustainable development has been, until very recently, on settled and mainly farming communities. The special case of mobile communities has not been widely explored in these discussions. With the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002) and the World Parks Congress (2003) both on the horizon, the 1999 conference identified an urgent need for concerns about mobile communities to enter into the on-going debate about people and conservation. It was this, and the need to bridge disciplinary divides between social and natural scientists, that led to the setting up of the international conference at the Dana Nature Reserve from which these papers are drawn.

Conservation and Mobile Peoples

Land conservation and protection efforts have been part of human society for centuries. Government measures to set aside pristine areas of nature are generally considered to date back to the late nineteenth century when the US Federal government created Yellowstone National Park and later Yosemite and Glacier National Parks (Manning 1989, Morrison 1993). The last fifty years, however, has been witness to a remarkable growth in parks and protected areas designed to conserve the Earth's invaluable ecosystems and biodiversity (Anderson and Grove 1987, Brandon, Redford and Sanderson 1998, Redford and Sanderson 2000). In 1950, the Swiss-based World Conservation Union recorded that there were about 1,000 protected areas world-wide. This number grew to 3,500 in 1985 and ballooned to 29,000 at the beginning of the twenty-first century. These areas protected from residential and economic use, encompass some 2.1 billion acres of land and compose 6.4 percent of the earth's land, or about half of the world's croplands. Unfortunately much of this global greening continues with very little regard for the rights of the people who are resident in the protected areas (Bell 1987, Botkin 1990, Colchester 1994, Ewers 1998, Harmon 1991, Lindsay 1987, McCabe et al. 1992).

Some 70-85 percent of the world's protected areas are inhabited by human beings. In many places these local, traditional or indigenous people are viewed as detrimental to biological conservation and are often evicted, or prohibited from hunting, gathering, herding or farming. …

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