Women carrying water in Ghana

Respecting human rights in conservation

Improving outcomes for people and nature

© Benjamin Drummond

Every person on Earth has the right to food, water and a healthy environment — and to participate in decisions that affect their lives.

Studies have found that when indigenous people are given rights to govern their land, biodiversity increases and more trees remain standing. Conservation efforts that neglect to take these rights into account, however, place individuals and communities at risk of losing their livelihoods and cultural identities.

Our role

Conservation International has trained, worked with and learned from indigenous peoples for more than 30 years. To ensure that our work respects the rights and voices of these communities and individuals, we use a “rights-based approach.” This means that from our on-the-ground field projects to international policy negotiations, we respect human rights, protect vulnerable groups and encourage good governance: the core principles of the Conservation Initiative on Human Rights, a group of global conservation nonprofits, including Conservation International.

Our solutions

Ensuring participation

From mapping protected areas to implementing land restoration plans, all conservation decisions must be made with nothing less than the full participation of the communities affected by these decisions. Conservation International and its Policy Center for Environment and Peace takes special care to make sure that everywhere we work, the rights of people — indigenous peoples, rural communities, men and women — are respected.


Training and information sharing

The free exchange of ideas and sharing of lessons between different sectors of society is imperative to the success of a “rights-based approach.” For this reason, Conservation International has created diverse training materials on key conservation topics — so everyone has the information they need to be part of the solution.

For example, to equip indigenous peoples and other local communities with the information and tools they need to face a changing climate, Conservation International designed a variety of manuals, presentations and courses. One specific toolkit provides local leaders with the information they need to train their communities to fully and effectively participate in ongoing efforts to adapt to the effects of climate change. The materials provide a global context for climate change and key issues related to adaptation, while giving trainers the flexibility to incorporate their own knowledge and experience to customize the information for a local audience.

What can you do?


“Nature is part of our life”: Yance Arizona, from the...

© Steve Bolton, Esq.

Learn more

Read about how human rights are reflected in all aspects of our work — from field projects to international policies and negotiations.

© Art Wolfe/ www.artwolfe.com

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