Respecting human rights


Conservation International’s mission is to support societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature for the well-being of humanity.

To achieve more effective and equitable conservation outcomes, we partner with Indigenous peoples and local communities to ensure their rights — including to food and water, a healthy environment, and participation in decisions that affect their lives.

By partnering with communities and amplifying Indigenous voices, we deliver conservation outcomes that are underpinned by the recognition and respect for human rights.


Why it matters

Indigenous peoples and local communities are estimated to hold as much as 65 percent of the world’s land under customary, collective tenure. Many governments formally recognize only a small fraction of their rights.

Studies have found that when Indigenous peoples have the right to govern their land, biodiversity increases and forests are protected.

Respecting and protecting human rights helps build transparency and accountability, which promotes long-term conservation benefits.

Traditional knowledge and innovations offer valuable contributions for coping with climate change — including fire and water management, and shoreline conservation.

Our role

How we advance a bold conservation and human rights agenda

Actions to conserve nature are closely related to the rights of people to secure their livelihoods, enjoy healthy and productive environments, and live with dignity. From our field projects to international policy negotiations, we endeavor to respect human rights, protect vulnerable groups and encourage good governance.

Conservation International demonstrates these principles by:


Recognizing human rights and making conservation approaches more equitable, just and inclusive. Our collaboration with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature on decolonizing conservation has raised awareness of the need to change and adapt existing practices.


Leading the Conservation Initiative on Human Rights, a group of global nonprofit organizations that seeks to integrate human rights in conservation policy and practice.


Creating better standards, practices and monitoring for environmental and social safeguards, both in our projects and in our work with governments and the private sector. Our Global Environmental Facility agency framework is underpinned by Conservation International’s foundational approach to respecting human rights.


Fostering gender equality, a fundamental human right, in our conservation approaches. Conservation International is a recognized leader in integrating gender-responsive strategies across all relevant projects and programs, in particular with the Global Environmental Facility and the Green Climate Fund.


Our solutions

Kayapo man on top of the mountains with forest.
© Cristina Mittermeier

Ensure 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 Center for Communities and Conservation take special care to make sure that everywhere we work, the rights of people — Indigenous people, rural communities, men and women — are respected.


SLP staffer Tonggo Manurung discusses rubber supply chain issues.
© CI/photo by Tory Read

Partner with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities

Our mission is founded on the principles of human rights, including full and effective participation, equitable sharing of the benefits derived from conserving and sustainably developing natural resources, and respect for the cultural practices of and contributions of communities that are most directly connected to nature. We create lasting partnerships to ensure that communities secure land and resource rights, and advance governing authority over their resources.