“A total halt to new Protected Areas”: campaigners issue Marseille Manifesto for the future of conservation

This story first appeared in Survival.

These Khadia men were thrown off their land after it was turned into a tiger reserve. They lived for months under plastic sheets. Millions more face this fate if the 30% plan goes ahead.

These Khadia men were thrown off their land after it was turned into a tiger reserve. They lived for months under plastic sheets. Millions more face this fate if the 30% plan goes ahead.
© Survival International


Participants in the world’s first Congress to decolonize conservation have released a manifesto calling for a total halt to new Protected Areas which exclude Indigenous and local communities.

The “Marseille Manifesto: a people’s manifesto for the future of conservation” has been released today by many Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists and experts who gathered for last month’s ground-breaking “Our Land Our Nature” congress.

They also demand:

– that governments “fully respect, protect and uphold Indigenous peoples’ land and forest rights, respect collective customary land and forest use by local communities, to ensure protection of that land in accordance with their wishes” as the primary means of protecting the world’s biodiversity

– “Governments and conservation organisations must acknowledge the huge toll that strictly protected conservation areas have taken on the lands, livelihoods and rights of many communities worldwide; they must make concrete plans for reparations of past wrongs, including through transferring control back to the historical and local guardians”

– “High income countries… must cease funding conservation programmes which destroy local people and livelihoods, including by failures of FPIC, irrespective of whether this is intentional or not.”

The manifesto calls for “a conservation model that fights against the real causes of environmental destruction and is prepared to tackle those most responsible: overconsumption and exploitation of resources led by the Global North and its corporations.”

The demand for a radical change to the current model of conservation has grown louder in recent months. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment released a strongly-worded policy brief in August, arguing that achieving environmental goals “demands a dramatic departure from ‘conservation as usual’.” His brief calls instead for a radically different, rights-based approach.

Many organizations and institutions, however, claim to endorse these calls while simultaneously promoting aggressive “fortress conservation” projects. The European Commission, for example, talks in its Biodiversity Strategy of “strengthen[ing] the links between biodiversity protection and human rights … and the role of indigenous peoples and local communities” – but continues to fund conservation projects in Africa that exclude them.

Likewise, 150 NGOs recently published an open letter calling on world leaders to put human rights at the centre of environmental policy – but the group included WWF, whose “secret war” of funding “vicious paramilitary forces” has been the subject of multiple media exposés and human rights investigations.

Fiore Longo, head of Survival’s Decolonize Conservation campaign, said today: “Most governments and NGOs these days are good at producing nice-sounding rhetoric about respecting Indigenous rights. But the same people are promoting a massive drive to create new Protected Areas on Indigenous lands as part of the 30×30 plan that constitutes the biggest land grab in world history.

“We can see the same pretence in calls for Nature-Based Solutions to climate change. These are really just a new spin on what used to be called carbon offsets. They’ll allow Indigenous lands to be bought and sold, in order to permit the world’s most polluting companies to carry on polluting.

“Only the full recognition of Indigenous peoples’ land ownership rights will prevent them from continuing to be the sacrificial victims of fortress conservation and Nature-Based Solutions. It’s also a key step in addressing the biodiversity and climate change crises.”

'Our Land, Our Nature'. The conservation industry has a dark side rooted in racism and colonialism that destroys nature and people.

‘Our Land, Our Nature’. The conservation industry has a dark side rooted in racism and colonialism that destroys nature and people.
© Survival

3 thoughts on ““A total halt to new Protected Areas”: campaigners issue Marseille Manifesto for the future of conservation”

  1. The ring fence issue is polarized. Emergency protected areas should be expanded but should include humans. The humans should not be permitted to increase consumption or population but should seek equilibrium. Force should not be used against protected species and there must be an acknowledgement that humans are not apex predators and may serve as food for same. Conserve both protected species and indigenous beings who live a traditional way of life, that is the goal.

  2. I don’t get this fetishization of “indigenous” people by DGR. DRR is supposed to advocate for the Earth and everything that lives here first and foremost. Indigenous people started destroying forests and turning them into deserts thousands of years ago. The issue is not whether people are indigenous, it’s whether they live in harmony with their ecosystems, and at this point even most indigenous people don’t.

    There are plenty of indigenous people who are just as destructive as colonizers, or would be if they could be. Read about Dick Wilson and his GOON squad at Pine Ridge. I have Native friends who were victims of these indigenous jerks. When I stayed on a Dine (Navajo) reservation in Arizona with “traditional” indigenous people, they were grazing what they called their “traditional” sheep. Of course those sheep weren’t anything approaching “traditional;” instead, they were brought here by the colonizers, and their grazing had totally wrecked the land. These are just two examples of indigenous people harming their ecosystems just as much as colonizers. (The “traditional” Dine had no electricity or running water, and they practiced their traditional ceremonies & rituals like the daily sunrise ceremony, so they were traditional in that way.)

    This is yet another example of why DGR should dump all of its non-environmental issues and just advocate for the natural environment and all who live there. As I’ve stated ad nauseam, no group that takes on multiple issues can be successful, because those issues will come into conflict at some point, causing the group to take the wrong position on one issue in order to take the right one on the other. That’s exactly what’s happening here. Restricting your group to advocacy for the natural world doesn’t mean that you can’t stand in solidarity with people on other issues, but it would guarantee that the natural environment and all that live there always come first. Earth First!

    As to this specific issue: I fully support depopulating areas in order to ecologically heal them. The only people who should be allowed to remain are pre-industrial hunter-gatherers. This is totally consistent with my long-stated goal of EVERYONE abandoning agriculture and returning to hunting & gathering for food eventually, though this will take a very long time and will require, among other things, a massive reduction in human population. Advocating for anyone except hunter-gatherers to remain in areas that we’re trying to heal ecologically will prevent that healing. DGR is totally inconsistent by taking two positions that cannot be reconciled: on one hand, it opposes civilization, but on the other hand, it supports indigenous people, even where those people are civilized. Like with everything else in life, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, so pick one side of this issue. Indigenous farmers are wrecking the land, killing native plants & animals, and overpopulating, so from an ecological perspective, they’re no different than the colonizers who do the same things.

    1. Characteristics of Civilization

      All civilizations have certain characteristics. These include: (1) LARGE population centers[CITIES]; (2) MONUMENTAL architecture and unique art styles; (3) shared communication strategies; (4) systems for administering territories; (5) a COMPLEXED division of labor; and (6) the division of people into social and economic CLASSES.


      Deep Green Resistance uses Derrick Jensen’s definition of civilization that he laid out in Endgame vol. 1, p. 17, as follows:
      Civilization is a culture—that is, a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts—that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities (civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from Latin civitatis, meaning city-state), with cities being defined—so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on—as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life.


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