An end to unjust conservation? commentary

Commentary by Dilys Roe and Harry Jonas
November 16, 2014

An end to unjust conservation? Commentary published at

In September 2014, events took place in three different parts of the world, which together highlight the multifaceted relationship between human rights and conservation. First, in New York, the UN General Assembly adopted the Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (World Conference). The document reaffirms and recognizes, among other things: a) support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; b) commitments to obtain free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting Indigenous peoples’ lands or territories and other resources, c) commitments to acknowledge, advance and adjudicate the rights of Indigenous peoples pertaining to lands, territories and resources; and d) the significant contribution of Indigenous peoples to the promotion of sustainable development and ecosystem management, including their associated knowledge.
Second, in eastern Tanzania, the community members of Uvinje – a small coastal village – were anticipating being forcibly removed from their traditional lands and waters due to the expansion of Saadani National Park. The park was created in the 1960s as a game reserve and included land contributed by Saadani Village because of residents’ concern with the indiscriminate killing of wildlife by outsiders. At that time, the game reserve explicitly allowed for local access and use. In 2004, however, the game reserve was gazetted as a national park, so prohibiting all access and use by villagers. In 2005, Uvinje villagers discovered that additional coastal land had been incorporated into the official map of the park and that, as a result, they were no longer entitled to live there or to use the land. A decade later, the park’s boundaries remain in dispute, and the villagers are seeking an urgent injunction to halt their eviction from their ancestral lands…