9 May 2011

Conserving biodiversity, respecting rights

By BirdLife Pacific
The BirdLife Partnership recently adopted a position on Conservation and Rights, which “reaffirms BirdLife’s commitment to support the basic and procedural rights of the individual within its sphere of influence, and within a framework that brings these rights alongside those of future generations, wider society, and other species”. So what’s the connection between conservation and human rights?In project after project we have found that conservation can be more effective if people’s rights are respected and fulfilled, so that they are involved rather than marginalised or excluded”, explained David Thomas, Head of BirdLife’s Communities and Livelihoods Division. “We have also found that conservation projects that are well-designed and well-executed can make a significant contribution to the fulfilment of human rights. Of course, we also have a legal responsibility, as well as a moral or ethical duty, to respect fundamental human rights, and donors are increasingly requiring NGOs to demonstrate that human rights are respected.” De-ratting work by the BirdLife Pacific Partnership and its Fiji Programme provides a good example of how conservation can reinforce the rights of local people. “The rats also cause serious economic loss by damaging crops, and can bring grave human health problems because of their role as disease vectors. So as well as conserving biodiversity, this work is delivering on Pacific islanders’ rights to livelihoods and health.” David says there’s a danger that conservation activities implemented without effective safeguards can harm human rights. Conservation frequently involves bringing about changes in the way natural resources are used and managed. Strict environmental protection can exclude people and deprive them of the resources they depend on, without providing viable alternatives. Adopting a project process which respects people’s rights can help to identify and avoid or resolve such situations. The process should allow people to have a say in the decisions that are made, and give them an opportunity for genuine participation. You can find more detail about the links between conservation and human rights, with examples of how BirdLife Partners are working with local communities on conservation and rights projects, at You can find the full text of BirdLife’s position on Conservation and Rights at