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Rights-based approaches: exploring issues and opportunities for conservation

The links between the realisation of human rights and the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity are receiving increasing attention worldwide. Experience has demonstrated that exclusionary approaches to conservation can undermine those same rights of affected communities and can undermine conservation objectives.

The ‘rights-based approaches’ (RBAs) to conservation presented in this document offer a number of positive ways forward, but they also raise a range of new challenges and questions. These include how to define RBAs in practical terms and how to determine what they mean for conservation policy and implementation. The experiences described in this volume make it clear that there is no one recipe for RBAs; however, each case study presents legal, policy, programming, or advocacy strategies that local people, government and NGOs and others can use to better understand their rights and responsibilities.

The papers in this volume also illustrate that engaging with rights means engaging with the social dimensions of conservation. RBAs challenge the conservation community to move beyond its traditional boundaries, engage in new partnerships, take on demanding new tasks and seize new
opportunities. In conclusion, the authors highlight that there is a need to examine many more experiences in order to fully understand the implications of RBAs. This volume identifies many difficult questions for the conservation community and its partners to address.

Case studies examined include:

  • fulfilling rights and responsibilities in natural resource management in Colombia
  • enhancing rights and local level accountability in water management in the Middle East: conceptual framework and case studies from Palestine and Jordan
  • where conservation and community coincide:a human rights approach to conservation and development in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa
  • seeking respect for a Sherpa community conserved area in the Mount Everest region of Nepal
  • integrating gender equality and equity in access and benefit-sharing governance through a rights-based approach