Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs)

Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) are defined as:

“natural and modified ecosystems including significant biodiversity, ecological services and cultural values voluntarily conserved by indigenous and local communities through customary laws or other effective means” - World Parks Congress, Recommendation v.26, 2003

Tarialan, Mongolia 2009 © Eskinder Debebe

The definition can therefore include indigenous territories, indigenous protected areas, cultural land- and seascapes, sacred sites and species, migration routes of mobile indigenous peoples, bio-cultural heritage territories, sustainable resource reserves, native fishing grounds, and community-managed areas. ICCAs protect an enormous range of natural environments, wildlife species and pastoral and agricultural landscapes, managed through a wide diversity of institutions and methods both tradtional and contemporary. The total area covered by protected areas under this type of governance is not currently clear and as a result is likely to be severely underestimated.

The Need for Increased Understanding

For millennia, indigenous and local communities have played a critical role in conservation. While the conservation practice of ICCAs is potentially the oldest on earth, it is under-recognized and not well understood, thus leaving it in jeopardy of lacking political and financial support and increasingly vulnerable to external threats. Recent international meetings, including the 2003 World Parks Congress and the 2004 Programme of Work on Protected Areas of the Convention on Biological Diversity, have contributed to a re-evaluation of ICCAs as one of the main avenues to strengthen sustainable natural resource use and conservation. Thus, there is a need for detailed knowledge and experience to be gathered, analyzed, and shared.

UNEP-WCMC is committed to working closely with the Global Environment Facilty's (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP), implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), IUCN’s Theme on Indigenous and Local Communities, Equity, and Protected Areas (TILCEPA), ICCA Consortium partners and members of indigenous communities to build awareness and recognition of ICCAs through the development of a participatory registry and dedicated website.

ICCA Registry

UNEP-WCMC, as a partner in the ICCA Consortium which originated from the World Conservation Congress in 2008, is developing an interactive registry for ICCAs worldwide - The purpose of this project is to build a knowledgebase about ICCAs that increases information about these special areas, documentation of their values, enhanced understanding of their purposes and impacts, and increased engagement of local and traditional communities in the biodiversity conservation and policy arenas.

The collection of information will be a collaborative process, ensuring slow but positive support of the concept, and engaging staff at UNEP-WCMC as well as members of the Consortium and consultants in the field. Members of the indigenous and local communities will be essential and central contributors to this knowledgebase.

The registry, developed in the same structure as the World Database on Protected Areas, will store two types of information that are critical to understanding ICCAs: (1) descriptive information, such as the main habitats within the ICCA and the names of the community or communities living within or near the ICCA, and; (2) spatial information, such as the size, location and boundaries of the area.

See Also