UN experts on environment and indigenous peoples rights on Monday urged [press release] governments throughout the world to make human rights a priority in environmental conservation efforts, stating that protecting biodiversity is a human rights issue. The message comes days before the scheduled World Conservation Congress (WCC) in Honolulu, US, the largest global forum for adopting conservation policies. The experts expressed that it is important for indigenous people and environmentalists to join forces in protecting land and biodiversity, especially considering the number of conservationists and indigenous people who have been killed. Additionally, a loss of biodiversity, according to the experts, affects human rights as it negatively impacts the right to food, housing, culture, and other necessities.
The rights of indigenous peoples and their relationship to the environment have become a pressing international legal topic in recent years. Earlier this month the Navajo Nation filed suit [JURIST report] against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleging that water flowing from a punctured mine in Colorado was toxic and “damaged the Nation’s environment, people, and economy.” In 2014, a report by Rights and Resources [advocacy website] warned of the growing pressure for land and resources that threatens [JURIST report] communities dependent on tropical forests. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [text, PDF], was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007 and “marked a historic moment of recognition of the existence of indigenous peoples” but UN experts said last year that implementing the Declaration would continue to be a challenge [JURIST report] without greater awareness.