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Developmentalism and Conservation Clash Out at Sea

Emilio Godoy - Inter Press Service
December 24, 2016

Representatives of native peoples all over the world took part in a meeting during the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity in the resort city of Cancún, Mexico. Indigenous delegates in the summit were defending their rights and their natural resources, which are threatened by climate change, the extractive industries and biopiracy. (Emilio Godoy/IPS)

“We don’t have access to marine areas, because most are protected areas or are in private hands. We indigenous people have been losing access to our territories, as this decision became a privilege of the state,” complained Donald Rojas, a member of the Brunka indigenous community in Costa Rica.

The complaint from the head of the non-governmental National Indigenous Council of Costa Rica was in response to the ban keeping the Brunka and Huetar people from entering five of their ancestral land and sea territories, after they were declared natural protected areas.

“That restricts access to and management of resources,” said Rojas, who is a member of one of the eight native peoples in that Central American country of 4.8 million people, where 104,000 indigenous people live on a combined area of 3,500 square km.

Rojas was one of the Latin American indigenous leaders participating in different events and forums in the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, which has brought together nearly 6,500 delegates of governments, international organizations, academia and civil society in Cancun, Mexico from Dec. 2-17.

Native people used to fish and gather food in these areas located near the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, within Costa Rica’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

This conflict reflects the growing exploitation of EEZs by the states, which at the same time face an obligation to increase their protected marine areas and clean up the oceans – a contradiction that generates friction, and where the local communities are often victims.

This collision of interests has been seen during the global summit on biodiversity in the coastal city of Cancún, 1,200 km southeast of Mexico City, where the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), or COP13, as well as other intergovernmental events and forums related to the preservation of the planet’s natural wealth, was taking place.

Coastal waters and continental shelves are increasingly exploited for fishing, agricultural, industrial or touristic purposes.

Read the rest at Inter Press Service | Español

IPS is an international communication institution with a global news agency at its core, raising the voices of the South and civil society on issues of development, globalization, human rights and the environment. Check out the website at

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