Environmental protection is one of the focus areas of our work. UNPO supports the protection and preservation of our members' and other (indigenous) peoples’ natural habitat and resources in order to safeguard their unique and independent cultures from various threats.
What is Environmental Protection?
Environmental protection means to protect and preserve (indigenous) peoples’ natural habitat and resources in order to safeguard the unique and independent cultures from threats posed by ‘development’, oppressive regimes and environmental degradation.
Resources found in regions where UNPO Members live but do not fully control, are often used not for the benefit of the resident people but for the ruling elite of the controlling state. These resources are often extracted, like oil and minerals or logging and clear cutting of ancient forests, to make way for agriculture or ‘development’.
The concept behind environmental protection entails the close relationship between a society and its natural environment. The interactions between the environment and the people create a unique web of interdependent connections that in turn create a distinct ecosystem.
Environmental Protection in practice
Cultural survival and environmental protection
Decline in the natural environment is often accompanied by a social decline as well. When the people are no longer able to work and live off the land they inhabit, many leave for better places or become dependent on outside assistance. This has an enormous impact on the social structures of societies. By protecting and developing the natural environment for the benefit of both the people and nature, this scenario can be avoided.
Indigenous peoples are also the guardians of traditional ecological knowledge about their environment. This is reflected in their past and current relationships between nature and culture. As biodiversity is now becoming synonymous with sustainable development and human survival, traditional ecological knowledge has the potential to provide valuable information and useful models on how to utilize natural resources.
It is an extremely valuable source of environmental information that allows indigenous or other isolated native communities to protect and preserve their way of life. It is the basis for local decision-making in agriculture, hunting and gathering, nutrition and food preparation, resource management, education and health as well as social, economic, and political organization.Indigenous people and their communities and other local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognize and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development.Economy and environmental protection
In many regions a significant portion of the population is dependent on the produce of the land for their daily subsistence. If environmental degradation makes the land less profitable it intensifies poverty, which already disproportionately affects UNPO members. By protecting the environment and setting up a system based on fair and long-term economic sustainability the people can develop in harmony with the environment.
Conflict resolution and environmental protection
Struggle over natural resources is a constantly recurring source of conflict worldwide. Many UNPO members are located in areas with rich mineral wealth. This wealth is often extracted without the people receiving any benefits, accompanied by the destruction of the local ecosystem. At the same time, this development is used as a cover to forcibly incorporate the region into the controlling nation-state by means of population transfer and/or implementation of the dominant language and culture.
On the positive side the solution of environmental problems can also build confidence between ethnic groups by facilitating dialogue on common environmental problems and offer possibilities for future cooperation on other issues.
International Society for Environmental Protection
European Environmental Agency
United Nations Environment Program
Society for ecological restoration
Ecology and society journal