At the Third IUCN World Conservation Congress, which took place in 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand, the IUCN membership adopted IUCN Resolution 3.015 “Conserving Nature and Reducing Poverty by Linking Human Rights and the Environment”. This resolution affirmed that “ equity cannot be achieved without the promotion, protection and guarantee of all human rights...” It therefore requested the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law “... to provide additional legal research, analysis and resources, and build the capacity of members in the enforcement of environmental laws, in close collaboration with IUCN members” and “... to provide a progress report to future World Conservation Congresses ... with an emphasis on human–rights tools that may be used by IUCN and its members in pursuit of the Mission”.

As a response, the IUCN Environmental Law Centre with the support of distinct members of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law prepared this publication to inform all actors – governments, the private sector, local communities, nongovernmental organizations – about the rights-based approach (RBA) and its potential contribution to guiding activities that, if unrestrained, may have a detrimental impact on the environment and on people's livelihoods.

The term “rights-based approach” has been used in various contexts and has been defined in different ways. This publication uses the approach specifically to explore the linkages between conservation and respect for people's rights, in particular internationally and nationally guaranteed human rights. Such an RBA to conservation parallels the international consensus on taking an RBA to development, which was forged in the context of the 1996 World Summit for Social Development and elaborated in the Millennium Summit and the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

The overall aim of an RBA to conservation is to promote the realization of conservation with justice. It recognizes that activities and projects related to conservation can have a positive or negative impact on human rights, while the exercise of certain human rights can reinforce and act in synergy with conservation goals.

Conservation with Justice: A Rights-based Approach discusses how an RBA might be implemented in the context of conservation-related activities that potentially have a negative impact on people's rights. It introduces the concept of a step-wise approach to the implementation of an RBA to conservation. This step-wise approach was presented and discussed at the Fourth IUCN World Conservation Congress, which was held 5–14 October 2008 in Barcelona, Spain. Key elements are reflected in the IUCN Resolution 4.056 “Rights-based Approach to Conservation”, which was adopted by the IUCN Members' Assembly and which lists the following principles in its Annex:

Principles concerning human rights in conservation prepared by the IUCN Environmental Law Centre (ELC):

1. Promote the obligation of all state and non-state actors planning or engaged in policies, projects, programmes or activities with implications for nature conservation, to secure for all potentially affected persons and peoples, the substantive and procedural rights that are guaranteed by national and international law.

2. Ensure prior evaluation of the scope of conservation policies, projects, programmes or activities, so that all links between human rights and the environment are identified, and all potentially affected persons are informed and consulted.

3. Ensure that planning and implementation of conservation policies and actions reflect such prior evaluation, are based on reasoned decisions and therefore do not harm the vulnerable, but support as much as possible the fulfilment of their rights in the context of nature and natural resource use.

4. Incorporate guidelines and tools in project and programme planning to ensure monitoring and evaluation of all interventions and their implications for human rights of the people involved or potentially affected which will support better accountability and start a feedback loop.

5. Support improvement of governance frameworks on matters regarding the legal and policy frameworks, institutions and procedures that can secure the rights of local people in the context of conservation and sustainable resource use.

I hope that this publication will provide all stakeholders – within but also outside of the conservation community – with a useful tool to ensure an efficient and effective implementation of the concept of an RBA to conservation, and thus to promote the IUCN's vision of a just world that values and conserves nature.

Dr. Alejandro Iza
Head, IUCN Environmental Law Programme
Director, IUCN Environmental Law Centre
July 2009

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