Biodiversity: Plan to declare 30% of the world protected areas by 2030 must place Indigenous peoples’ rights at its heart

A proposal to commit states to declare 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea mass protected for conservation and biodiversity by 2030, the so-called “30 by 30” proposal, will be a major focus of discussions at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), in Montreal from 7-19 December.

Amnesty International stresses the urgent need to address the loss of biodiversity as an essential step towards climate justice and of the realization of the right to live in a safe, clean and sustainable environment for all, as recently recognized by the United Nations General Assembly. Failure to address biodiversity loss will have severe repercussions for future generations that will inherit its irreversible results.

However, Amnesty International insists that any biodiversity commitment, including the so-called “30 by 30” proposal, must place the rights of Indigenous peoples at its heart, including by protecting the livelihoods and rights of subsistence land users.

‘The so-called 30 by 30 proposal could provide the needed action to slow down and stop biodiversity loss, but in its current form it presents a grave risk to the rights of Indigenous peoples.’

Agnès Callamard, Secretary General, Amnesty International

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, who will be in Montreal during COP15, said: “The loss and degradation of biodiversity threatens human and non-human life and is a major source of human rights violations, including the right to life. The so-called 30 by 30 proposal could provide the needed action to slow down and stop biodiversity loss, but in its current form it presents a grave risk to the rights of Indigenous peoples.

“Current practice in protected areas often follows a model known as ‘fortress conservation’ which requires the complete removal of human presence from the area, usually by force, so that territory can be thrown open to tourists, conservation researchers and, in some cases, big game hunters.

“There is an overwhelming weight of research showing that Indigenous peoples are the best conservators of biodiversity, which is reflected in the fact that 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity is to be found on Indigenous-managed lands.

“Without respect and protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples at the heart of the agreement, coupled with thorough and transparent assessment of the social impacts, the 30 by 30 target is not only bad for human rights, it is bad for conservation, too.”

Amnesty International urges parties to ensure that any decision on biodiversity protection places Indigenous peoples’ right to their lands at its heart, requiring states to consult with them to obtain their free, prior and informed consent, as currently enshrined in international human rights law.

The agreement must also guarantee that subsistence land-users have access to land, are protected from forced evictions, enjoy an adequate standard of living, and are consulted on all decisions that impact their rights. Provisions in the proposal which call into question states’ commitments to legally recognized human rights, by making them subject to national legislation, must be removed.

Indigenous peoples are currently unable to effectively take part in the drafting of the “30 by 30” plans. Their representatives at the convention negotiations have only the right to speak and make suggestions. But despite several drafting sessions, states have not yet committed to guaranteeing the human rights safeguards that Indigenous peoples are demanding.


The UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) is the latest meeting to discuss the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, an agreement adopted in 1992 and ratified by 196 countries that sets out how to safeguard animal and plant species and ensure resources are used sustainably.

The aim of COP15 is to adopt a globally agreed framework (the ‘Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework’) for halting and reversing biodiversity loss and ‘living in harmony with nature,’ setting specific goals for 2030 and targets to 2050. Despite previously agreed targets for 2020, biodiversity is declining worldwide and is projected to worsen without remedial action.

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, together with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. COP15 is the biodiversity equivalent of the COP27 climate negotiations, which concluded last month in Egypt.