At the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, 5000 professional conservationists, and one Tibetan, have gathered to debate the future of wildlife, officially protected areas and our planet.
Jigme Norbu, from the Tibet Policy Institute’s Environment Desk was the lone voice speaking up for Tibet, especially the nomads currently required to leave their lands and lives in Yushu and Golok, in the name of creating a park.
Jigme Norbu handed out thousands of brochures at the World Parks Congress, to people from all round the world, explaining the sad situation of excluding nomads from their ancestral pasture lands, in order to declare a park exclusively for China’s downstream water supply. The brochure called on the organisers of the World Parks Congress, the International Union for Conservation of nature, to understand that parks and local communities belong together, not kept apart. He also emphasized that removing people to urban concrete settlements leaves the countryside vulnerable to mining companies, which are now moving in to many places, which is not what a park is supposed to have.
After distributing so many leaflets showing that Yushu and Golok are not degraded, Jigme Norbu and supporters managed to ask the WPC Patron, an indigenous campaigner for many years from Nicaragua, Myrna Cunningham, for her reaction. . Her response was that Tibetans must never give up, even when their loss of land and livelihoods is in the name of creating a park. Tibetans, she said with all her years of tireless campaigning for indigenous people at the UN behind her, should take the campaign to get back on to their homelands to every venue, every forum, every official institution and UN agency and committee and special rapporteur possible, and keep going. The management of protected areas, she said firmly, should be based on human rights. “And by that I don’t just mean individual rights but also the collective rights of peoples,” she said. “That includes rights over ancestral territories, rights that are named in the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). All UN agencies formally recognise those rights, even when it is hard to persuade them to do the work of implementation.”
She took a deep breath. “I understand that the Tibetans face more problems than others. Their case is difficult, I know. They maintained their land, and now they are blamed. Asia generally is very difficult; there is no regional instrument or commission to protect human rights.”
She paused. As chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues until 2012, she has lived through much. She said, “we do need a paradigm shift, all of us, we all need to change. And that includes IUCN. IUCN needs to change how it looks at the world.”