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Decolonizing research on international conservation governance

Authors: Noella Gray*, University of Guelph, Rachel Arsenault, York University, Megan Youdelis, University of Guelph, Larry McDermott, Plenty Canada
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: decolonization, conservation governance, collaborative event ethnography, two-eyed seeing
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Decolonization is not a metaphor – it must acknowledge and restore Indigenous rights to and relations with the land (Tuck and Yang 2012). While much of this work must necessarily be place-based, there are also opportunities to support and pursue decolonization through international policy. The purposes of this paper are to: (1) consider what it means to decolonize international conservation governance; and (2) reflect on an evolving methodology for decolonizing research in international policy venues. We focus in particular on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Indigenous peoples are acknowledged in the CBD in a variety of ways. For example, Article 8j of the CBD requires the Parties to respect, preserve and maintain Indigenous knowledge and practices, while the CBD’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets support recognition of Indigenous-led conservation (as ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ in Target 11) and the effective participation of Indigenous peoples in the implementation of the CBD (Target 18). However, as the CBD moves toward establishing a new strategic plan, there is a significant opportunity to re-think whether and how the work of the CBD can support meaningful decolonization efforts. In order to analyze this opportunity, we also seek to decolonize our research methods. Our team includes both Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars and practitioners and we adopt the philosophy of ‘two-eyed seeing’ as a way to combine western approaches, such as collaborative event ethnography, with Indigenous research methods and ways of knowing (Aresenault et al. 2018).

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