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Decolonising Conservation Policy and Practices

As ecological theory develops, conservation practices are increasingly under scrutiny. Though these practices have the intent of progression, designating incongruous protected areas (PAs) is reductive. Due to underfunding and lack of maintenance, PAs are vulnerable to becoming ’paper parks’, potentially triggering fragmentation of wider ecosystems. Fortress conservation leads to displacement of local communities, ignoring how residents’ cultures may contribute to and remould conservation efforts. The exclusivity of outdated conservation perspectives epitomizes how entrenched colonial legacies perpetuate indigenous injustices at the expense of ecosystem security. Conservationists are shifting their focus to a rights-based approach. In doing so, they recognise the role of indigenous peoples in the protection of biodiversity. Simultaneously championing the maintenance of biodiversity and ensuring the continuation of development in a sustainable manner is no small task. Resilience against the climatic stochasticity that lies ahead is essential. Innovation transforming development in a rights-based manner, mitigating ecological disaster, may prove revolutionary. This panel, drawing on the knowledge of various experts, will tackle the divisive nature of conservation in the Amazonía region, considering local conservation challenges in a new light.

Panel speakers

Liliana Madrigal

Liliana Madrigal is co-founder of the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), created in 1996 with Dr. Mark J. Plotkin. Previously, over a decade, she led conservation efforts with the Fundacion de Parques Nacionales de Costa Rica, Conservation International, and The Nature Conservancy.

Liliana is ACT’s Executive Vice President, and serves on its board. Her special mandate is providing the vision, strategic direction, and organizational leadership to advance ACT’s mission. Additionally, Liliana oversees ACT’s fundraising and programmatic activities, traveling frequently to South America to meet and work with ACT’s local teams and indigenous partners. In particular, she drives the implementation of programs focusing on indigenous leadership and rights, especially with regard to women, elders, and youth. In 2006, Liliana won the Circle of Bridge-Makers Award from the Angeles Arrien Foundation. She and Dr. Plotkin were co-awardees of the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2008. In 2017, she was awarded a residency fellowship at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. A native of Costa Rica, Liliana lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Dr. Mark J. Plotkin. She is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles.

Carolina Comandulli

Carolina Schneider Comandulli has been involved for over 15 years with indigenous peoples in the Amazon and Atlantic rainforests, at a research, professional and personal levels, having occupied key positions from the government/policy building sector to direct work and engagement with local indigenous organisations. She held several positions at the National Foundation for Indigenous Affairs (FUNAI) and has acted as a consultant for many NGOs. She is the co-founder of CLOSER, a multidisciplinary research group on Brazilian socio-environmental research, and a member of the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) research group and of the Centre for the Anthropology of Sustainability (CAOS). Carolina has an MSc in Anthropology and Ecology of Development from University College London – UCL and is currently completing her PhD at UCL Anthropology.

Dr. Grace Iara Souza

Dr. Grace Iara is a Research Fellow at the Latin America and the Caribbean Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LACC-LSE) and a Fellow of the King’s Brazil Institute, at King’s College London. Using Political Ecology as a lens, she is concerned with how glocal development and environmental policies affect indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. Her research focuses on human security and political ecologies of development, conservation and peasant societies, with particular interest on historical invisibility, agency, and forms of resistance, power dynamics, social policies, funders and drivers of deforestation, payment for ecosystem services, and ethnic identities in Brazil. She is also an independent consultant, the co-founder of CLOSER, a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research group on Brazilian socio-environmental research. She has been ‘building bridges’ with multi-stakeholders (e.g. civil society, governments, private sector, funders, academics) for more than a decade.

Nixiwaka Yawanawá

Nixiwaka Yawanawá is a member of the Yawanawá tribe, a community of indigenous people who live in the Amazon rainforest, on the Acre River Headwaters Indigenous Land. Like many other Amazonian tribes, the Yawanawá rely on the rainforest for their subsistence, and the land holds a very deep spiritual significance. Nixiwaka worked between 2013 and 2015 at Survival International’s headquarters to raise awareness of the rights of Amazon Indians. He is also a talented artist, who has worked with John Dyer in 2015 on the amazing ‘Spirit of the Rainforest’ project and exhibition at the Eden Project supported by Survival International.

Fiore Longo

Fiore Longo is a Research and Advocacy Officer at Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples. She is also the director of Survival International France and Spain. As part of her Master’s degree in cultural anthropology she carried out fieldwork with the Mapuche indigenous people of Chile. She coordinates Survival’s conservation campaign, and has visited many communities in Africa and Asia that face human rights abuses in the name of conservation. She has also visited indigenous communities in Colombia and worked on Survival’s Uncontacted Tribes campaign.


Lucy Betts and Petra Veres

Coordinators: Lucy Betts & Petra Veres

Speakers: Liliana Madrigal, Carolina Comandulli, Dr. Grace Iara Souza, Nixiwaka Yawanawá, Fiore Longo

Place: The Oxford Forum for International Development (OxFID)

Date: February 7, 2021

Time: 17h30 - 18h30 GMT

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Session 1: Going Multidisciplinary

One of the most used key words in academia all over the world nowadays is ‘interdisciplinarity’ or 'multidisciplinarity'. From call for papers and conferences, to Deans and rectors’ speeches and description of courses and modules, these words are almost omnipresent. However, problems generally appear when we need to translate these concepts into practice. Dr Vinínius Mariano de Carvalho will open the training by presenting guidelines to successfully explore different areas of expertise within research.

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Session 2: Colonising Nature: People and Protected Areas

Taking the Amazon rainforest as a point of reference, Dr Vinicius Mariano de Carvalho will expose some of the historical views on colonisation and representation of nature. Subsequently, Grace Iara Souza will present a case study on the Amazonian colonisation through the setting of areas aside for environmental protection.

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Session 3: Regulation and the Environment

Questions concerning public policy and regulation in the environment-development debate will be addressed. The focus will be on the role of voluntary multi-stakeholder sustainability initiatives in the context of states with limited administrative capacity. Flavia Donadelli and Larissa Boratti will present a case study on private forest regulation in Latin America in order to stimulate an open debate about the role of alternative environmental governance mechanisms in developing countries.

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Session 4: Governance, institutions and actors: the challenges of researching socio-environmental complexity

Dr Daanish Mustafa will give an overview on the theoretical and epistemological questions that arise in socio-environmental research, namely in what regards interplay of governance, institutions and actors. Tiago Freitas will present a case study from the Brazilian Amazon and Kay Phanthuwongpakdee a case study from Thailand.

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Session 5: Natural resource management and gender: can pro-poor strategies work in a neo-liberal world?

Natural resources such as land, water and forests are of key importance to the livelihoods of very many people in the countries of the Global South. In many countries most people still live in rural areas and derive significant parts of their livelihoods from agriculture, livestock and fisheries as well as from timber and non-timber forest products. The management of these resources is thus of great significance both for reducing poverty and trying to attain improved sustainability in the use of the natural environment. During this session, Dr Deborah Potts will discuss some of these themes with particular reference to southern African societies, while Giovanna Grandoni will introduce the gendered implications of natural resource management in small rural communities in the Northeast of Brazil.

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Session 6: The Space and Place of Indigenous and Riverine Peoples in The National State

This session will provide an analysis of cultural, institutional and livelihood dimensions of Indigenous groups and traditional communities and how it can interact with the conservation agenda. Moreover it will present the recent evolution of international and national policies and rights of indigenous and riverine peoples, and explore its consequences on the analytical framework on human-environment interactions.

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Session 1: Between Conservation, Development & Territorial Rights

The local people right to the territory has been one of the major struggles when creating and implementing conservation and development policies throughout natural resource rich countries. Embedded in a conflict between different stakeholders and agendas, conducting research in and about such places require constant adaptation and persistence

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Session 2: Environment, Public Policy and Regulation

Several changes in environmental policies and regulations have happened in Brazil in the past decade. Although commentators and protesters often use the term ‘environmental roll-back’ to describe these changes little research has been published on the actual nature and processes leading to these reforms. This session aims to fill in this gap and shed light on the actual characteristics and drivers of this recent trend.

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Session 3: Conducting Research with Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon

This session will focus on research with indigenous peoples from an anthropological, environmental and economic perspective, and present the challenges of conducting fieldwork in indigenous territories in the Amazon.

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Socio-Ecological Systems: environment, development and sustainability

The Socio-Ecological Systems (SES) Reading Group in the Department of Anthropology, UCL invite PhD students to come to our one-day student conference. This one-day postgraduate research conference seeks to bring research across both social/political and ecological/biophysical disciplines to share experiences together. The conference will explore themes in SES and sustainability, including multiple interactions and relations between people and ecosystems; political ecology of human-animal relations, customary modes of natural resource management and their conflict or complementarity with western ideas of management; community-based conservation and development approaches and factors influencing their outcomes; impacts of changes in land use, tenure, access and management on livelihoods; impacts of climate change on human well-being, ecosystems and wildlife; and integrative methodologies in understanding SES.

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Reimagining Prosperity: Futures from the Global South

Given the planetary challenges we face, we urgently need to formulate more explicit projects of transformation and transition. The announcement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015 emphasises that making substantial changes using tried and tested models is unlikely to work. This paper discusses how we might move beyond the SDGs to formulate diverse pathways to future prosperity, and explains why many of the philosophical and practical ideas arising in the Global South offer innovative ways forward.

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