The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) issued a statement following the inscription of the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex as World Heritage site acknowledging the World Heritage Committee's decision and emphasise that nature conservation must respect the rights of indigenous peoples to the territories they have traditionally owned and used.
Protesters holding a banner during a protest against the inscription of Kaeng Krachan forest as a World Heritage site at the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok on 26 July 2021
The Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex was named a natural World Heritage site during the World Heritage Committee meeting on 26 July despite ongoing concerns about human rights violations against indigenous communities in the forest area.
The decision to inscribe the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex as a World Heritage site came after the IUCN published a report recommending that Kaeng Krachan’s nomination be referred back to the Thai government to allow it to resolve concerns regarding community rights and ensure that the nomination is supported by all affected indigenous peoples and local communities.
The full statement reads:
IUCN acknowledges the World Heritage Committee’s decision to inscribe the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex onto the World Heritage List, and the commitment expressed by the State Party of Thailand to continue the work in progress relating to the site. IUCN stands ready to support the State Party in its work with local communities and other concerned stakeholders to address the Committee’s decision, and uphold the World Heritage Convention’s own policies and high standards of conservation practice.
IUCN’s evaluation of the Kaeng Krachan nomination for 2020-2021 noted some overall progress however again concluded that concerns raised by local communities around human rights issues within the site had not been resolved. The World Heritage Committee had asked Thailand to fully address these concerns in its previous decisions, specifically those linked to the mandate of UN Special Rapporteurs on matters of human rights. IUCN, in its role as the Committee’s advisory body on nature, recommended for the inscription of this site to be deferred until, among other issues, indigenous Karen communities provide their consent, and their concerns are resolved.
Respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities in conservation is a clearly stated policy of the World Heritage Convention and is central to IUCN’s mission and values. IUCN’s membership, composed of government, civil society and indigenous peoples’ organisations, sets the policies that guide IUCN’s wider work. In this regard, IUCN’s Resolutions emphasise that nature conservation must respect the rights of indigenous peoples to the territories they have traditionally owned and used.