"Sacred lands enable the next generations to connect, identify with and carry on our ancestral cultures, traditions, ceremonies and spirituality” - Statement of Indigenous Kahu’Aina Guardians of Sacred Lands

 In a landmark move that adds wind to the sails of indigenous struggles to protect sacred lands everywhere, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has passed a resolution declaring that all protected areas and the sacred lands of Indigenous Peoples should be 'No-Go Areas' for destructive industrial activities like mining, dam-building and logging.

Motion 26 was passed during last week’s World Conservation Congress; a quadrennial event that brought together almost 9,000 government officials, scientists, business leaders, academics, indigenous representatives and civil society groups in Hawai’i to set the global conservation agenda.

The Motion urges governments to "respect all categories of IUCN protected areas as No-Go Areas for environmentally damaging industrial-scale activities and infrastructure development." It also calls on businesses to "withdraw from exploration or activities in these areas, and not to conduct future activities in protected areas."

The Motion’s success marks only the second time in history that the IUCN, the world’s largest conservation organization, has taken a sweeping global stand to protect nature from mining and other extractive industries. And this major precedent owes much to Indigenous Peoples.

As hundreds of indigenous nations gathered in a stunning alliance at Standing Rock last week, another diverse group of indigenous sacred site custodians made the trip to Honolulu. There they raised awareness of the critical importance of sacred lands in struggles to safeguard indigenous rights, protect nature and prevent runaway climate change.

Thanks to the work of these custodians and civil society allies, Motion 26, which had attracted significant opposition from within IUCN’s business membership before the Congress, passed almost unanimously.

At the World Conservation Congress, the indigenous delegation supporting Motion 26, made up of representatives from the U'wa People of Colombia, the Kichwa of Sarayaku, Ecuador, Winnemem Wintu, US, Gabbra herdsmen, Kenya and others from Benin, Papua New Guinea, Russia and Mongolia, released a powerful statement that highlights the complex existential relationship between sacred lands and Indigenous Peoples, and their importance for conservation.

In their Statement of Indigenous Kahu’Aina Guardians of Sacred Lands, the custodians describe a united understanding of sacred natural sites as natural places, such as mountains and springs, which are "nodal points, responsible for the harmonious and healthy functioning of Mother Earth."

As places where profound spiritual energy and knowledge are held, the custodians say that sacred sites are crucial to the transmission of indigenous knowledge and ecologically attuned governance systems down the generations.

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