First phase of ICI implementation highlights importance of Indigenous-led conservation and need for increased funding

Today, on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the Inclusive Conservation Initiative (ICI) released its Phase One Report, summarizing the first phase of its implementation, from ideation in December 2019 to current implementation status in mid-2023.

There is a continually growing evidence base on the effectiveness of Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPs and LCs) in protecting biodiversity and contributing to global environmental benefits. Yet, IP and LC access to finance has remained limited. ICI seeks to address this gap. 

With over US$ 22.5 million in funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and over US$ 90 million of expected co-financing, ICI is designed to support the leadership of IPs and LCs in stewarding lands, waters, and natural resources. A global selection process identified ten Indigenous-led initiatives in nine diverse geographies spanning twelve countries. The Indigenous organizations that lead each initiative are in the process of designing impact strategies to guide implementation of their projects on the ground.

“Demonstrating that supporting IPs and LCs is an efficient and effective approach to the conservation needed to reach various global goals, the initiatives supported by ICI will improve a combined 7.6 million hectares of landscapes and seascapes with high biodiversity that three million IPs and LCs call home,” says Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, GEF CEO and Chairperson. “This is just the beginning, and much more is needed to support, enhance and invest in Indigenous-led conservation for the protection of the planet.”

While there is much more to be done, ICI is piloting adaptive measures to increase and simplify IP and LC access to conservation finance. This initial phase of ICI laid the mindful foundations for ways in which multilateral finance can improve efficiency in reaching IPs and LCs, by working to tailor financial requirements and supporting IP and LC organizations to meet them.

Lucy Mulenkei, Chair of the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group (IPAG), says of the years-long collaboration with the GEF that led to the creation of ICI: “Walking this path together has been very positive and fruitful. Together, we were able to identify the main challenges facing Indigenous-led conservation […] to us we are not stopping, we are just beginning.”

Later this month, the ICI Global Steering Committee will meet for the first time in person, and participate in a learning exchange with Canadian First Nations in Vancouver, Canada, ahead of the 7th GEF Assembly taking place August 22-26, 2023. IPs and LCs will play a key role in supporting the Assembly’s emphasis on IP and LC rights and priorities, and advocating for more funding windows better-suited to IP and LC contexts and realities. The Assembly will see the launch of the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBFF) that will finance the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, including a focus on support to Indigenous-led conservation.

About the Inclusive Conservation Initiative

ICI is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by Conservation International (CI) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in partnership with Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPs and LCs). A GEF-7 project, ICI is built upon the principle that inclusive conservation requires that IPs and LCs be the main authors and implementers. By combining substantial investments in specific locations, with support to magnify local results through global capacity building, policy influence, and demonstration of large-scale impacts, ICI will catalyze the transformational changes needed to secure and enhance support for the contributions of IPs and LCs to biodiversity and other global environmental benefits.

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