Universal Biodiversity hotspots, covering just 2.4% of the Earth’s land area, saw more than 80% of armed conflicts between 1950 and 2000, some of which continue today. Armed conflicts in these critical ecosystems, driven by a variety of factors, have led to significant biodiversity losses and threaten indigenous ways of life. A recent study reveals that four-fifths of these armed conflicts within biodiversity occur on indigenous lands. Surprisingly, these indigenous territories were able to maintain better environmental conditions than non-indigenous conflict-affected lands. The study underscores the invaluable role of indigenous peoples in the environment Security and emphasizes indigenous self-determination as a key factor in both biodiversity conservation and conflict prevention.
For centuries, indigenous communities such as the Karen people of Myanmar have cultivated a harmonious relationship with their environment. In the case of the Karen, their ancestral forests, located in the Indo-Burma Biodiversity, served as a sanctuary during the world’s longest armed conflict between the Karen National Union and the Myanmar military regime. These forests provided shelter during military airstrikes and allowed the Karen to protect their biodiverse territories.
Armed conflicts within biodiversity hotspots are not unique to Myanmar. Between 1950 and 2000, 90% of major armed conflicts occurred in countries with rich biodiversity. More than 80% of these conflicts resulted in significant biodiversity loss and environmental damage. About four-fifths of these conflicts occurred on indigenous lands that are rich in biodiversity. Indigenous communities within these conflict zones bear the brunt of indiscriminate killings, forced displacement and cultural upheaval as their societies and economies face irreversible changes.
Surprisingly, despite these conflicts, indigenous lands rich in biodiversity have experienced less environmental damage and fewer human impacts compared to non-indigenous conflict-affected lands. About a quarter of conflict-affected indigenous lands in biodiversity are “natural lands,” unaltered by humans and supportive of biodiversity, while only 10% of non-indigenous conflict-affected lands can make the same claim. This paradox highlights the value of Aboriginal responsibility for protecting the natural world.
Indigenous lands represent some of the last untouched areas on Earth and are increasingly targeted for exploitation and development. Economic interests are attracted to these territories because of the careful relationship that indigenous communities have with their environment, resulting in relatively pristine conditions. Resource-rich lands, such as those inhabited by the Karen people of Myanmar, are at the center of these conflicts due to the desire to control sites suitable for mineral resources, teak forests and hydroelectric dams.
Poverty often forces indigenous communities into the informal economy, leading to overexploitation of resources and internal conflicts. In many cases, governments displace people from their lands Security Objectives or territorial expansion, raising tensions.
Stopping armed conflict in biodiversity hotspots is a complex endeavor, but indigenous self-determination and involvement in divestment programs can help maintain peace. Cooperation Security Instead of evicting communities or disrupting their livelihoods, projects address the root causes of conflicts.
As exemplified by the Salween Peace Park in Myanmar, indigenous communities, when left to their own devices, exhibit remarkable creativity in problem solving. Established in 2018 by local bodies, the park covers a vast area and promotes peace, Security, and self-determination. However, the ongoing civil war in Myanmar has recently caused conflict in the park.
After armed conflict subsides, peace programs become necessary Security Work. Post-conflict periods often witness environmental degradation as the new peace attracts investments in extractive activities. Protecting tribal rights and environmental protection becomes even more important at this stage.
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