IUCN/CEESP Theme on Culture and Conservation


Over the past decade, the importance of culture to biodiversity conservation outcomes has become increasingly clear. However, these relationships have yet to have significant impact on Conservation practice and policy. While conservation organizations claim to address culture in their planning and policy, they tend to use an antiquated concept of culture and rarely employ staff with substantial training in, or knowledge of, cultural theory, cultural analysis, or cultural practice. Consequently conservation projects are often bound by an ideology that fails to fully appreciate the contributions of cultural knowledge, practice and institutions to biodiversity conservation outcomes. They are also guided by a continuing belief that conservation policy, planning and practice do not reflect the dominant belief systems and values of the culture from which they emerge.

The Theme on Culture and Conservation

The Theme on Culture and Conservation (TCC) springs from a resolution passed at the 3rd World Conservation Congress (2004) to “improve knowledge, policy and practice linking cultural and biological diversity and their common threats and strengthening opportunities.” TCC was convened in early 2005 with a core group of members drawn primarily from contributors to the publication of an edited volume of Policy Matters entitled “History, Culture and Conservation”

The Theme on Conservation and Culture (TCC) is comprised of a group of professionals with its main home in the IUCN’s Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP).
The TCC:

• Recognizes the importance of cultural politics and a sophisticated understanding of culture in environmental conservation and promotes a greater awareness of their importance within IUCN and the broader “conservation community”.

• Promotes and supports field-based activities investigating the contextual relations between ‘culture’ and conservation and draws lessons and methodological insight from those.

• Supports the development of international policies (e.g., CBD) sensitive to the cultural dimensions of conservation, in particular the environmental belief systems and practices of non-dominant cultural groups.

• Encourages the programmes and structures of IUCN and the broader “conservation community” to adopt a complex view of culture, devote resources to understanding the cultural bases of conservation practice, and incorporate such understanding in conservation policy and practice.

The TCC aims to:

• Improve understanding of the linkages between biological and cultural diversity and ways to translate this knowledge into effective policies and practices for both conservation of biodiversity and support to cultural diversity.

• Identify elements of cultural knowledge and practice having major benefits for conservation, and, where deemed appropriate by the relevant communities/cultural groups, set in place processes to strengthen them.

• Identify and support, as deemed appropriate by the relevant communities, sacred and cultural sites grounded in values that support biodiversity conservation.

• Promote and provide technical support to field-based initiatives, as appropriate, at local and regional levels.

• Serve as a communication node for individuals and groups actively engaged in research and practice related to the cultural dimensions of conservation theory, policy and practice.

• Encourage research and publication of knowledge related to the cultural dimensions of conservation, and to serve as a clearing house for such knowledge.

• Promote and support the inclusion of such knowledge, whenever relevant, in the policies, programmes and structures of the IUCN and other conservation, development or donor organizations.

Support, strengthen and build upon the work of its own individual members, as well as the work of IUCN members, commissions and secretariat.


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