Around the world, communities are already declaring their own mining free areas. Photo: Yes to Life No to Mining

Protestors gather at Standing Rock to block the Dakota Access Pipeline. Photo: telesur

Gaia’s Director, Liz Hosken, with indigenous custodians in Benin, 2016. Photo: Hal Rhoades

We are delighted to share the news that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has passed a landmark resolution (Motion 26) urging governments and businesses to respect sacred lands and all protected areas as No-Go Areas for extractive industries!

This is a powerful statement from the world’s largest and most influential conservation organisation. As scientists warn that we are at risk losing all wilderness areas within a century if current trends of extraction and consumption continue, Motion 26 signals a global willingness to draw a line in the sand and say ‘enough is enough’!

The passage of Motion 26┬áis only the second time in history that the IUCN has taken a sweeping global stand to protect nature from mining and other extractive industries. Its success is the fruit of intense lobbying at the recent World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i. This was made possible by years of work by indigenous custodians, their communities and allies in civil society, like Gaia, who are committed to raising awareness of the critical role sacred sites have to play in the struggle to protect Earth.

We believe that the Motion adds wind into the sails of indigenous peoples’ struggles to protect sacred lands, like those mounting protests at Standing Rock in the USA right now. With its inherent recognition of the crucial importance of supporting indigenous traditions and rights in the struggle to protect Mother Earth, Motion 26 is another step towards de-colonising conservation.

Supporting indigenous communities to deal with threats affecting their sacred natural site and territories, and to affirm and strengthen the rights and responsibilities of their traditional custodians, has been at the core of our work for over 30 years.

In that time, Gaia has collaborated with partners and indigenous communities to protect sacred sites at the grassroots level in areas like Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains, where local people say the physical demarcation of more than 25 sacred sites has led to the reappearance of the Mountain Nyala, Menelicks Bush Buck, Colobus Monkey and other species. We have also helped win significant policy victories, such as Benin’s sacred forest law, which legally protects Benin’s sacred groves.

As the latest gain in this ongoing work, Motion 26 is another significant boost to our movement. It will help indigenous communities and organisations like Gaia make further strides for the legally-binding recognition and protection of sacred sites around the world.

We now need to build on the broad based solidarity and sense of urgency created by the Motion and ensure that it is implemented on the ground through collective action – taking responsibility for the legacy we will leave to generations of all species yet to come.