Sunday, 18 January 2009

Buayan, Sabah, Malaysia

Grey literature – the reports produced by governmental agencies, academic institutions and other groups but not available through commercial publishers – lets me keep my finger on the pulse of the diverse organizations that are working on community-based conservation and other pressing issues. Taking advantage of early nights and a handy flashlight, I am reading The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Biodiversity Conservation: The Natural but Often Forgotten Partners. This World Bank report – like so much grey literature – flies below the radar of the popular press and scientific papers, and is certainly consulted by too few people. Written by Claudia Sobrevilla, a World Bank Senior Biodiversity Specialist from Colombia, the report provides a good if somewhat repetitive account of some international policies on indigenous people and the natural environment.

The World Bank’s commitment to supporting free, prior and informed consultation with indigenous peoples before engaging in development projects is enshrined in its Operational Policies and Bank Procedures 4.10, which are fully reproduced in annex 2 of the report. Claudia is honest about the poor implementation of these policies: only 18.3% of the Bank’s biodiversity portfolio has been dedicated to indigenous peoples programs, and only a third of these projects are classified as ‘full engagement’. With a total price tag of US$6.18 billion over twenty years (from 1988 to 2008), the biodiversity conservation efforts of the World Bank are in need of a major reorientation.

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