Breaking Barriers: Indigenous Leaders Share Centuries-Old Wisdom on Conservation at Our Ocean Conference Side Event


On March the 2nd, Indigenous leaders from around the world, including members of the Guna Yala Comarca, will gather for a side event at Our Oceans Conference to discuss the importance of traditional knowledge and stewardship in ocean conservation.


As anthropogenic pressures shift our planet’s systems, driving changes to our climate and widespread biodiversity loss, indigenous people are doing all they can to shore up our natural systems and reverse declines. Bearing witness to the frontlines of these changes, indigenous peoples disproportionately bear the costs of biodiversity losses, environmental degradation, and social injustice. Although they comprise less than 5% of the world’s population, indigenous people protect 80% of global biodiversity and as such, are key guardians of nature. Their role as environmental stewards is critical for the conservation of nature and biodiversity worldwide, despite many principles of the Western conservation movement have traditionally separated people from place for the protection of biodiversity and natural resources.


MarAlliance partners with indigenous people, like the Guna in Panama, to ensure the inclusion of their cosmovision, their active participation and decision-making in the activities we develop with them. Examples of the plans we have include co-develop extensive and inclusive Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), to yield the relevant structure and management instruments underpinning the creation of a proposed network of MPAs. MarAlliance wants to improve marine and social resilience by conserving marine biodiversity and key habitats and promote improved livelihoods that benefit Guna for generations to come.


This side event, co-hosted by MarAlliance, OMIUP (for its acronym in Spanish, Organization of Indigenous Women United for Biodiversity of Panama), Northen Chumash Tribal Council, and National Ocean Protection Coalition, aims to advocate for the inclusion of Indigenous practices in the policy discourse on ocean conservation and highlight the value of centuries-old conservation practices.


The goal of this side event is to facilitate an interactive dialogue between Indigenous leaders and conference participants, and to advocate for the inclusion of traditional knowledge in conservation efforts, as the different Indigenous leaders will share their stories of how heritage has shaped their conservation values and ethics.


Their perspectives will be invaluable in further highlighting the importance of Indigenous stewardship and the role it plays in ocean conservation. In addition to international Indigenous leaders, we are proud to say that members of our team – who are part of the Indigenous communities we work collaboratively with in Panama -, will also participate as panelists. These include Hayro Cunampio, Community Officer from the Nazaret community in Darien, Yaily Castillo who is our Education and Outreach Officer from the Guna Yala Comarca, and Arcadio Castillo our Community Officer from the Guna Yala Comarca.


As conservation evolves, and access and inclusion become more of a priority, consideration, respect, and empowerment of Indigenous practices in the policy discourse on ocean conservation are essential. This event promises to be a unique opportunity to hear from Indigenous leaders about their experiences with traditional knowledge and stewardship and learn about the importance of incorporating these practices into conservation efforts.

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