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Dana Declaration
on Mobile Peoples and Conservation

Read the Dana Declaration below in English or download it in different languages.

We would like to encourage you to endorse the Dana Declaration by filling in the online endorsement form. Comments and questions about the Declaration are also welcome. 

 group of concerned professionals including social and natural scientists from all regions of the world met in Wadi Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan, 3-7 April 2002, to consider a comprehensive approach to mobile peoples [1] and conservation. At the end of this meeting, they agreed the following declaration.


The world faces unprecedented threats to the conservation and sustainable use of its biodiversity. At the same time, its cultural and linguistic diversity, which includes an immeasurable and irreplaceable range of knowledge and skills, is being lost at an alarming rate.

The linked pressures of human population dynamics, unsustainable consumption patterns, climate change and global and national economic forces threaten both the conservation of biological resources and the livelihoods of many indigenous and traditional peoples. In particular, mobile peoples now find themselves constrained by forces beyond their control, which put them at a special disadvantage.

Mobile peoples are discriminated against. Their rights, including rights of access to natural resources, are often denied and conventional conservation practices insufficiently address their concerns. These factors, together with the pace of global change, undermine their lifestyles, reduce their ability to live in balance with nature and threaten their very existence as distinct peoples.

Nonetheless, through their traditional resource use practices and culture-based respect for nature, many mobile peoples are still making a significant contribution to the maintenance of the earth’s ecosystems, species and genetic diversity – even though this often goes unrecognised. Thus the interests of mobile peoples and conservation converge, especially as they face a number of common challenges. There is therefore an urgent need to create a mutually reinforcing partnership between mobile peoples and those involved with conservation.

In the light of this understanding, we commit ourselves to promoting conservation practices based on the following principles:

Principle 1.
Rights and Empowerment

Conservation approaches with potential impact on mobile peoples and their natural resources must recognise mobile peoples’ rights, management responsibilities and capacities, and should lead to effective empowerment. These rights include:

  1. Human rights: civil, political, social, economic and cultural

  2. Land and resource rights, including those under customary law

  3. Cultural and intellectual property rights

  4. The right to full participation in decision-making and relevant negotiation processes at different levels

  5. The right to derive equitable benefits from any consumptive or non-consumptive use of local natural resources.

To this end, appropriate legislative reforms should be promoted as needed, at national and international levels. In addition, because mobile peoples often move through different territories, transboundary co-operation between national authorities may be required.

Recognition of mobile peoples' rights should lead to effective empowerment, and include consideration of gender and age.

Principle 2.
Trust and Respect

Beneficial partnerships between conservation interests and mobile peoples should be based upon mutual trust and respect and address the issue of discrimination against mobile peoples. To this end partnerships should:

  1. Be equitable

  2. Fully respect and acknowledge mobile peoples' institutions

  3. Balance the exercise of rights by all parties with the fulfilment of responsibilities

  4. Recognise and incorporate relevant customary law

  5. Promote the accountability of all parties in relation to the fulfilment of conservation objectives and the needs of mobile peoples.

Principle 3.
Different Knowledge Systems

In planning and implementing conservation of biodiversity with mobile peoples, there is a need to respect and incorporate their traditional knowledge and management practices. Given that no knowledge system is infallible, the complementary use of traditional and mainstream sciences is a valuable means of meeting the changing needs of mobile peoples and answering conservation dilemmas. In particular:

  1. Traditional and mainstream sciences and management practices should enter into dialogue on a basis of equal footing and involve two-way learning

  2. Traditional and mainstream sciences should be appropriately valued and their dynamic nature acknowledged.

Principle 4.
Adaptive Management

Conservation of biodiversity and natural resources within areas inhabited or used by mobile peoples requires the application of adaptive management approaches. Such approaches should build on traditional / existing cultural models and incorporate mobile peoples’ worldviews, aspirations and customary law. They should work towards the physical and cultural survival of mobile peoples and the long-term conservation of biodiversity.

More particularly, such adaptive management approaches should:

  1. Build on areas of common interest between the chosen lifestyles of mobile peoples and the conservation objective of sustainable resource management

  2. Allow for diversification of livelihoods, and ensure provision of a variety of benefits at all levels, including mobile services

  3. Recognise the diversity of systems of tenure and access to resources, including the customary sharing of resources

  4. Recognize and support the contributions made by mobile peoples to conserving and enhancing the genetic diversity of domesticated animals and plants

  5. Learn from the flexible management practices of mobile peoples to enrich conservation

  6. Develop conservation planning at a larger landscape scale, using the notion of mobility as a central concept, and incorporating both ecological and cultural perspectives.

Principle 5.
Collaborative Management

Adequate institutional structures for adaptive management should be based on the concept of equitable sharing of decision-making and management responsibilities between mobile peoples and conservation agencies. This is only possible if the existing decision-making mechanisms for biodiversity conservation become more democratic and transparent, so as to allow for the full and open participation of civil society and mobile peoples in particular, and for the establishment of co-management and self-management systems. This requires that the relevant parties:

  1. Develop processes and means that foster cross-cultural dialogue directed towards consensual decision-making

  2. Incorporate culturally appropriate conflict-management mechanisms and institutions

  3. Recognize the time-scale appropriate to cultural processes and the time required to build intercultural partnerships for adaptive management

  4. Foster locally agreed solutions to conservation problems

  5. Encourage diverse and pluralistic approaches to conservation planning and implementation

  6. Develop their capacities to enter into mutually beneficial partnerships.


This declaration is our contribution to narrowing the disciplinary divide. The ideas in it need to be tested, refined and further developed in dialogue with mobile peoples themselves and others. But these issues need to be considered urgently at national and international levels – and in particular at the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development and the World Parks Congress.

Parties to the Declaration

Alejandro Argumedo

Asociacion Quechua-Aymara ANDES, Indigenous Peoples' Biodiversity Network (IPBN), Peru

Richard Baker

School of Resources, Environment and Society, Australian National University, Australia

Ahmed Belal

UNESCO ECOTECHNE Chair, South Valley University, Egypt

Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend

Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, IUCN – The World Conservation Union

Geraldine Chatelard

European University Institute, Florence, Italy

Dawn Chatty

Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Marcus Colchester

Forest Peoples Programme, United Kingdom

Christo Fabricius

Environmental Science Programme, Rhodes University, South Africa

Patricia Feeney

Rights and Accountability in Development- RAID, United Kingdom

Graham Griffin

Centre for Arid Zone Research, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia

Margaret Jacobsohn

Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, Namibia

Chris Johnson

Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, Jordan

Ilse Köhler-Rollefson

League for Pastoral Peoples, India

Terrence McCabe

Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, USA

Jeff McNeely

IUCN - The World Conservation Union

Helen Newing

Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent at Canterbury, United Kingdom

Gonzalo Oviedo

International Consultant on People and Conservation

Garth Owen-Smith

Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, Namibia

Adrian Phillips

Former Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas of IUCN

Mohammad Qawabah

Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, Jordan

Flavien Rebara

Worldwide Fund for Nature – WWF, Madagascar

Alan Rowe

Department of Geography, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

Sabine Schmidt

GTZ, Project Nature Conservation and Bufferzone Development, Mongolia

Irina Springuel

UNESCO ECOTECHNE Chair, South Valley University, Egypt

Nick Turvey

Documentary Film-maker, United Kingdom

Reed Wadley

Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri at Columbia, USA

[1] By mobile peoples, we mean a subset of indigenous and traditional peoples whose livelihoods depend on extensive common property use of natural resources over an area, who use mobility as a management strategy for dealing with sustainable use and conservation, and who possess a distinctive cultural identity and natural resource management system.

The Dana Declaration Committee fully endorses the rights of indigenous peoples as set out in the United Nations draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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