Why conservationists should be concerned about natural resource legislation affecting indigenous peoples’ rights: lessons from Peninsular Malaysia
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- Aziz, S.A., Clements, G.R., Rayan, D.M. et al. Biodivers Conserv (2013) 22: 639. doi:10.1007/s10531-013-0432-5
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For conservation to be effective in forests with indigenous peoples, there needs to be greater recognition of indigenous customary rights, particularly with regards to their use of natural resources. Ideally, legislation regulating the use of natural resources should include provisions for the needs of both indigenous peoples and biodiversity. In reality, however, legislative weaknesses often exist and these can result in negative impacts, either on indigenous peoples’ livelihoods, their surrounding biodiversity, or both. Here, our case study demonstrates why conservationists need to pay greater attention to natural resource legislation affecting indigenous peoples’ rights. Apart from examining relevant laws for ambiguities that may negatively affect biodiversity and livelihoods of indigenous people in Peninsular Malaysia (known as the Orang Asli), we also provide supporting information on actual resource use based on questionnaire surveys. In order to address these ambiguities, we propose possible legislative reconciliation to encourage policy reform. Although there are positive examples of conservationists elsewhere adopting a more inclusive and participatory approach by considering the needs of indigenous peoples, greater recognition must be afforded to land and indigenous rights within natural resource laws for the benefit of indigenous peoples and biodiversity.