Socio-Ecological Heritization of ICCAs in Spain and Morocco

Proyecto EXPLORA CSO2015-72607-EXP, 78.500€, 2017-2019, Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, España

Introduction, state-of-the-art, objectives and overview of the action

The alliance between the natural and social sciences has proven to be a successful analytical approach to understand and conserve ecosystems while seeing humans as one of their key agents (1971 Man and the Biosphere Programme, 1972 Stockholm Declaration, 1992 Rio Conference, Earth summit 2002, Rio+20). In this context, authors from various fields of expertise have stressed the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Territories and Areas (often referred to as commons, hereafter ICCAs: vis-à-vis local communities’ well-being, their socio-ecological resilience and the conservation of biodiversity. It has been demonstrated that community “bottom-up” approaches can successfully contribute to such goals, and analysts have highlighted the need to integrate ICCAs into strategies of global environmental conservation and human development. In fact, ICCAs are defined by the main international organizations, policies and programmes as key drivers for local livelihoods and the protection of nature, since they are central in ensuring the well-being of millions of people and the conservation of about one third of the global terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems including Europe.

Despite the growing acknowledgment of ICCAs and other commons by human and political ecologists, as well as more than two decades of rising awareness from civil groups and international organizations, today ICCAs and the bio-cultural diversity they promote are experiencing a rapid process of degradation. Addressing such phenomena is crucial for Europe also because ICCA degradation contributes to the current mass migration from developing countries. Hence, although ICCAs should not be regarded as a universal regime for environmental conservation or human development, their proved interest and their massive presence in rural areas (ICCAs can be counted by millions within Europe and the Mediterranean region), justify the need for research and action to put a halt to the increasing degradation of ICCAs.

Among other factors such as demographic growth, market integration, cultural globalization or climate change, it can be argued that at the root of these processes of decline there is also a strong communication gap at the science-policy interface, which in effect encourages the undervaluing and undermining of ICCAs. Without appropriate intermediation and evaluation between traditional socio-ecological systems and state institutions, the facts established by scientists are too often translated by decision-makers into doubts and used as excuses to avoid action, particularly in developing countries. One way to politically reinforce ICCAs is through the processes of heritization. The concept of heritage is defined here as a set of tangible and intangible cultural and natural elements transmitted through generations and focused on a stakeholder (an individual or a community) that helps to sustain it while developing its identity and autonomy through adaptation in time and space. Heritization is thus regarded as a process through which inherited natural and cultural values are acknowledged at local, national and international levels.

Although this research approach is now emerging, and developing quickly in the Mediterranean region (e.g., its application to ICCAs is practically non-existent. Yet, such communal management holds important potential in terms of heritage conservation and development as this type of management has proven to be recoverable directly by local populations and administrators. An example of this could be the association of ICCAs with local products, tourism, landscapes, conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services or risk management. In this sense, the lack of research to date on the intersection of these two objects, ICCAs and heritization, is astonishing and hence, makes this proposal original and unique, as it is situated at a real frontier of new knowledge.