“ICCA" is an abbreviation for territories and areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities. ICCAs achieve conservation of species and the natural environment, together with other social and cultural objectives.

ICCAs share the following three characteristics:

  1. A people or community is closely connected to a well-defined territory, area or species (e.g., because of survival and dependence for livelihood, because of historical and cultural reasons);
  2. The community is the major player in decision-making (governance) and implementation regarding the management of the territory, area or species, implying that a community institution has the capacity to develop and enforce regulations; (in many situations other stakeholders are involved, but primary decision-making rests de facto with the community);
  3. The community management decisions and efforts lead to the conservation of the territory, area or species and associated cultural values (the conscious objective of management may be different than conservation per se, and be, for instance, related to material livelihood, water security, safeguarding of cultural and spiritual places, etc.)

Beyond these shared characteristics, ICCAs are very diverse. Some examples include indigenous territories, indigenous protected areas, cultural land- and seascapes, sacred natural sites, migration routes of mobile indigenous peoples, bio-cultural heritage territories, sustainable resource reserves, and community-managed areas.

Are ICCAs protected areas?

ICCAs may or may not meet the IUCN definition of a protected area. A growing number of those that meet the definition are being listed in the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA).

At the national level, ICCAs are sometimes recognised by the government as protected areas, and sometimes not. They may be also be recognised in other ways, such as through customary law.

How many ICCAs are there and what is their extent?

No one knows how many ICCAs there are. The ICCA Registry and Protected Planet are helping to answer this question. Estimates suggest that ICCAs may cover an equal or greater area than government-designated protected areas. This means that ICCAs complement other protected areas by filling in gaps, connecting habitats, and conserving species that live outside formally protected areas.