CCI Decolonising Conservation symposium marks a step forward in tackling deep-rooted challenge

20th December 2022

There was no doubting the enormity of the task at hand when individuals from across the CCI partnership came together last week to discuss decolonising conservation. But there was undeniably a strong sense of commitment to change too, present in the determination and openness which delegates brought to the discussions. Planned by a collaborative group of representatives from all the CCI partners, the event had three key aims:

  1. Explore different perspectives on what it might mean to decolonise conservation;
  2. Share and discuss possible approaches to decolonising conservation, drawing on individual and collective experiences;
  3. Identify potential actions that we could take, collectively, individually or through our organisations.

Creating a ‘safe space’ was essential for generating honest and open discussions. Proceedings were therefore conducted under the Chatham House rule.  The meeting included expert inputs from three external presenters, each followed by plenty of space for discussion in breakout groups. Facilitation was provided by Pippa Heylings (Talking Transformations) and a team of current Masters in Conservation Leadership students: Daniel Arauz-Naranjo, Bupe Banda, Albina Mamedova, Mira Margaretha, Nobuhle Ndlovu and Rasima Sabzalieva.

Numbers were limited to ensure there was in depth and meaningful exchanges of ideas, with each CCI partner selecting four people to attend, covering a range of seniority in the organisation and representing a diverse set of voices. With a packed agenda covering topics such as ‘definitions’ and ‘experiences’ the discussions were lively, sometimes emotional and invariably absorbing.

Delegates and the symposium organisers left the meeting with agreement that this was the beginning of a process and not the end, and a firm commitment to  take follow up steps in the new year. This is likely to include the creation of a Working Group across CCI and a future meeting that will include a wider range of participants including some from outside our own organisations. Further details of next steps will be shared with the CCI community as soon as possible.

The Decolonising Conservation symposium was co-organised by Fleur Nash (Geography), Liana Chua (Social Anthropology) & Chris Sandbrook (Geography)  from the University of Cambridge, together with a wider organising committee that included representation from every CCI partner organisation.