Protecting Nature and Culture: Enhancing Legal Frameworks for the Conservation of Heritage in the Pacific

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It is well recognized that for Pacific Island peoples, nature and culture are inextricably linked. The protection of the natural environment and biodiversity, for example, are essential for the maintenance of traditional and contemporary lifestyles and cultures. Conversely, many aspects of Pacific intangible heritage, including traditional knowledge, are inherently associated with natural resources. Therefore, in this context, the protection of nature and culture cannot be separated. More broadly, the preservation of the unique biological and cultural diversity of this region is of importance for all people. The significance extends beyond ensuring cultural integrity and environmental health to providing a possible avenue for sustainable economic development for the people of the region. The prospects and challenges in this regard are illustrated, for example, by tourism. Tourism can assist the conservation of both nature and culture by raising awareness, providing valuable livelihood options, and incentivizing protection efforts, but it is not without risks. Therefore, appropriate legal frameworks are essential to facilitate enhanced protection, mitigate threats, and guide best practice management. While most Pacific Island nations have adopted environmental laws, specific legal regimes for the safeguarding of intangible heritage are less common. In circumstances where many natural and cultural resources are in the hands of local villages, community-based frameworks are arguably the most appropriate. This article explores how heritage law and policy and environmental law can enhance the protection of traditional knowledge in the Pacific. The obstacles, opportunities, and options are analyzed as well as how more integrated protection of nature and culture can be facilitated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-58
JournalPacific Studies
Issue number1 & 2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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