Indigenous peoples’ rights recognised in a joint declaration by Asian ecotourism bodies

KAOHSIUNG, TAIWAN -- SEPTEMBER 29, 2018: Members of the indigenous Amis tribe in traditional costumes participate in the yearly harvest festival. - Image

The Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN) and Taiwan Ecotourism Association (TEA) have signed a joint declaration outlining the judicious management of indigenous peoples while reaping benefits for the ecotourism industry and communities alike.

The two organisations came together to carve out a set of sustainability principles on which mountain ecotourism can be built. This was at the end of AEN members’ five-day visit to central Taiwan, where the last three days were spent on inspecting indigenous villages and tourism offerings in the popular Alishan mountains.

Members of the indigenous Amis tribe participating in the yearly harvest festival in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Masaru Takayama, chairperson of AEN, said association members will refer to the declaration as part of the “compulsory standards” as they engage in sustainable tourism.

“A lot of times, nature-based activities can overlap with the ancestral land of the indigenous communities. We find it vital to share the benefits and foster mutual respect when practising any types of tourism,” explained Takayama.

The AEN delegation comprised board and ordinary members from 12 countries including Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan.

Speakers from these countries addressed attendees of the inaugural AEN Taiwan Conference themed Mountain Ecotourism and Indigenous People, held at the Chukou Visitor Centre in Alishan National Scenic Area Administration on January 19, 2019.

“It has been a great opportunity for AEN to ponder upon the issues related to mountain ecotourism and indigenous people. Asia is known for its biodiversity but at the same time we also embrace diversity in human races, ethnicity, culture, etc.,” said Takayama.

“We hope that other practitioners will also embrace the declaration to ensure our assets be passed on to the generations to come,” he added.

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