On March 14, 2023, Paige West, Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, published new co-authored research in Oryx, titled “Reimagining conservation practice: Indigenous self-determination and collaboration in Papua New Guinea.” The paper examines the 14-year collaboration between the Indigenous NGO Ailan Awareness and Indigenous scientists and researchers in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea.
Ailan Awareness is a locally founded and managed NGO that focuses on strengthening Indigenous sovereignty regarding biological, cultural, and spiritual diversity as well as fostering Indigenous epistemology practices. In partnership with Paige West, the NGO and its founder John Aini have designed an approach to marine conservation informed by the growing field of decolonial research practices. In the article, West and her colleagues analyze the unique methodology used by Ailan Awareness and the history of collaboration that resulted in these methods. The researchers assert that by working to empower coastal communities to make decisions about their marine and cultural resources, Ailan Awareness addresses a major gap in the efforts of the national government and international NGOs: giving the people most directly affected by declining biodiversity and loss of tradition the support and tools required to design and carry out the strengthening of both biological diversity and traditional social practices.