Indigenous peoples call for historic transformations in economic, cultural, political and social relations to address the climate crisis affecting the world

 

By
Helen Tugendhat

Indigenous peoples call for historic transformations in economic, cultural, political and social relations to address the climate crisis affecting the world

In Bangkok between 28 September and 9 October negotiators have gathered again to try to come one step closer to an agreement in Copenhagen in December this year on how to combat climate change. Indigenous peoples are calling on parties to transcend traditional boundaries and create climate change agreements and plans that embrace the diversity and the knowledge and wisdom of all the world's peoples.

Indigenous peoples' representatives have been involved in monitoring and advising the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since the International Indigenous Peoples' Forum on Climate Change was established in 2000. Through this body indigenous peoples have urged Parties to take effective steps to address climate change by providing specific proposals, research, information, alternative perspectives and advice into every area of the negotiations for almost ten years.

One consistent demand that has echoed through these ten years has been indigenous peoples' request to be provided with formal recognition within the UNFCCC process. As part of this request for representation and recognition, indigenous peoples have been calling for the establishment of, inter alia, an Expert Group on Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples, an ad hoc Working Group on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change, and an Intergovernmental Contact Group on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change.

Now as the pressure mounts for agreements to be found in Copenhagen at the end of the year, indigenous peoples are using Bangkok as a platform to advance some of their most important demands. These demands and policy proposals rest on consultation processes held throughout the world and on the deliberations of the Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change and the resulting 'Anchorage Declaration'.

In particular, indigenous peoples are repeating their demands from earlier in these negotiations that the discussions between state parties must be held in relation to, and in compliance with, international laws protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. In particular, this encompasses the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the foremost international statement on the human rights of indigenous peoples.

Indigenous peoples are seeking to highlight to the parties the historic and continuing contribution that indigenous peoples have and are making to the maintenance of healthy ecosystems.

Indigenous and traditional knowledge have much to offer the rest of the world in managing fragile ecosystems, adapting to changes in the environment and climate and in mitigating or avoiding the loss of forests and other ecosystems. Respect for such knowledge, and the innovations and practices expressing it, is essential for any future agreements to fully respect and involve indigenous peoples.

In addition, indigenous peoples are seeking to highlight the need to secure indigenous peoples' tenure over customary territories and resources - a necessary pre-condition for any effective protection of these resources for the good of the world.

For all and any activities or actions proposed on, or affecting, the territories and resources of indigenous peoples it is essential that the free, prior and informed consent of the concerned peoples is sought and obtained. Any action, including those actions proposed under reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) must ONLY take place with such consent obtained. REDD actions undertaken without full respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and without their free, prior and informed consent have been rejected by indigenous peoples in the Anchorage Declaration and in other fora.

See the link (right) for the final policy proposals of the International Indigenous Forum on Climate Change prepared for the September/October Bangkok meetings.

By
Helen Tugendhat