Indigenous peoples have crucial role in climate change debate – UN forum

5 May 2008 –

Indigenous peoples have an important role to play in the global response to climate change, given their knowledge and experience with impacts of the phenomenon, and should be included in the international debate on the issue, a United Nations gathering on indigenous affairs concluded.

Climate change was the special focus of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which wrapped up its seventh session in New York on 2 May.

In one of nine texts approved by the 16-member body, a subsidiary of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Forum recommended that the international community take serious measures to mitigate climate change, as the survival of the traditional ways of life of indigenous peoples depended in large part on the success of those efforts.

The Forum stressed that indigenous peoples’ traditional livelihoods and ecological knowledge can significantly contribute to designing and implementing appropriate and sustainable mitigation and adaptation measures.

In addition, it recommended that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and relevant parties develop mechanisms to allow the participation of indigenous peoples in the global debate on the issue, particularly the forthcoming negotiations on a new global climate change agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol – set to expire in 2012.

A working group on local adaptation measures and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples should be established, the Forum added.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the Forum’s Chairperson, noted that although indigenous peoples were among those most directly affected by climate change, they had largely been kept out of the international dialogue on the issue despite their historical role in resisting oil, gas and coal exploitation and their practice of using their lands, air and forests in sustainable ways, not in pursuit of “giant profits.”

She added that in moving forward, corporations, as well as States, must be guided by the standards set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Adopted by the General Assembly last September, the document sets out the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues, and outlaws discrimination against them.

The Forum, which drew the participation of some 3,300 delegates from around the world, also addressed issues such as indigenous peoples in the Pacific region and indigenous languages during its just concluded session.


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