Indigenous peoples live in some of the world’s most biologically diverse areas and, in their traditional stewardship role, have accumulated deep knowledge of the environment. They also have first-hand experience of environmental degradation attributed to climate change, and its economic and social consequences. With Arctic warming, rising sea levels in the Pacific, and desertification in the Sahel, the livelihoods and way of life of indigenous peoples are under threat.
With their close insight into the workings of local ecosystems, indigenous peoples should play an active role in the global response to climate change. In addition to knowledge of weather patterns, lessons may be learned about agricultural methods, exploitation of alternative food sources, and preservation of freshwater resources.
DESA houses the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. At its 2008 session, the Forum will focus on climate change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods. Experts will discuss the stewardship role of indigenous peoples, the new challenges they face, and will then advise the Economic and Social Council accordingly.