|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES MUST BE INCLUDED IN GLOBAL NEGOTIATIONS AIMED
AT COMBATING CLIMATE CHANGE, SAY SPEAKERS IN PERMANENT FORUM
Delegates Stress Indigenous Voices Now Excluded from Process,
Some Proposed Solutions Could Have Disastrous Impact on Their Communities
As the seventh session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues entered its second day, dozens of delegates took the floor to point out that indigenous peoples must have a say in negotiations on how to combat global climate change, because solutions currently being implemented were turning out to be further violations of indigenous rights.
A speaker representing the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forest, International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change, told the Forum that many policies proposed as solutions, such as carbon trading, were potential disasters for indigenous people. Territories and resources were threatened, along with basic rights. The voice of indigenous peoples must be considered in the building of the overall framework of approaches, and all actors should cooperate on capacity-building to meet the demands of addressing climate change.
A speaker for Caucus Indigena de Latinoamerica said the industrialized countries were responsible for global climate change with their wastefulness and over-consumption, and it was unacceptable that they would make decisions on how to control climate change without consulting indigenous peoples. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples contained recommendations on how to address climate change and they should be immediately implemented.
Many indigenous peoples in the Pacific region had been forced to leave their lands, a representative of the Pacific Caucus said. The immense coastline made it particularly vulnerable to tidal surges and other consequences of global warming. Worse, the Clean Development Mechanisms Fund of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change had financed projects that had caused the deaths of indigenous peoples, who had refused to relinquish their territories. The hubris of industrialized nations was also of concern. They urged emissions reductions in developing countries as a precondition for taking responsibility for carbon emissions at home. Indigenous peoples must be integrated into climate change forums as valued stakeholders and experts.
The Chief of the Haudenosaonee, Six Nations, pointed out that today was Earth Day. He said indigenous people spoke in defence of the natural world and said that humans were bound by the laws of nature. In 1978, an indigenous runner from Greenland had informed the United Nations that ice was melting in the north. That same message was being delivered today, with positive options at a late date. There was little time left to arrest global warming. The industrialized world must place a cap on carbon and it was up to States to rein in and regulate corporate power.
Among presentations made by Governments today, Ecuador’s Minister of Indigenous Issues said her Government would be developing a project that would impact on the environment, but would also bring development to thousands of people. The world community would be asked to contribute $5 per barrel towards the cause of preserving biodiversity. The Governments with indigenous peoples in their populations must consider it their responsibility to insure that indigenous peoples were included in decisions affecting them, which meant that Governments must build societies that were more sustainable, equitable and inclusive.
Other representatives of Governments speaking today were the Assistant Deputy Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs of Canada and the Vice-Minister of Communitarian Justice of Bolivia.
The Governor of the Amazon State, Venezuela, delivered a statement, as did officials on behalf of the National Corporation on Indigenous Development in the Ministry of Planning of Chile and on behalf of Australia’s Indigenous Land Corporation.
A Member of Parliament from Denmark delivered a statement, alongside parliamentarians from Parlamento Indigena de America and the Saami Parliamentary Council, Norway.
The representatives of Spain, Brazil, Cameroon, Philippines, Guyana and Suriname also spoke.
In an ongoing dialogue among agencies, Governments and delegates, two forum members called for consideration of the extent to which the Convention on Indigenous Rights adopted last year was legally binding on signatories. Four Forum members yesterday had noted that agencies involved in indigenous affairs often overlooked gaps in assistance provided and that left indigenous people without coverage by any agency. It had also been pointed out that only Bolivia had ratified the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples the Assembly had adopted last year.
Delivering statements were members of the following indigenous caucuses: Global Indigenous Caucus; Indigenous Women’s Caucus; Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, North America Region; Arctic Caucus; African Caucus; Asia Caucus; Indigenous Youth Caucus; Caribbean Caucus; and Australian Aboriginal Caucus.
Joint statements were delivered on behalf of: ONIC, CECOIN, Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu, Foundation for Research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea, AIPYN, Tuvalu Climate Action Network, Eagle Clan Arawaks, Sima Masai Outreach Organization, AMWAE, United Confederation of Taine People, Sinyatt Youth Association, Masai Women for Education and Economic Development, Centre d’Accompagnement des Autochtones Pygmées et minorités vulnérables, Conseil National des Concertations des jeunes autochtone de la République Démocratique Congo, Indigenous Environmental Network, CORE, Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, Federation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Alliance of Asia, Western Shoshone Defense Project, International Indian Treaty Council, Cabildo Wayuu Nouna, and Asociacion Indigena Ambiental.
Other statements were delivered on behalf of the Centre for Organization, Research and Education, Dooda Desert Rock, Kipam, Apache Women, CEDHUNG, Mikisew Cree First Nation, Advocate for the Protection of Sacred Rites, Federation of Indigenous Tribal People of Asia, India Confederation of Indigenous Tribal People, Land is Life, Indigenous Peoples and Nations of Ecuador in America, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Land, Sustainable Energy-Economy Network, Consejo Indigena Mesoamericano and Fundacion Para la Promocion del Conocimiento Indigena.
Statements on behalf of the following were also heard: International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change; Buffalo River Dene Nation; Maya Vision; Lipan Apache Women’s Defense; Ribert Menchu Fund; Flying Eagle Women Fund; Indigenous Environmental Network; First Peoples Human Rights Coalition; Bangsa Adat Alifuru; Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantar; Chin Human Rights; PACOS, Cordillera Peoples Alliance; NGO Forum Cambodia; Kalumaran-Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao; Shimin Gauko Centre; CALPI; USP; Accion Ecologica; CEDIS; CJIRA; Uk’Ux B’e; Kus; Kura; Jentzera; and Hawaii and Pacific Northwest Indigenous World Association.
Other groups delivering statements were the Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network, Kitchenahmay Koosib, Inninuwug, Indigenous Network on Economics and Trade, Treaty 6 in Canada, Indigenous Environment Network, BC First Nations Summit, Chiefs of Ontario, Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake and Assembly of First Nations, Mi’k maq Grand Council, Mi’k maq of Canada and the United States, and Native Women’s Association in Canada.
The Forum will continue its debate at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, 23 April.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues today continued its seventh annual two-week session with a focus on the stewardship role of indigenous people in relation to climate change. (For background, see Press Releases HR/4943 issued 18 April and HR/4944 issued 21 April.)
ISABEL ORTEGA VENTURA, Parlamento Indigena de America, said higher levels of greenhouse gases had increased the occurrence of natural disasters, affecting indigenous peoples by harming their economies. Indigenous peoples suffered the effects of climate change more than multinationals and industrialists, seeing their biodiversity and ways of life altered permanently. Indigenous peoples were committed to self-determination over the territories and ecosystems that their ancestors had preserved for thousands of years.
She said indigenous lawmakers must play an active part in developing laws to protect their lands, and to help plan and assess industrial activities. Developed countries must develop strategies to lessen the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The system for preserving natural resources must refer to the rich knowledge already possessed by indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples were the best alternative for countering climate change and restoring an ecological balance. Also, developed countries must pay reparations for the damage they had caused to the environment. There must be a global plan to recover the “environmental balance”, with the participation of indigenous peoples.
CARMEN RAMIREZ BOSCAN, of the Global Indigenous Caucus, said the United Nations system should recognize the critical importance of the effects of climate change on human rights. The world community should pay attention to the Declaration that set out the degree of the threat climate change presented to the survival of indigenous peoples. The world community and the United Nations system must make sure that indigenous peoples were guaranteed the free use of their traditional lands and that they were allowed to continue the traditional practices that were threatened by global climate change.
BENJAMIN POWLESS, also of the Global Indigenous Caucus, said the policies of financial institutions continued to be based on principles that threatened the environment and the existence of indigenous peoples. Instead of ensuring the welfare and development of indigenous peoples, they have furthered the violation of their rights. They had ignored the wisdom of indigenous peoples, who knew that “if we take care of our land, it will take care of us”. The world must take steps to prevent further acceleration of climate change by developing respect for the world. The Forum should begin collecting best practices and models and the final document of the current session should call for urgent action by all, including the Security Council, to address global climate change as the serious threat it posed to international peace and security. Indigenous peoples had no time to lose. Their very existence was threatened.
FIU ELISARA, Pacific Caucus, said indigenous peoples saw the negative effects of climate change on land and marine resources as a matter of life and death. Many had been forced to leave their lands, even if, as sovereign peoples, they had a right to exist as peoples according to the United Nations Charter. The immense coastline in the Pacific region made it particularly vulnerable to tidal surges and other consequences of global warming. Mainstay food sources, such as sugarcane, yams, taro, banana and cassava were being lost to extreme temperature changes. Potable water sources were being inundated by sea water.
He said dealing with the effect of climate change would prove expensive, and as such, it would be better to act preventively. Not only that, the Clean Development Mechanisms Fund of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) had financed projects that had caused the deaths of indigenous peoples who refused to relinquish their territories for those purposes. Indigenous peoples were concerned by the hubris of industrialized nations, who promoted emissions reductions in developing countries as a precondition for taking responsibility for carbon emissions at home. They must demonstrate leadership by reducing emissions within their own borders through deep and hard targets.
He said the Pacific Caucus recommended that indigenous peoples be integrated into climate change forums as valued stakeholders and experts. The Forum must undertake, in conjunction with other human rights mechanisms, to study the ways to align climate change strategies and projects with indigenous peoples’ rights. The Forum must also actively participate in forthcoming Climate Change Convention processes, while acting in partnership with the secretariats of the Convention on Climate Change and Biodiversity to provide financial support to developing countries, so they can address climate change without diverting funds needed for development purposes.
YOLANDA TERAN, of the Indigenous Women’s Caucus, said the polluter countries must take responsibility for their share of the harm that climate change had brought to indigenous peoples’ lives. The indigenous peoples knew the solution to climate change. It was found in measures that protected traditional knowledge systems and models of development that led to sustainability, rather than exploitation. The Declaration offered concrete steps that would result in effective solutions to climate change as alternatives to the present solutions that were market-based. The systems of carbon-trading, for example, were troubling both ethically and practically. The promotion of genetically modified trees, crops and other life forms was extremely harmful, as was deforestation.
She said her group had many specific recommendations, starting with the call for all States to implement the Declaration. The United Nations system should support reclamation of traditional practices and laws leading to global solutions to address climate change. A global moratorium should be called on genetically modified plants and animals and on the exploration and excavation of fossil fuels. Also, an expert workshop on the right to water should be held.
ANDREA CARMEN, Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, North America Region, said the impact of climate change was being felt by Native Americans through the disappearance of subsistence foods and game. Inland watertables were diminishing, ice caps were melting, and warming temperatures brought about new diseases. As such, the growing impact of climate change -- and the unsustainable development activities that caused it -- was in violation of the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination and an entire range of other fundamental rights.
She said State Governments were failing to respond adequately, often creating more problems than they solved. The full participation of indigenous peoples in the ongoing dialogue on climate change, and in developing policy, was essential to addressing the diverse consequences of climate change. Solutions must take a rights-based approach. Projects, programmes and initiatives of local communities, many of which were based on traditional knowledge, must be given adequate support by Governments. The importance of treaty rights should be highlighted in those discussions.
She said the world must institute a new energy economy that respected the natural world, and industrialized countries, such as Canada and the United States, must adopt stringent emissions reduction plans. There must also be a moratorium on the new exploration of oil, natural gas and coal in and near indigenous lands, while upholding the right to prior consent and self-determination enshrined in the relevant human rights documents. Carbon trading had turned the Earth into a commodity, while strategies such as the “Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation” (REDD) initiative, biofuel production and others, had contributed to environmental degradation. The Forum should request the Economic and Social Council and the Human Rights Council to conduct a thematic debate on the subject, and should meet with the Climate Change Convention secretariat to establish formal relations. Best practices should be compiled, so that the Forum and others might use it as a resource.
AZELENE KAINGANG, Caucus Indigena de Latinoamerica, said the industrialized countries were responsible for global climate change, with their wastefulness and over-consumption. The poor countries should not be blamed for the ills produced by those with unbridled consumption. Furthermore, it was unacceptable that those wasteful countries, who were party to the Kyoto Protocol, should make decisions on how to control climate change without consulting indigenous peoples. States and United Nations agencies should adopt the recommendations in the Declaration to address climate change and there should be immediate implementation. Further, States must be urged to ensure the full and effective participation of all peoples in processes that affected them. Governments should be urged to require corporations to get free prior consent with all the cautionary conditions. They should also control deforestation.
PATRICIA COCHRAN, Arctic Caucus, said the Forum had much to offer in terms of concrete proposals for coping and adapting to climate change. Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge and other knowledge systems were invaluable and she hoped the United Nations would agree to use them in its processes. By hosting the climate change summit, the Secretary-General was, in effect, calling on all Members and United Nations agencies to consider the cause as a matter of top priority. She noted the closed-door environment that prevailed in numerous meetings of the Climate Change Convention, including those concerning the creation of Kyoto Protocol, and called on the United Nations to open those processes.
She stressed the connectivity between peoples, saying that the people of the islands, mountains, rainforests and deserts would soon enough experience the effects being felt by Arctic peoples. Yet, in planning mitigation strategies, the world needed to be cautious. Many indigenous peoples had borne the brunt of misguided mitigation measures. For example, hydropower plants had flooded lands; geothermal plants had displaced sacred sites; and the growing popularity of nuclear power meant that plants would be built on indigenous lands and uranium mining conducted near indigenous settlements.
She requested that each United Nations agency develop a special Arctic focal point, and that the Climate Change Convention create an indigenous peoples’ seat. United Nations Member States and agencies should develop a screening mechanism to study the effects of mitigation projects on the indigenous peoples within their borders.
KANYINKE SENA, of the African Caucus, said climatic changes were causing problems for African societies, but indigenous peoples there were concerned that they would have to pay the price for a problem they’d had no role in creating. They were also concerned that present prescriptions for a solution to climate change would not work -- but would work as reasons to further deny indigenous peoples their rights. The solution to deforestation, for example, was not any of the proposed mechanisms. Rather, it lay in the recognition of land tenure for forest communities.
There are a number of steps the Forum should take to reverse the direction on control of climate change, she said. It should urge Governments to recognize the expertise of indigenous peoples on climate change. It should make sure that indigenous peoples from Africa were involved in processes, research and decisions on climate change and in climate change processes. And finally, the Forum should urge African states to urgently formally recognize indigenous peoples, their cultures and their traditional ecological systems.
KITTISAK RATTANAKRAJANGSRI, Asia Caucus, expressed concern at the recently adopted programme on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) at the climate change meeting in Bali. In general, Government policies relating to climate change, environment and development lacked clarity and contained contradictions. Indigenous peoples’ rights were not given enough emphasis and their free prior informed consent had not been sought for development projects. In some cases, existing legislation was watered down to accommodate the interest of the private sector and those with vested interests.
He said initiatives to tackle climate change should include indigenous decision-makers. The Forum should form a committee to study the effects of climate change on indigenous peoples, in order to identify both good and bad mitigation and adaptation schemes put forward by the Climate Change Convention. An in-depth analysis should also be conducted on food security, and the expansion of biofuels should be reviewed. The principle of obtaining the free prior informed consent of indigenous peoples must be upheld in any project relating to mitigation and adaptation schemes. Projects already being undertaken by indigenous peoples -- such as building windmills -- should be given due financial support and replicated by others. In addition to liaising more frequently with the Climate Change Convention, the Forum should engage with the Human Rights Council to monitor the impact of climate change mitigation and adaptation on indigenous peoples.
SKY SCHOLFIELD, Indigenous Youth Caucus, said the entire United Nations system, including the Security Council, should use its influence to address the effect of climate change on the rights of indigenous peoples. It should ensure that there was no new fossil fuel development on indigenous peoples’ land and it should get the message across that assistance to correct the problem now was exponentially less than it would be if the problem were not corrected now. On behalf of previous indigenous youth caucuses, a permanent youth component should be established within the Forum to help facilitate youth involvement in its activities. The Forum should also call for full implementation of the Declaration by all countries of the world. While it was possible that restrictive legislation on pollutants could not be enacted in all situations, the solutions adopted to decrease the causes of climate change should be aimed to prevent further degradation, instead of merely taking care of surface problems. The solutions should also centre on reducing the need for energy.
LUIS EVELIS ANDRADE CASAMA, speaking on behalf of ONIC, CECOIN, Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu, said paramilitary groups in Colombia had been responsible for displacing indigenous peoples at the behest of the Government. The Government had sanctioned laws aimed at legalizing the exploitation of natural resources on indigenous lands, in violation of the prior informed consent rule. The Government’s mining code contained close to no environmental standards. Also, the practice of using land to grow “monocrops” posed a serious risk to mankind by jeopardizing the ecosystem and resulting in deforestation on a massive scale. Among the consequences of such new farming practices was loss of forest species, heating of water, sedimentation and changing the course of rivers.
He said the arrival of paramilitary troops on indigenous lands had been accompanied by killings and abductions. Pastoral activities were being hampered and sacred burial grounds disturbed. He urged the Forum and the United Nations system to ensure that further discussions on climate change take a new tack. Governments must change their industrial practices in favour of saving Mother Nature, and indigenous peoples should be actively present when decisions were being made on issues affecting them. Meanwhile, she urged those who had refused to sign pacts and protocols on climate change to accede to them as quickly as possible.
CARIB CALINGAGO CHIEF CHARLES WILLIAMS from the Island of Waitikubuli, Dominica, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Caucus, said that his country was being promoted as the Natural Island of the Caribbean. The country’s indigenous peoples occupied one and a half square miles of an island comprised of 300 square miles. That was all that was left of the ancestral stronghold on that island, while the region itself had been named for its indigenous peoples.
He said the situation of climate change was not caused by the world’s indigenous peoples, but by greed for wealth and power. Bolivia’s President had put the situation into the right context. In every country of the world, indigenous peoples were forced into the most remote areas. When faced with disaster, indigenous people suffered the most since they had no access to capital and did not live in selected areas where adequate shelters could be built. Climate change was a reality, however. It affected rich and poor, weak and powerful. All suffered from its effects. The voice of the indigenous peoples should be heeded -- respect Mother Earth and support protective measures against climate change.
ADAN ALARCON, spoke on behalf of the Foundation for Research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea, AIPYN, Tuvalu Climate Action Network, Eagle Clan Arawaks, Sima Masai Outreach Organization, AMWAE, United Confederation of Taine People, Sinyatt Youth Association, and the Masai Women for Education and Economic Development. He reiterated the belief that indigenous peoples knew how to live in harmony with Mother Earth. Their expertise should be sought more often by those that crafted climate change mitigation schemes. The carbon trading system now being practiced had the adverse effect of encouraging emissions to continue, rather than recede. Meanwhile, the decision to grow biofuels had led to environmental degradation and displaced entire communities, including indigenous peoples.
He asked that the Climate Change Convention include indigenous peoples at the negotiating table on equal footing with States, so that they might share their knowledge. When drawing up discussion on climate change, both indigenous and non-indigenous experts should be consulted. Indigenous peoples should be given direct access to the adaptation fund. The implementation of the rights of indigenous people, as approved by the United Nations General Assembly, should be applied as a minimum standard when creating mitigation and adaptation plans. He urged the Forum to inform United Nations agencies and bodies, including the Security Council, of the urgent threat posed by climate change to the lives of indigenous people.
PACIFIQUE MUKUMBA, Centre d’Accompagnement des Autochtones Pygmées et minorités vulnérables, Conseil National des Concertations des jeunes autochtone de la République Démocratique Congo, said the situation of the Pygmy peoples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was deplorable. It had been further undermined by an agreement involving his Government, that of Spain and also the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on a biosphere project that would compromise the stewardship of Pygmies over their rainforests without consulting them. Furthermore, unbridled deforestation was destroying their homes. Logging companies had been given concessions to use chain saws. Participatory zoning was not being respected, which amounted to a de facto absence of such zoning. Therefore, the Forum should demand a moratorium on the biosphere project. It should also demand the Government of the Democratic Republic enforce relevant laws on both participatory zoning and forestry.
CASEY CAMP-HORINEK, speaking on behalf of the Indigenous Environmental Network, CORE, Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, Federation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Alliance of Asia, Western Shoshone Defense Project, International Indian Treaty Council, Cabildo Wayuu Nouna, and Asociacion Indigena Ambiental, said the inability of Governments to address the climate change issue was tantamount to cultural genocide. The Earth had already warmed by nearly 1° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. A rise of 2° Celsius was considered the tipping point, where temperatures and weather events would be out of control, and concerned scientists were saying that the world was almost at that tipping point.
She said the world must move more aggressively towards a zero fossil fuel emissions level by 2050. Conventional fossil fuel supplies were limited, and tearing up the Earth to get the last drop of oil was not a sustainable practice. It also violated the principles of “indigenous original instructions”. As such, she demanded a worldwide moratorium on new exploration, extraction and processing of fossil fuels on indigenous peoples’ lands. The Forum should, through the Economic and Social Council, call on the United Nations General Assembly to convene an emergency world session to explore the impact of climate change and its link to the use of fossil fuels, and also how climate change affected the human rights of indigenous peoples.
JININE LAISHARAM spoke for the Centre for Organization, Research and Education, Dooda Desert Rock, Kipam, Apache Women, CEDHUNG, Mikisew Cree First Nation, Advocate for the Protection of Sacred Rites, Federation of Indigenous Tribal People of Asia, India Confederation of Indigenous Tribal People, Land is Life, Indigenous Peoples and Nations of Ecuador in America, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Land and Sustainable Energy-Economy Network. He said he had profound concerns about the inclusion of their forest in the carbon market through the REDD mechanism. The system would not benefit indigenous peoples, but would, in fact, result in more violations of their rights. It would force evictions and prevent access to indigenous agriculture practices, for example. In brief, under that plan, States and carbon traders would take more control of forests.
He said steps were being taken in many countries, such as India, to enact legislation making way for REDD projects. The Forum and the United Nations system must make sure that REDD would not be considered as a strategy to combat climate change, but was, in fact, a violation of the Declaration on Indigenous People’s Rights. The Forum must also strongly recommend to the Convention on Biological Diversity that the implementation of the programme of work on forest biodiversity prohibit REDD.
ONEL MASARDULE, Consejo Indigena Mesoamericano, Fundacion Para la Promocion del Conocimiento Indigena and Land is Life, said that even as indigenous peoples suffered disproportionately from the effects of climate change, they were being sidelined in the development of policies to mitigate those effects. He reiterated the belief that industrialized countries were responsible for the impact of climate change, and rejected the implication that indigenous people should somehow bear the responsibility for those countries’ actions.
He said the carbon trading market proposed by the private sector, as well as the strategy to grow monocrops for biofuel, had consequences that violated the rights of indigenous peoples. He called for the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in Climate Change Convention proceedings, and urged the involvement of indigenous experts in the Convention Conference of parties. The Forum should recommend to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Rapporteur for indigenous rights that they produce a report on the consequences of climate change, with particular attention to its impact on indigenous peoples. Also, the financial mechanism should be rendered more flexible, so that indigenous people could gain access.
HUBERTUS SAMANGUN, the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forest, International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change, said the people he represented had been given virtually no voice in Kyoto. The failure to recognize the importance of indigenous peoples and their vital role in controlling climate change had made a serious impact on approaches to control of climate change. Further, there was no mechanism at present to ensure the participation of indigenous people in climate change control measures. The direct effect of that non-participation of indigenous peoples in global forums was an increase in the problems and the potential threat presented by climate change. Many policies proposed as solutions -- such as carbon trading -- were potential disasters for indigenous people. Territories and resources were threatened, along with basic rights. The voice of indigenous peoples must be considered in the building of the overall framework of approaches. The Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol should recognize and take action to curb the adverse impacts of climate change on indigenous peoples. All relevant actors should cooperate on capacity-building to meet the demands of addressing climate change.
LARSON BILL, speaking on behalf of the Western Shoshone Defense Project, Buffalo River Dene Nation, Maya Vision, Lipan Apache Women’s Defense, Ribert Menchu Fund, Flying Eagle Women Fund, Indigenous Environmental Network, First Peoples Human Rights Coalition and Bangsa Adat Alifuru, stressed that “Mother Earth is not a resource; she is the source”. Transnational companies were proving more powerful than Governments, and used money and influence to create laws that legitimized the theft of indigenous lands, with no sense of accountability.
He extended his appreciation to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which, in its concluding observations and recommendations to the United States in 2007 and Canada in 2008, had informed both Governments that they must regulate the impact of their transnational corporations on communities outside their borders. He called on the Forum to request a dialogue with, and a written report from, the offices of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, and the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. Such a report should focus on the impact of transnational actors on indigenous peoples, to be completed before the Forum’s eighth session with adequate time for consideration and comments by the indigenous regional caucuses. The Economic and Social Council was also called on to advise Member States to regulate and monitor the activities of their respective transnationals.
MINA SUSANNA SETRA spoke for Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantar, Chin Human Rights, PACOS, Cordillera Peoples Alliance, NGO Forum Cambodia, Kalumaran-Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao and Shimin Gauko Centre. She said a rights-based approach should be taken in addressing global climate change. All policies should respect the rights of indigenous peoples. Governments should enforce the principle of gaining free prior consent. Global approaches should be applied in a way that addressed the local situation. Initiatives should adopt local standards. The United Nations should insure that prerequisites were met. The Indonesian Government should change its plantation law to recognize indigenous peoples’ rights to land and resources. The Government should also respect the laws that applied to coastal areas and small islands. It should also provide funds for implementing measures for countering climate change.
EDITH BASTIDAS, speaking on behalf of CALPI, USP, Accion Ecologica, CEDIS, CJIRA, Uk’Ux B’e, Kus, Kura and Jentzera, said that indigenous peoples had a fundamental role in the preservation of ecosystems in which they lived. She called on Governments to uphold the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In any debate to address climate change, including in drawing up a mitigation strategy, the underlying legal framework should respect the provisions of international legal documents, such as the Declaration. In addition, she demanded the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in developing those strategies.
She said Governments whose countries were the main consumers of fossil fuels must meet their Kyoto targets. It was proposed that the Forum act in coordination with experts from the Human Rights Council, as well as the Special Rapporteur on human rights, to study the threat posed by climate change to indigenous peoples. Further, the Forum should promote the involvement of indigenous peoples in strengthening the use of traditional knowledge pertaining to biodiversity and the environment. The Forum was urged to provide information on climate change and to collect data on the specific experiences of indigenous peoples with regard to it. She praised the Bolivian Government for recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples in its Constitution, and urged other States to embark on similar initiatives of their own.
MALIA NOBREGA, in a joint statement on behalf of the Hawaii and Pacific Northwest Indigenous World Association, said recent studies confirmed that rising carbon emissions would decimate the Earth’s coral reefs by the year 2050. The rise in temperature and variations in the temperature of the ocean’s water was giving way to phenomena that created dead zones in the largest ecosystems. Coral bleaching was one result, where algae were expelled and deprived the coral of its food source. Storms had also doubled in the period from 1977 to 1998, with a subsequent severe increase in hurricane-induced tree mortality. Decreased rainfall was creating a water crisis and rising sea levels were also causing changes that threatened indigenous food sources. The Forum should actively participate in processes to reverse such conditions. The Forum should also consult with human rights bodies to ensure that standards and policies were being adhered to.
GUNN-BRITT RETTER, Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples, speaking on behalf of the Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network, began by thanking the Haudenoshonee, the traditional occupants of the land upon which the United Nations Headquarters was located, for their hospitality. She went on to say that indigenous women been especially involved in the work of the Convention on Biological Diversity. They also played a vital role in maintaining and transmitting traditional knowledge from one generation to another. Their specialized experience made them midwives, spiritual leaders, healers, herbalists and botanists within their communities and beyond. Their use and control of medicinal plants must be protected from misappropriation and commercialization. In the same vein, the right of indigenous peoples to keep, collect and exchange natural seeds must be protected, as a method of ensuring food security for their peoples.
She noted that gender inequality rendered climate change, and its attendant social, political, economic and environmental effects, especially devastating for indigenous women. Their full and effective participation at every stage of the conservation movement and climate change dialogue was, therefore, important, and indeed, women stood ready to take on that role. The Forum should kick-start the increased participation of women by recognizing their expertise and helping to build their capacity. Besides that, the Forum should take a more active part in upcoming Climate Change Convention processes to create visibility and raise awareness of indigenous issues in general.
LAURA CALMWIND spoke for Kitchenahmay Koosib, Inninuwug, Indigenous Network on Economics and Trade, Western Shoshone Defence Project, Treaty 6 in Canada, Indigenous Environment Network, BC First Nations Summit, Chiefs of Ontario, Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake and Assembly of First Nations. She said a range of participatory measures were needed to ensure that indigenous peoples had a say in addressing climate change. Indigenous peoples must be included at all costs and they must not be allowed to be pressured by either Governments or corporations to give up their traditional lands or practices. They must not be subjected to exclusion, but rather their traditional practices must be included in policies. Intercultural dialogue must be encouraged. Donors must focus both on avoiding harm and aspiring to do good in the use of funds. Original errors must not be allowed to be repeated through funding. Governments must follow through on commitments made when the United Nations had adopted the Declaration. They must consult with indigenous peoples.
CHERYL MALONIE, speaking on behalf of the Mi’k maq Grand Council, Mi’k maq of Canada and the United States and the Native Women’s Association in Canada, requested that the Forum invite the Special Rapporteur on indigenous people and Special Rapporteur on human rights to investigate the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights in relation to mobility and sustenance, among others. The Forum should also call on States to allow their participation in developing mitigation strategies, especially with regard to water rights and land management.
She said the ability to be mobile and to migrate -- integral to Mi’k Maq life -- was being threatened by climate change. Restricting that behaviour was inconsistent with several articles of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Mi’k maq had pursued the right to move freely, and to have access to resources in their traditional territory, from the time of King George III. Over 30 years in litigation had resulted in the Supreme Court of Canada Marshall decision, which recognized treaties governing the right to hunt and fish. Unfortunately, it was not being implemented. She sought help from the Forum to help preserve the ways of the Mi’k maq people.
JOSEPH INTONGWA, speaking on behalf of the Congo Basin, Conseil National de Concertation des Jeunes Autochtones de la RDC, said that the forests in the Congo Basin were serving as the world’s carbon sink, which naturally mitigated the effects of climate change. Techniques and practices used by inhabitants of the Congo Basin were globally recognized as good sustainable practice. He was greatly concerned by decisions currently being taken about the Congo forests, adding that the indigenous peoples of the Congo Basin wanted to be included in those decisions. They also wanted to be compensated for the activities they had taken so far to protect forest resources, as stipulated by the Declaration. Indigenous peoples needed to be at the centre of discussions on climate change.
BEV MANTON, the Australian Aboriginal Caucus, said climate change posed a threat to all indigenous peoples. Urgent attention must be given to reversing ecological deterioration. The response to climate change must include justice. Indigenous peoples must be allowed to carry out their traditional practices. Animals and foods that constituted their diet were becoming extinct. Australia’s indigenous peoples controlled much of the land in remote areas and they must be allowed to have a say in policies that affected them. All efforts should seek to maximize opportunities for using traditional knowledge, which must be respected. Measures must also be taken to ensure that indigenous peoples were included in processes that affected them and their lands. The Declaration contained many recommendations. The Forum should urge States to adopt them.
OREN LYONS, Chief of the Haudenosaonee, Six Nations, noted that it was Earth Day. He went on to say that, 31 years ago, more than 100 indigenous delegates journeyed to Geneva to brief the United Nations on the state of indigenous peoples. Though they were survivors of a horrendous genocide, they had chosen not to speak for themselves, but rather in defence of the natural world. They had warned against exploitation by industrial States. In their opening address, they had spoken of the natural world, represented by the eagle, which, it was to be noted, had no seat at the Palais des Nations.
He said humans were bound by the laws of nature. In 1978, an Indigenous runner from Greenland again informed United Nations that ice was melting in the north. Twenty-two years later, at the Millennium Summit, he himself brought the same message to the United Nations. Today, the same message was being delivered, but with positive options. However, time was an urgent factor and there was a short time left to arrest global warming. How the human species would fare was totally in its hands. Business as usual could not proceed. Old values of commerce and consumerism must change to one of conservation, cooperation and sharing. The United States Government must join the industrialized world to place a carbon cap on its activities; since it owned one quarter of world’s carbon footprint, it must be a leader for common sense and positive change. It was up to States, and not individuals, to make the required changes -- to rein in and regulate corporate power. “Our fate is in our hands,” he said, adding that no matter what happened, “we will have no one to blame but ourselves”.
EGIL OLLI, President of the Saami Parliamentary Council, Norway, said he realized that his status as an indigenous parliamentarian defied categorization by the United Nations, since it was neither a government body nor a non-governmental organization. Thus, he appreciated being able to address the Forum, despite that.
He noted that the threat imposed by climate change called for collective action through binding international agreements. He was particularly concerned that milder temperatures in some places would make non-renewable energy sources more accessible. Also worrying was that Governments did not recognize the need to share in the economic benefits stemming from use of indigenous territories, despite obligations in the Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and in International Labour Organization convention 169 to recognize indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands and resources. The Saami Parliamentary Council welcomed the adoption of the Declaration and expected active implementation on the part of States. That should reflect respect for the right to self-determination and to finance activities set by State budgets. The rights to land and resources must be honoured and free prior informed consent must exist in all use of those lands and resources. He noted that, compared to other indigenous peoples, the indigenous peoples in Norway were in a better position, as new legislation would make possible the resolution of land-rights issues in the north. The dialogue taking place in Norway could perhaps serve as an example for others.
DEB PRASA GURUNG, Minister for Local Development of Nepal, said climate change had affected the indigenous peoples of his country. The indigenous had been subject to discrimination in the past by the military and by the social elite, but the Government was changing that course at the behest of the people. Laws were being enacted to protect the people’s rights, including the rights of those marginalized. However, climate change was threatening the livelihood of indigenous peoples in the Himalayas. As a party to the Kyoto Protocol, his country had set up a task force on the matter.
LOURDES TIBÁN, of the Ministry of Indigenous Issues of Ecuador, said her Government would be developing a Yasuny-ITT project that would impact on the environment, but would also bring development to thousands of people. The world community would be asked to contribute $5 per barrel towards the cause of preserving biodiversity. Those with the most money had not yet responded, but it must be understood that the indigenous peoples interpreted climate change in a different manner than others. The Governments with indigenous peoples in their populations must consider it their responsibility to insure that indigenous peoples were included in decisions that affected them. That meant Governments must build societies that were more sustainable, equitable and inclusive.
FRED CARON, Assistant Deputy Minister, Indian and Northern Affairs, Canada, said the Government was determined to improve the quality of life for indigenous peoples, with their active involvement. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission had also been established. The ministry had submitted a draft bill on the special claims, by which it would establish an independent tribunal to deal with such claims. In 2006, the Government had made public a plan to manage access to drinking water for indigenous peoples.
The First Nation, Inuit and Metis communities of Canada faced unique challenges due to climate change, which was very evident in the north. Specific impacts included: rapid sea-ice loss; reduced habitat for migratory animals; threats to forest, human health and food security; destruction of physical infrastructure due to melting permafrost; and others. Such factors were compounded by other acts that undermined traditional livelihoods, such as import bans on seal products by European nations.
He said Canada was funding research on indigenous communities with increasing participation of those communities in their design and implementation. A panel of elders had been established on climate change to bring traditional knowledge to the table. The Government was seeking to reduce 2006 greenhouse gas levels by 20 per cent. It was also helping remote communities to improve energy efficiency and reduce diesel dependence. It was also working through the Arctic Council, the only multilateral forum devoted to Arctic issues, to work on climate change issues.
VALENTIN TICONA, Vice-Minister of Communitarian Justice, Bolivia, said when lawmakers were preparing the country’s new Constitution, it became apparent that some people opposed the inclusion of provisions protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. Nonetheless, those provisions were successfully incorporated. The new Constitution talked of establishing a “pluri-national State,” in which indigenous peoples would have equal access to health services and education, and where “peasant justice” stood on equal terms with mainstream justice systems. Indigenous languages were acknowledged as national languages. The indigenous identity had been elevated on par with that of other communities, in effect, “decolonizing the colonial State” instituted by previous Governments.
He then noted that some countries had not ratified the Declaration, and urged members of the indigenous movement to persevere in their efforts to universalize its tenets. The Declaration amounted to nothing less than a model for living.
JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO ( Spain) said his Government considered it essential to actively support the participation of indigenous delegates in regional and global meetings. Further, cooperation measures had been strengthened on issues of importance to indigenous peoples, including situations of voluntary isolation, empowerment and health plans. On the global level, Spain was party to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on indigenous peoples. A report was being drafted on those cooperative measures in implementing Convention articles.
He said the Forum had carried out a crucial role in consolidating his country’s cooperation policy on indigenous peoples. A three-day preparatory session for the Forum’s current session had been held in Madrid.
Forum member XIAOMEI QIN from China said indigenous peoples were vulnerable because of their diverse cultures, traditions and practices. Governments must ensure that policies were developed and implemented in a manner that respected their rights. Governments should also take measures to change policies from “doing no harm” to “actively encouraging” the participation of peoples in their own affairs. They should ensure the participation of indigenous peoples in the management of their lands and should ensure that their right to informed consent was respected. Governments must also protect the environment of indigenous peoples from being encroached upon by enacting legislation and administering punishment. International mechanisms should be established to ensure compliance by all countries, and developed countries must assume responsibility for the effects of climate change. They should provide financial and technological support to counter the effects on indigenous peoples.
PIRAGIBE DOS SANTOS TARRAGO, ( Brazil), reiterated the call for a well-informed discussion on the impact of climate change on indigenous peoples. He understood that deforestation accounted for 17 per cent of greenhouse gas levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that nearly a third of the Amazon would become a savannah if there was no progress in tackling climate change. Therefore, those most responsible for increasing greenhouse gas emissions must take some form of action to change that pattern. For its part, Brazil had placed 12 per cent of its territory, amounting to nearly a quarter of the Amazonian forest, under protection. Some 600 indigenous communities lived in those territories. It was mandatory in Brazil to use the resources from those protected forests in accordance with the tradition of its inhabitants.
He said efforts to combat deforestation had led to a 20 per cent drop of greenhouse gas emissions from Brazil in 2007 compared to 2005-2006. In the last quarter of 2007, there was some growth in deforestation as a response to higher commodity prices. As a result, the Government had had to suspend the release of licenses for commercial activities in certain protected areas of the forest. New rules meant that landowners must submit data on activity on their property. Goods produced from raw materials gotten from illegally deforested areas could not be sold, and fines were imposed on producers and everybody participating in the production chain.
In terms of biofuel production and its supposed negative impact, he assured the Forum that the low fertility of soil in the Amazon basin meant that it was not possible to grow sugar cane there. Currently, about half the land normally used for sugar cane planting was being used for biofuel, or less than 10 per cent of cultivable land. Meanwhile, space technology was being used to ensure that soy bean plantations did not threaten “forest sustainability”. An international conference in November 2009 in Brazil would be held on this topic. He also noted that, incidentally, agricultural subsidies in some countries were harming farmers’ profits in developing countries.
JOSEF TUUSI MOTZFELDT, Member of Parliament, Denmark, speaking also on behalf of Greenland, said the Forum had established itself as an authority on indigenous issues within the United Nations system, and he expressed his pleasure in lending support to it. It had an important role in disseminating information on climate change and its effects on indigenous peoples.
He noted the urgent need to build the world’s capacity to adapt to climate change. To that end, sharing experiences and best practices was key. Denmark had engaged with several others to monitor and assess the impact on people, flora and fauna. When it takes up the Chair of the Arctic Council in 2009, Denmark would establish a research centre in Greenland. Among topics of interest was the opening of the Arctic Ocean for trade, and its potential impact on vulnerable ecosystems and local communities. There was also the question of exploitation of natural resources to consider. Greenland had invited the representatives of the four coastal States -- Canada, Norway, Russian Federation and United States -- to hold a discussion on stewardship. He also noted that Denmark would host the Climate Change Convention Conference of Parties in 2009. Greenland would promote indigenous peoples’ involvement in the Conference process.
A Forum member, Mr. BALKASSM of Morocco, asked Nepal’s representative if the Government had a strategy to implement the Declaration with the participation of indigenous peoples. The same question was put to the speaker from Ecuador. He also asked the Canadian speaker if his country’s vote against the Declaration had negatively influenced efforts in support of indigenous peoples. Had funds earmarked for indigenous peoples issues increased or decreased?
Turning to Bolivia, he remarked that African constitutions also contained provisions turning indigenous languages into national languages. What measures had Bolivia taken to turn them into living languages to be used, say, in schools? Directing a question to the speaker from Spain, he asked whether indigenous peoples in the Canary Islands -- who were largely in isolation -- enjoyed a good relationship with indigenous peoples elsewhere.
WILSON REYES, Director of the National Corporation on Indigenous Development (CONADI) of the Ministry of Planning of Chile, said Chile had nine indigenous peoples: Aymaras, Quechuas, Atacamenos, Collas Diaguitas, Rapa Nui, Mapuches, Kawashskar and Yaganes. Almost 1 million people, less than 7 per cent of Chile’s population, identified themselves as indigenous in the most recent national census. The Government was taking specific steps to honour its international commitments and to ensure that Chile’s indigenous peoples were able to exercise their rights. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet had held a National Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples and more than 120 organizations representing indigenous people participated. As part of an increasingly broad policy for land restitution, in 2006 and 2007 President Bachelet returned roughly 23,000 hectares of land to more than 2,200 indigenous families. The issue concerned an outstanding debt owed to indigenous peoples that was gradually being repaid.
After almost two decades of legislative effort, Chile had recently adopted Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, he continued. In doing so, Chile was recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples to participate and be consulted, their right to land and territory and their rights in other areas such as justice, legal pluralism and bilingual, intercultural education. The Convention’s adoption and the constitutional reform recognizing indigenous peoples that was currently under consideration in the Parliament were the two most important political demands of the country’s indigenous organizations during the past 20 years. A new Marine Coastline Act created the category of “First Peoples’ Marine Coastal Space”, which recognized and protected the indigenous communities’ ancestral use of beaches and coasts. In a few weeks, President Bachelet would send Parliament draft legislation on a Statute of Government and Administration for Easter Island that would create the post of Island Governor and a Development Council comprised chiefly of indigenous peoples. The bill also recognized the Rapa Nui Council of Elders and created the Rapa Nui Land Commission.
SHIRLEY McPHERSON, Chair of the Australian Indigenous Land Corporation, Australia, said her country was making adaptations to address climate change. As a developed country, Australia would also make climate change central in its development aid. Addressing issues related to deforestation would be a priority. By the end of the year, 400 indigenous rangers would be employed in activities such as protecting the welfare of feral animals. Indigenous experts were also called into newly opening positions such as shoreline protection.
Continuing the dialogue with Governments, Forum member ELISA CANQUI MOLLO from Bolivia asked about Chile’s ratification of Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) by parliament, which it did with a controversial “interpretive declaration” on article 35, and whether indigenous peoples will be involved in Consultative Council. Expert BARTOLOMÉ CLAVERO SALVADOR from Spain said he wanted to know the answer to the same question. In addition, he wished to hear the views of the Chilean representative in response to the information that indigenous peoples were forced to leave their lands due to the policies of the current Government, which totally trampled the rights of the Mapuchi people, who did not even have water rights.
Mr. REYES ( Chile) said the Government had wanted to include indigenous peoples, but there were not enough votes in Parliament. A note had been issued to the ILO in Geneva and a decision was awaited. All such questions were well placed and the concerns expressed were being addressed.
Forum member LILIANE MUZANGA MBELA from the Democratic Republic of the Congo said climate change could be regulated only if it was done for the benefit of the indigenous peoples, which required Governments to become knowledgeable about indigenous peoples. Africans had done much to benefit their indigenous peoples, based on the Declaration.
Forum member PAVEL SULYANDZIGA from the Russian Federation said a lot of cooperative work on indigenous issues was being carried out between his country and Canada. The Council of Europe had raised very good questions about policies for indigenous peoples, but the information provided had remained on paper. Eight years had passed without action being taken on the recommendations.
IYA TIDJANI ( Cameroon) noted that indigenous peoples were the innocent victims of climate change. Several ministries in his country had special mandates to improve their living conditions and to grant them their due place in society. It was an effort requiring ongoing evaluation. Their knowledge on climate change issues was huge, gathered through centuries of experience. He voiced support for the suggestion to draw up a good practices document based on their knowledge, and would support any proposals they put forward to the Economic and Social Council regarding climate change.
MICHAEL DODSON, a Forum member from Australia, directed a question to the Australian Government on the land ranger and sea ranger programme in his country. He expressed concern over the recent abolishment of such programmes in Australia’s Northern Territories, resulting in the loss of 7,000 jobs, and asked if there were any plans to evaluate the impact of the lost jobs.
HILARIO DAVIDE, JR. (Philippines) said the Philippines was adversely affected by climate change and it had experienced increased tropical cyclones and rising sea levels, deaths and incalculable damage to agriculture, coastal and marine ecosystems and forests. Natural disasters caused by climate change exacerbated the situation for thousands of indigenous peoples living in remote mountain areas and on islands, increasing their vulnerability to disease and affecting their physical, social and psychological well-being. The Philippines was taking steps to reverse that trend. It was among the first countries to ratify the Climate Change Convention and its Kyoto Protocol, and was committed to their full implementation. The Philippines had been empowering its people, especially indigenous people, to adapt to climate change. The country’s indigenous people protected the ecosystem, particularly the remaining carbon sinks and the national forests, which were crucial to preventing climate change.
The Philippines was categorized as a middle-income country in the South-East Asian region, but it was excluded from the top 30 carbon dioxide emitters, he said. It intended to remain excluded from that list, and the country’s indigenous people would be key actors in that process. The Philippines was considered among the top 17 most biodiverse nations in the world. Indigenous peoples played a major role in protecting and preserving the country’s rich and vast biodiverse areas, since they lived in or near those areas. The federal Government, in cooperation with local government units and non-governmental organizations, was teaching local communities, including indigenous communities, how to protect and preserve the Philippines’ many biodiversity hotspots. The Government’s 10-point priority agenda aimed to fully mainstream indigenous peoples into the development process, while empowering them as active agents of development. The nation’s system of Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plans secured land tenure for indigenous communities within the framework for sustainable development. The National Commission on Indigenous Persons also provided livelihood projects that were reinforced by capacity-building, such as entrepreneurial training, agro-industrial technology transfer, technical and financial cooperative assistance and social infrastructure support services.
LIBORIO GURULLA, Governor of the Amazon State, Venezuela, said the problem lay in the misuse of natural resources, and so education on the preservation and conservation of the world’s biodiversity must be undertaken as a matter of importance. Also, just as a harmonious relationship between people and the environment was important, a good relationship between peoples must also be encouraged. In Venezuela, a bill to protect ancestral languages would soon be tabled, so that people could use their own languages as part of national life, in the spirit of togetherness.
He said the Venezuelan Constitution guaranteed the protection of indigenous knowledge in relation to natural resources, prohibiting the patenting of such knowledge for commercial purposes. States were appealed to uphold their commitments to safeguard indigenous peoples’ use of biodiversity, as provided in the Convention on Biodiversity. He then proposed that the Forum raise the world’s awareness regarding their responsibility towards climate change. That might mean halting activities that damaged the environment, and protecting the livelihood of indigenous peoples in the process.
GEORGE TALBOT ( Guyana) said that, as Guyana’s coastline was below sea-level and 90 per cent of its population resided there, climate change and rising sea levels were a real threat to Guyana’s survival. Even though Guyana’s carbon dioxide removal levels exceeded emission levels, the Guyanese Government recognized climate change as a challenge affecting everyone. Every citizen had a role to play in reducing its negative impact, including Guyana’s indigenous people, the Amerindians. By virtue of their habitation, lifestyle and irrevocable titled ownership of lands in the country’s interior and forested regions, Amerindians were both stewards and partners in the conservation and sustainable use of forest resources and the environment as a whole.
Successive Governments cognizant of the importance of preserving the environment had also sought to sustainably use available natural resources to support Guyana’s development, he said. That had led to clear policies and plans in forestry, fisheries and mining. There were also ongoing processes, in consultation with Amerindian communities, to create national protected areas in the interest of environmental conservation. The Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development oversaw scientific research, education and simultaneous conservation and the sustainable use of resources of approximately 1 million acres of pristine rainforest. The Centre, a joint programme of the Guyanese Government and the Commonwealth, promoted sustainable livelihoods through strong partnerships with neighbouring indigenous communities. The Act establishing the Centre provided for the protection of Amerindian rights, as well as for them to consult and participate in the Centre’s activities and to serve on the Centre’s International Board of Trustees.
HENRY MAC-DONALD ( Suriname) said he agreed with the observation that indigenous peoples were often the most marginalized and would be disproportionately affected by climate change. Yet, long before the political and scientific community had reached consensus on the effects of climate change, indigenous peoples had already learned how to cope with changing weather patterns. They should be looked upon as agents of change.
He said Suriname had been hit by a flood in 2006, where half the country was inundated and the entire habitat of indigenous communities in the affected areas was damaged. The international community should not ignore the fact that current production and consumption patterns were jeopardizing people’s lives all over the world. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was an important political document in its own right, should be seen as a reference document on international indigenous peoples’ issues.
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