Photo by LAC Caucus
Ahead of COP28, regional representatives gathered in Panama, Malaysia, and Nairobi to demand more financing to support Indigenous Guardianship.
In the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28), Indigenous Peoples from Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean have gathered to urge governments to include them more effectively in global climate negotiations as the rightful guardians of much of the world’s biodiversity and ecosystems.
Regional Indigenous representatives recently convened at the Latin American and Caribbean Climate Week (LACCW 2023) in Panama, the Asia-Pacific Climate Week (APCW) 2023 in Malaysia, and the first Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ Conservation Congress in Kenya.
During COP28 in Dubai, stakeholders will make climate decisions that will directly impact Indigenous Peoples and evaluate the first Global Stocktake, designed to set out the path towards achieving the key objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement. In Panama and Malaysia, participants underscored that essential Indigenous perspectives on the global response to the planetary crisis continue to be largely disregarded. Meanwhile, pledges for increased financing to support Indigenous guardianship remain unfulfilled.
"COP28 must establish channels to actively and meaningfully incorporate indigenous leaders and experts in negotiations and decision-making processes, particularly regarding the Global Adaptation Goal and Long-Term Financing process” said the Organization of the Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon - OPIAC and the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle – AIDESEP public statement in their public statement during LACCW 2023, “We have proven to be carriers of key knowledge to combat the multiple challenges posed by climate change and in these processes our perspectives will be key to designing truthful responses.”
The Latin American and Caribbean Climate Week, organized by the government of Panama, was held in Panama City from October 23 to 27, 2023. The event ran parallel with the XXIII Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean. In Johor Bahru, Malaysia, the Asia-Pacific Climate Week, held from November 13 to 17, became a pivotal platform for the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIFPCC), which represents 50 Indigenous representatives from seven diverse Asian nations.
“The local experiences of Indigenous Peoples in climate mitigation and adaptation must be heard and amplified in international spaces,” said Asami Segundo, a youth member of the Ikalahan-Kalanguya Indigenous cultural community in the Philippines. “For us Indigenous youth, being a climate activist is not by choice, it is a necessity for the survival of our homes, our people, and our entire cultures.”
Integrating Indigenous Rights, Knowledge, and Voices
From October 25 to 27, the Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ Conservation Congress hosted a community-led conference in Nairobi that gathered 300 representatives from 47 African countries, including Indigenous Peoples, local communities, governments, donors, and NGOs.
Following the meeting, the Alliance for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities for Conservation in Africa (AICA) called for a people-centered, rights-based conservation agenda. In a joint statement, local representatives agreed to ensure a shared position for Indigenous Peoples and local communities on issues of continental importance during COP28, including funding mechanisms, and the upholding of differentiated rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and women.
“As Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, we have every reason to celebrate community-based conservation because, from time immemorial, we have effectively conserved forests, ecosystems, and biodiversity through collective ownership, traditional governance, and ecological knowledge systems which continue to this day,” said Malidadi Langa, interim Chair of AICA.
Central to the IIFPCC’s message during the Asia-Pacific Climate Week was the call to integrate Indigenous rights in climate action in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Forum advocated for Indigenous perspectives, especially the voices of Indigenous women, youth, children, and persons with disabilities, and the irreplaceable role of traditional Indigenous knowledge in adaptation and mitigation strategies to combat climate change.
The Forum called for transparency and direct access to financing for Indigenous communities seeking an equitable distribution and participation in the Loss and Damage Fund, another key issue to be discussed during COP28. The Forum also highlighted the pressing issue of renewable energy projects imposed on Indigenous territories without their proper consent.
“We need to be engaged in these climate change processes as we talk about the future of our children and grandchildren,” said Grace Balawag, the co-chair of the IIFPCC.
Requests for more participation and financing
Following LACCW 2023 in Panama, the Latin American and Caribbean Indigenous Caucus (Foro Indígena Latinoamericano y Caribeño) released a joint statement with 13 requests for governments to improve Indigenous participation in political discussions, policy-making, and financing. The requests include calls to respect international standards regarding the rights of Indigenous Peoples, to incorporate Indigenous knowledge systems as part of the solution to the current climate crisis, and to develop pathways for the direct cooperation of Indigenous Peoples without intermediaries.
The declaration also reinforced that Indigenous Peoples “govern most of the ecosystems of Latin America and the Caribbean” and “suffer the greatest impacts of the adverse effects of the triple climate crisis” on their lives, cultures, and territories. The statement added: “We urge states of the region to recognize the human rights of Indigenous Peoples and our rights to lands, territories, and natural resources,”
Tabea Casique Coronado (Ashéninka People), secretary of the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana), emphasized the importance of coordinating efforts within the climate change and biodiversity agendas.
“The rights of Indigenous Peoples are part of the climate change process and the preservation of biological diversity among Indigenous communities. Without Indigenous rights, we would not be talking about mitigation and adaptation”, said Tabea during Latin America and the Caribbean Climate Week. “Let’s strive to protect 80% of the Amazon by 2025.”
Nia Tero co-hosted a side event during LACCW 2023 that highlighted the resilience practices of Indigenous Peoples in the region. The event stressed the importance of preserving, holistically managing, and protecting ancestral territories. It also drew attention to the high costs associated with these efforts, including loss of life, as the region has the highest rate of environmental defender murders worldwide. The event underscored the significance of direct financing for Indigenous Peoples and the need for cooperative efforts to achieve it. Lastly, it emphasized the importance of implementing global policies in countries while closely coordinating with Indigenous Peoples.