Indigenous Rights Approach a Solution to Climate Change Crisis

The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) was held in Bonn, Germany and
focused on how to give land rights the visibility needed to
showcase that a rights approach, particularly when it comes to
indigenous people, is a solution to the climate change crisis.
Courtesy: Pilar Valbuena/GLF

By Friday Phiri
Jun 29 2019 (IPS)

The Global
Landscapes Forum (GLF)
was held in Bonn, Germany to rally
behind a new approach to achieving a future that is more inclusive
and sustainable than the present – through the establishment of
secure and proper rights for all.

On Jun. 22 and 23, experts, political leaders, NGOs and
indigenous peoples and communities gathered to deliberate on a
methodology that emphasises rights for indigenous peoples and local
communities in the management and perseveration of landscapes. The
forum took place alongside the  United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change Bonn
Climate Change Conference
.

The forum focused giving land rights the visibility needed to
showcase that a rights approach is a solution to the climate change
crisis, and to develop a
‘gold standard’ for rights
.

Indigenous peoples, local communities, women and youth, are
believed to be the world’s most important environmental stewards
but they are also among the most threatened and criminalised groups
with little access to rights.

“We’re defending the world, for every single one of us,”
said Geovaldis Gonzalez Jimenez, an indigenous peasant leader from
Montes de María, Colombia.

But industries such as fossil fuels, large-scale agriculture,
mining and others are not only endangering landscapes but also the
lives of the people therein.

Already this year, said Gonzalez, his region witnessed 135
murders, adding that the day before the start of the GLF a local
leader was killed in front of a 9-year-old boy.

According to the United Nations, the land belonging to the 350
million indigenous peoples across the globe is one of the most
powerful shields against climate change as it
holds 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity
and sequesters
nearly 300
billion metric tons of carbon

It is for this reason that amid the urgency to meet Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) under pressure from the climate threat,
dialogues about the global future have begun to wake up to the fact
that indigenous peoples’ relationships with the natural world are
not only crucial to preserve for their own sakes, but for
everyone’s.

The drafting of the document of rights was led by Indigenous Peoples Major Group
(IPMG) for Sustainable Development
and the Rights and Resources
Initiative
in the months leading up to the GLF.

Wider discussions and workshops over the two days served as a
consultation on the draft (which is expected to be finalised by the
end of the year) as a concrete guide for organisations,
institutions, governments and the private sector on how to apply
different principles of rights. This includes the rights to free,
prior and informed consent; gender equality; respect to cultural
heritage; and education.

U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Vicky Tauli-Corpuz
said lands managed by indigenous peoples
with secure rights have lower deforestation rates, higher
biodiversity levels and higher carbon storage than lands in
government-protected areas.

But Diel Mochire Mwenge, who leads the Initiative Programme for
the Development of the Pygme in the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC), one of the largest indigenous forest communities in Central
Africa, said he has witnessed more than one million people being
evicted from the national parkland where they have long lived. He
explained that they had not been given benefits from the ecotourism
industries brought in to replace them and were left struggling to
find new income sources.

“Our identity is being threatened, and we need to avoid being
completely eradicated,” said Mwenge.

In Jharkhand, India, activist Gladson Dungdung, whose parents
were murdered in 1990 for attending a court case over a local land
dispute, said an amendment to India’s Forest Rights Act currently
being reviewed by the Supreme Court could see 7.5 million
indigenous peoples evicted from their native forest landscapes. The
act can impact a further 90 million people who depend on these
forests’ resources for their survival, he said.

The amendment, Dungdung said, would also give absolute power to
the national forest guard; if a guard were to see someone using the
forest for hunting or timber collection, they could legally shoot
the person on-sight.

“Indigenous peoples are right on the frontline of the very
real and dangerous fight for the world’s forests,” said actor
and indigenous rights activist Alec Baldwin in a video address.

“Granted that indigenous peoples are the superheroes of the
environmental movement,” Jennifer Morris, president of
Conservation International wondered why they are not heard until
they become victims. “Why do we not hear about these leaders
until they’ve become martyrs for this cause?”

The examples of intimidation, criminalisation, eviction and
hardship shared throughout the first day clearly showcased what
indigenous peoples and local communities go through to preserve the
forests or ‘lungs of the earth’.

The rights approach, according to conveners of the GLF, aims to
strengthen respect, recognition and protection of the rights of
indigenous peoples and local communities as stewards and bearers of
solutions to landscape restoration, conservation, and sustainable
use. It also aims to end persecution of land and environment
defenders; build partnerships to enhance engagement and support for
rights-based approaches to sustainable landscapes across scales and
sectors; and, scale up efforts to legally recognise and secure
collective land and resource rights across landscapes.

“By implementing a gold standard, we can both uphold and
protect human rights and develop conservation, restoration and
sustainable development initiatives that embrace the key role
Indigenous peoples and local communities are already playing to
protect our planet,” said Joan Carling, co-convener of IPMG.

IPMG recognises that indigenous and local communities are
bearers of rights and solutions to common challenges.

“This will enable the partnership that we need to pave the way
for a more sustainable, equitable and just future,” added
Carling.

And the
Center for International Forestry Research
 (CIFOR) Director
General, Robert Nasi, said when rights of local communities and
indigenous peoples are recognised, there are significant benefits
for the fight against climate change and environmental
degradation.

“Whoever controls the rights over these landscapes has a very
important part to play in fighting climate change,” he said.

In the climate and development arenas, the most current alarm
being sounded is for rights–securing the land rights and freedoms
of indigenous peoples, local communities and the marginalised
members therein.

How can these custodians of
a quarter of the world’s terrestrial surface
be expected to
care for their traditional lands if the lands don’t, in fact,
belong to them? Or, worse, if they’re criminalised and endangered
for doing so?

The basic principles of a ‘gold standard’ already exist,
such as free, prior and informed consent, according to Alain
Frechette of the
Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI)
. What has been lacking,
he said, is the application of principles that could be boosted by
high-level statements that could “spur a race to the top”.

The post
Indigenous Rights Approach a Solution to Climate Change Crisis

appeared first on Inter Press
Service
.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Indigenous Rights Approach a Solution to Climate Change Crisis