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Indigenous Peoples Must Be Leaders In Conservation And Sustainability

"Conservation is often done for us and around us, not with us," say indigenous peoples in a new statement to the United Nations.

indigenous woman sitting

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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At the closing of the Stockholm+50 international meeting, which was held in Sweden by the United Nations to discuss environmental action and commemorate 50 years of the first Conference on the Human Environment, multiple delegates of indigenous peoples from different parts of the world issued the Declaration of the Indigenous Peoples . In it, they make a claim to the rulers about the little inclusion of indigenous peoples in decision-making, despite their advanced knowledge in conservation.

"Our own knowledge systems are often excluded from the design and implementation of conservation and climate change measures and programmes. Conservation is often done by us and around us, not with us. It is high time to move in new directions" , states the statement.

We recommend you read: Infographic: Indigenous Knowledge to Fight Climate Change

Indigenous knowledge and conservation: a successful combination

According to information from the United Nations, indigenous peoples live on about a quarter of the planet's land surface. Likewise, their reports have shown how in the territories managed by indigenous people there is a slower loss of biodiversity and better preservation of resources. However, they are also among the communities most threatened by the impacts of climate change. In this way, it is undeniable that indigenous knowledge can contribute in a special way to the fight against climate change and the protection of the environment.

"We still have sustainable food systems in parts of the world where we have developed the technology, knowledge and experience to successfully deal with climate change. We know how to regenerate our soil, restore ecosystems and how to help the water cycle. We are delivering on our promise to live in harmony with nature. Now it's your turn, " says the statement released in Stockholm.

However, it is paradoxical that only until 2001 was a Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples appointed and in 2014 the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was held in the United Nations. It is known that the UN is an organization that reports directly to the member states, in which the 5 most powerful with veto power control many decisions, which means that their actions are not always the most appropriate with respect to environmental needs because they depend of the will of the leaders. However, it is also true that it is there that many decisions with a global impact are made and its influence on the world is enormous. For this reason, it is essential that indigenous leaders are included in decision-making processes.

"We, the Indigenous Peoples, are not intrinsically vulnerable people. We are strong people. But the systemic lack of recognition and respect for our rights, our culture and the disregard for our knowledge have placed us in situations of vulnerability," the statement said. In this regard, the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), which has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, has sent a recommendation to the United Nations not to include indigenous peoples within the category of "local communities". in the global agreement on biodiversity that is being developed for COP15, as it would make it difficult to recognize their rights and autonomy, they say.

In the face of the criticism that can be made of the UN, a fundamental role is played by civil society organizations that work independently for sustainability, the fight against climate change and the protection of the environment. In this sense, the Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin COICA, an indigenous organization that represents 511 Indigenous Peoples under the slogan "Amazon Viva, Humanidad Segura", is an important agency on the protection of the Amazon at a world level.

During the last days, leaders have been meeting representing the 9 countries of the Amazon basin to coordinate the realization of the "V Amazon Summit of Indigenous Peoples: solutions for a living Amazon", in which they will seek to generate mechanisms of protection of this area, which has suffered a huge deterioration in recent years, especially in Brazil. Likewise, they have participated in various international events to demand recognition of their knowledge for decision-making. They did so in Nairobi, at the fourth negotiation meeting for the creation of a draft of the global agreement on biodiversity.

“The scientific evidence also shows it: indigenous peoples have been the best custodians of biological diversity in ancestral territories, and this must be reflected in a solid and diverse global framework of goals that effectively ensures and recognizes the role and right they have indigenous peoples in the management of their territory”, said Gregorio Mirabal, General Coordinator of COICA, in a press release from the organization.

On the other hand, multiple NGOs and indigenous organizations, in coordination with COICA and the Climate Alliance, are working so that the Amazon Indigenous REDD+ project can become a replicable model of sustainability in the region. It is based on the indigenous economy and the bioeconomy to preserve the Amazon rainforest while maintaining the social welfare of the communities.