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Indigenous Peoples Achieve Major Gains in Climate Change Negotiations

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14 December, Copenhagen (IIPFCC Media Team) – Indigenous Peoples have achieved major gains in the ongoing climate negotiations here in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“This is the first time in any legally-binding convention that there is reference to human rights. And this has been our main concern from the very beginning,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an indigenous Kankana-ey from the Cordilleras in the Philippines and Executive Director of Tebtebba.

Explicit references to indigenous peoples have been included in the negotiating text on Policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to REDD. In the 11 December draft text, it included “Respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples…” including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

It further called on Indigenous Peoples’ “full and effective participation” in the development and implementation of national plans related to REDD.

REDD or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation is a proposed mitigation action that aims to lock carbon stored in forests in tropical and sub-tropical countries. Most of these forests are found in indigenous peoples territories and they have expressed concern on the potential impacts of REDD-related. These include denial of rights and control over their forests, loss of forest-dependent livelihoods, forced eviction and other human rights violations, among others.

References on indigenous peoples have also been included in the SBSTA Draft Conclusions [FCCC/SBSTA/2009/L.19/Add.1] of the Working Group on REDD: approaches to stimulate action.

In this draft document, it recognizes “need for full and effective engagement of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in, and the potential contribution of their knowledge to, monitoring and reporting of activities relating to…” REDD plus activities.

It therefore calls on parties to develop “guidance for effective engagement of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in monitoring and reporting.”

The Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice, one of two subsidiary bodies of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, provides the States-Parties with timely information and advice on scientific and technological matters relating to the Convention.

“This is a significant advance that brackets in the negotiating texts have been taken out since rights, in the first place, are fundamental and should not be subject to negotiations,” according to Joan Carling, Co-chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC).

A large contingent of over 200 Indigenous Peoples coming from different parts of the globe has been participating in the Climate Talks in Copenhagen. Under the umbrella of the IIPFCC, Indigenous Peoples have been lobbying governments to include rights and their issues in the climate talks. Some Indigenous Peoples have also been included in several government delegations, notably, the Philippines, Norway, Bangladesh, Guatemala and Bolivia.

“The presence of a substantial number of indigenous peoples have considerably increased their visibility and highlighted their issues in the climate talks,” added Tauli-Corpuz.

In the Bangkok Climate Talks in September, Indigenous Peoples came out with a policy statement on climate change. The policy statement spelled out three key demands. These include the recognition of the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples as contained in the UNDRIP and full and effective participation in climate change processes including the recognition of their free, prior and informed consent. The last demand focused on the recognition by states of their traditional knowledge, innovations and practices on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

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