Supporting Indigenous Peoples on the international stage | WWF

Supporting Indigenous Peoples on the international stage

Posted on 28 April 2017
Edwin Vasquez, at center.
© AP Photo / C. Ruttle
In September, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Member’s Assembly, made up of representatives from both governments and civil society organizations, voted to create a new category of membership for Indigenous Peoples’ organizations. This decision strengthens the inclusion and participation of Indigenous Peoples in the IUCN.

This vote represents yet another international acknowledgement that Indigenous Peoples make a crucial contribution to the management and preservation of large and important natural spaces – with forest coverage, water sources, endemic species, and other natural resources – that are integral to their ways of life. 

For WWF, partnering with Indigenous Peoples is an essential part of our conservation work. Those partnerships often include supporting Indigenous Peoples to participate on the international stage at global meetings like the Member’s Assembly and UNFCCC climate negotiations. By amplifying Indigenous voices, we affirm the importance – and promote the inclusion – of their traditional knowledge in adaptation and mitigation actions and the fight against climate change.

Alonso Córdova, of WWF-Peru, attended the September Assembly to accompany representatives of COICA, a key coordination entity for Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon region, and to present an e-poster. COICA was promoting their proposal, Holistic Management of Indigenous Lands: Strategies and Practices for the Governance of Indigenous Lands in the Amazon Basin, and sharing regional experiences of Amazon Indigenous REDD+ (RIA, by its Spanish acronym), based on experiences from Madre de Dios, Peru.

“Holistic management is a vision that incorporates territorial integrity, which has effects on legal processes, and allows one to continue with the practices of conservation and management, and traditional use of forest resources,” said Edwin Vasquez, President of COICA. “The pilot experiences…are vivid examples of how the ideas of RIA translate into action.”

For COICA and its member organizations at the national level, RIA is a tool that facilitates the implementation of social and environmental safeguards and balances traditional use and sustainable development of indigenous lands. They argue that legal recognition of their lands empowers them to manage their resources and take action against threats to their forests, and would consequently reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. Indeed, deforestation rates have been found to be two to three times lower in legally-held indigenous lands. COICA’S challenge is to work for the legal recognition of 200 million hectares of traditionally-held indigenous lands.

During the IUCN Assembly, representatives from COICA called for more explicit inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the international arena, and for decision-making processes to be more transparent, in order to support Indigenous strategies and projects – like RIA – in collaboration with key international allies. 

Greater inclusion of Indigenous Peoples is on the horizon. The incipient UNFCCC platform for Indigenous Peoples and local communities created under the Paris Agreement will give Indigenous Peoples the opportunity to participate more directly in multi-stakeholder processes. The next step in the UNFCCC process is a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the operationalization of the platform, which will be held in conjunction with SBSTA 46 and SBI 46 at the Bonn Climate Change Conference in early May of this year.

“These international developments open important windows that make the contributions of Indigenous Peoples visible, especially regarding contributions to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) through transformative actions,” says Alonso.  

“Territorial management is one crucial example of those contributions, as it includes elements of both adaptation and joint mitigation hand in hand with participation in resource monitoring. RIA is one such example of a mitigation approach, along with the reduction of monoculture plantations, and adaptation actions are being driven largely by indigenous women.”

Indigenous recognition is one tool we have in the fight against global climate change and in building a more just and sustainable world. Indigenous Peoples play important roles in the conservation and management of forest ecosystems, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation. It is incumbent upon us, as conservationists, to support their empowerment and participation in processes related to our work, for the future of forests and the futures of Indigenous Peoples.
Edwin Vasquez, at center.
© AP Photo / C. Ruttle Enlarge

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