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From Words to Actions: Catalyzing Multi-sectoral Alliances to Co-create Indigenous-led Financing Mechanisms for Inclusive Nature-based Solutions

Indigenous leaders, donors, and NGOs discussed Indigenous-led finance models and funding initiatives at a Climate Week New York event.

Indigenous Peoples and their territories are sources of global solutions to climate change. Respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples and increasing their participation in climate-based solutions is critical to achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals, fostering climate resilience, and reducing risks to all sectors. 

However, only a fraction of funding for climate and nature-based solutions has directly reached Indigenous Peoples’ organizations and local communities in the past decade. Indigenous-led financial mechanisms are the fuel to safeguard Indigenous customary rights and value their livelihoods and practices as an underlying principle to promote sustainable development and catalyze scalable and long-term climate solutions.

At Climate Week New York, the FSC Indigenous Foundation, USAID, the Coalition for the UN We Need, and GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion organized a panel discussion From Words to Actions: Catalyzing Multi-sectoral Alliances to Co-create Indigenous-led Financing Mechanisms for Inclusive Nature-based Solutions to bring together Indigenous leaders, donors, and NGOs to exchange on existing Indigenous-led finance models and identify ways of integration and collaboration to achieve common goals toward piloting Indigenous-led funding initiatives worldwide.

Francisco Souza, Managing Director of the FSC Indigenous Foundation and member of the Apurinã Indigenous Peoples of the Brazilian Amazon, opened the session with a critical message about the importance of creating and strengthening cross-collaboration among different sectors. He also stated: “The conversation today is about the future, but we need to think about the past, and we need to recognize and respect the past.” Indigenous communities have lived in harmony with Mother Earth for centuries. “Integrating Indigenous communities will help us reduce risks for the future and think together about the solutions; the asset that we bring to the table is the knowledge that we’ve gathered for centuries.” 

Maria F. Espinosa, member of GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion, pointed out that women need to be at the heart of climate action and  Indigenous Women are already taking leadership in helping their communities adapt to the changing climate. She said, “Climate change is a symptom of a broken relationship between society, politics, our economic models, and nature. The call here is for reconciliation between humans and nature, and Indigenous Peoples are key to rebuilding the relationship with nature.

In the first panel, Indigenous Voices, participants discussed how to ensure Indigenous voices are heard at the highest levels of decision-making in climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, climate finance, and how to create stronger alliances to conserve forests and other ecosystems. Aïssatou Oumarou, an Indigenous leader from Chad and Vice President of the Network of Indigenous and Local Populations for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa (REPALEAC) stated that “REPALEAC helps Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) in Africa, we support 467 organizations. Our vision is to help Africa provide the great contributions of ICLCs to climate action and to request our participation in decision-making.” 

Kanyinke Sena, Director of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC), stated that “Local communities are not receiving enough funding” in order to implement nature-based solutions to tackle climate change and protect their resources. Participants also called attention to the alarming numbers of environmental defenders that have been killed in recent years for raising their voices.

In the second panel, Donor Perspectives: Investing in the fight against Climate Change, panelists presented the financial initiatives and programs that they offer to support local solutions to global environmental problems and empower Indigenous Peoples in their roles as guardians of nature. 

They all concluded that there is funding available to help solve the problems: “The money is there”, but all interested parties need to strengthen and clearly define good financial mechanisms as well as improved mechanisms for implementation, reporting, and follow-up. It is essential to ensure that climate finance is reaching Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. 

This productive discussion included: Gillian Caldwell, Chief Climate Officer and Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID, Andrea Johnson, Advisor, Global and Mexico and Central America Initiatives for the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA), and Yoko Watanabe, GEF Small Grants Programme at UNDP. 

Caldwell from USAID stated, “Indigenous Peoples have been aware since a long time ago that the climate was changing in dangerous ways, and yet they are still sometimes marginalized from climate-related decision-making.” 

Johnson from CLUA called for building trust-based philanthropy and the co-creation of solutions. “CLUA is trying to shift the ways in which the money is channeled.”

Watanabe from the GEF Small Grants Programme at UNDP called attention to the ownership or programs, “It is very important that the decisions are owned and held by civil society and Indigenous Peoples.” She also mentioned that sharing lessons learned is essential. 

The last panel, Indigenous Led Initiatives – Nature Based Solutions, was dedicated to sharing good practices and lessons learned about collaborative conservation projects and nature-based climate change solutions. The two distinguished panelists: Francisco Souza, Managing Director of the FSC Indigenous Foundation (IF), and Gustavo Sanchez, President of the Mexican Network of Forest Local Organizations (MOCAF) and Board of Directors of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), discussed how we can promote multi-sectoral alliances to co-create Indigenous-led financing for inclusive climate-based solutions. 

Souza stated, “We should be able to think about Indigenous economies and Indigenous businesses” in order for IPLCs to achieve sustainable self-development.  He also mentioned that IPLCs need to evaluate if they can see carbon markets as an opportunity. Indigenous Peoples have the capacity to manage their resources as they have been doing this for centuries, but at the same time, “We should be able to influence different spaces, to negotiate with different stakeholders, to manage the money at different scales.”

On the other hand, Sanchez spoke about global and regional programs they are developing with donors and expressed concern about the slow progress in some aspects. He called attention to the flexibility of programs in terms of priorities that are defined, “Donors need to understand what the other stakeholders require, to actually see the priorities in the territories and not just the priorities that donors have.” He called for action and closed with the statement: “We hope to get to the COP with more facts and not only with promises.”  

Francisco Souza closed the event with a message that we need to think about implementing the $1.7bn pledge made at COP26 to give funding directly to Indigenous Peoples and local communities, but we also need to bring together different stakeholders together to think beyond the pledge. 

View a recording of the webinar here.

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III Guna Women’s Congress

The Congress was a space for dialogue, reflection, empowerment and spirituality among Guna women.

Strengthening and spirituality

Guna women play a fundamental role in the Gunadule society, as guardians of the forests and responsible for transmitting traditional knowledge such as language, collective memory, and traditional practices of planting and medicine based on native plants.

This III Congress of Indigenous Guna Women was held from September 6 to 8 in the community of Gardi Sugdub to be a space for dialogue, reflection, and strengthening among Guna women. The spirituality of Gunadule women and the processes of recovering ancestral knowledge were some of the topics discussed. Participants also reflected on the main socio-economic and environmental problems affecting their communities, in order to generate local development alternatives with a gender approach and from traditional Guna knowledge.

Briseida Iglesias, recognized as a Guna sage and founder of the Bundorgan Women’s Network, Darelis Erhman, leader of the women’s organization Nis Bundor, and Kandra Ehrman, Secretary General of the Guna Youth, were some of the panelists of the congress. Local authorities also participated, such as the Director of the Women’s Institute (INAMU) Nellys Herrera, and prominent members of the Guna General Congress. The words of welcome were given by the Sagladummagan Domitilio Morris, Rengifo Navas and the Argar guide Alberto Vázquez.

There was also space to discuss and evaluate the proposed organizational system of Bundorgan, resulting in the development of internal regulations and their approval in assembly, after three years of being organized among women.

This event had the support of the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) and the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD), financed by USAID and implemented by the FSC Indigenous Foundation as part of the Project to Strengthen the Indigenous Agenda of Panama, which is being developed by the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests, the Mesoamerican Coordinating Committee of Women Territorial Leaders, and the Association of Indigenous Emberá Women Artisans (AMARIE).

Strengthening from the root

The Guna Women’s Congress has been held every year since 2019, when the newly born Bundorgan Women’s Network convened this space. Up until ten years ago, Guna women were not allowed to participate in the General Congresses of the Guna Culture and only attended as companions, without the right to express their opinions. Women like Briceida Iglesias opened spaces so that women could attend the general congresses with voice and vote; promoting the management of their own space.

Thanks to these opportunities, Guna women have been developing a joint agenda of socio-cultural advocacy for the well-being of Mother Earth. Each meeting among Indigenous Guna women is a step forward to strengthen women and transgress the barriers that have historically limited the political participation of Indigenous women in decision-making spaces.

An increasing number of women have become interested and joined the Bondorgan Women’s Network. Forty-nine women attended the first congress and this year the number tripled, with the participation of 150 women from 32 communities of the Gunayala region.

The Bundorgan Women’s Network works for the recovery and preservation of traditional medicine, culture, and ancestral practices of planting and Guna medicine.

Originally published in Spanish on the Coordinadora de Mujeres Líderes Territoriales de Mesoamérica website.

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Indigenous-led tourism benefits communities, economies, and Mother Earth

Native American Tribes and Indigenous Peoples of Latin America discuss successful Indigenous-led tourism models

According to the World Tourism Organization, approximately 370 million Indigenous Peoples in the world are linked to tourism activities. If managed in a responsible and sustainable way, Indigenous-led tourism can increase employment, reduce poverty, empower local communities, spur cultural revival, and allow for a sustained relationship between land, nature and Indigenous Peoples.  

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have had disastrous effects on the tourism industry, impacting all those who depended on it as a source of livelihood. Recovery methods must be inclusive of Indigenous Peoples’ vision for their communities and development.  

Opportunities for Indigenous Peoples: Indigenous-Led Tourism 

With this in mind, the FSC Indigenous Foundation (FSC-IF) and the White House Council on Native American Affairs (WHCNAA) Committee on International Indigenous Issues organized a webinar on July 14, 2022 to highlight the conditions and approaches that have made Indigenous tourism initiatives economic, social, cultural, or environmental successes. The webinar was part of a series that seeks to foster information sharing and connections between Native American Tribes and Tribal organizations in the United States and Indigenous Peoples organizations in Latin America to support Indigenous-led economic development.  

After a welcome by Salina Sanou, IPARD Program Deputy Director and Africa Regional Country Manager, Kathryn Isom-Clause, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs of the U.S. Department of the Interior, provided an introduction to the webinar, highlighting the connection between Indigenous resource management practices and climate and market-based solutions.  

Denise Litz, member of the Tuscarora Nation and Chief of the Division of Economic Development of the Bureau of Indian Affairs provided a context as the world is opening from COVID-19 lockdowns and tourists are looking to explore new places and make connections. Indigenous tourism faces challenges that have now been exacerbated by the pandemic. She stressed the importance of tourism for communities and the efforts of the U.S. Department of the Interior to support tourism recovery.

“Indigenous tourism offers communities an opportunity to generate income, alleviate poverty, increase access to healthcare and education, and conserve cultural and natural resources,” said Denise.  

Indigenous tourism webinar

The first panelist, Sherry L. Rupert, CEO of the American Indian and Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA), shared key research and data on the economic impact of cultural tourism, including the fact that Native American tourism in the United States is a 14 billion USD industry.  

However, Tribes still face challenges to access funding, grow markets and benefit from the national tourism system. She shared some examples of successful Native tourism enterprises including Redwood Yurok Canoe Tours, DX Ranch South Dakota, and the Steward Indian School Cultural Center and Museum

She welcomed Reid Milanovich, Chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who noted the critical importance of cultural tourism to Tribal economies. He thanked AINTA for their support in maximizing tourism opportunities and “lifting Tribes to help them share their stories.” 

Indigenous tourism webinar

Seleni Matus, Executive Director of the International Institute of Tourism at the George Washington University spoke about fostering regional partnerships for Indigenous tourism. First, she shared a Toolkit and Model for Regional Development and Management of Native Tourism, developed by Tribal Nations and the North Dakota and South Dakota Tourism Alliances, to inspire new ways of collaboration among Tribal Nations and promote vibrant economies at the state level. The Tribal-led process includes stakeholder consultation, shared vision, capacity development, and forming market linkages.  

Seleni gave an overview of the Indigenous Tourism Collaborative of the Americas, an initiative to inspire connections and exchange knowledge so Indigenous Peoples can determine their sustainable futures. More than 75 organizations are involved in the network, which was born from discussions during the Indigenous Tourism Forum of the Americas. The Collaborative offers an online repository and ongoing virtual dialogues to develop a shared action agenda defined by Indigenous leaders. 

Graciela Coy, Maya Q’eqchi’ and President of Ak’ Tenamit, presented the sustainable tourism network Caribe Maya. The network is composed of community groups and women’s organizations along the Mayan Caribbean coast in Guatemala and Honduras, an area rich in cultural wealth and marine and terrestrial biodiversity. She explained that the planning and organization is managed by the Indigenous, Garifuna, and community groups who make up the tourism network, and that benefits are distributed among the communities to support education and health.   

Caribe Maya connects with national and foreign tourists by leveraging technology and social media and working together to promote the products offered by the different groups. She stressed the importance of strategic partnerships with the private sector and the Guatemala Institute of Tourism.  

Indigenous-led tourism webinar

Coming out of the pandemic, tourism began to increase again in 2021, bringing positive impacts to the communities. 

“We have seen some changes. We have observed the empowerment of communities, women’s groups, and associations and see the participation of women who have a significant leadership role in these community tourism activities,” Graciela said.

Other positive results include stronger enterprises, biodiversity conservation especially of the mangroves, and increased participation in decision-making spaces, for example the Izabal Department Tourism Desk.  

Graciela shared lessons learned, including the need to be resilient and prepared in face of tropical storms and climate change, the importance of strategic partnerships to strengthen community tourism, increasing women’s participation and equal distribution of benefits, and the need to develop contingency plans against any negative impacts of tourism that could arise.  

The question and answer section concluded with agreement on the need to engage a wide range of sectors including government, private sector, and NGOs to support Indigenous-led tourism. All speakers highlighted the importance of collaboration, working and learning together, and building partnerships.  

Alejandro Paredes, IPARD Program Director, gave closing remarks thanking all panelists and attendees, emphasizing the importance of continuing the discussion and strengthening the connections established in this webinar.  

View the webinar recording here.  

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Indigenous Leaders from Mesoamerica, Africa and Peru Participated in a Climate Change Negotiation Workshop

A few months before COP27 and as part of its strategy to strengthen the capacities of Indigenous Organizations around the world and catalyze holistic self-development, the FSC-IF developed a training workshop on climate change negotiation.

Panama City, Panama. Nearly 50 Indigenous leaders from 20 countries in Mesoamerica, Africa, and South America participated in a virtual workshop on climate change negotiation.

The goal of this workshop was to provide a formative space to strengthen organizations’ capacity to ensure the protection and promotion of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

A few months before the Climate Change Summit COP 27, to be held in Sharm El Sheik in Egypt from 6 to 18 November, Indigenous Peoples’ organizations must prepare themselves to be able to directly advocate for their economic, social, cultural, collective, and territorial rights.

In response to this need, the IPARD Program seeks to contribute to ensuring consistent and long-term technical, organizational and management capacity building, with the aim of empowering Indigenous Peoples as actors to engage and collaborate with the public and private sectors to co-create solutions that produce mutual benefits.   

“The knowledge I acquired will be useful for other Indigenous Peoples when I train them before the COP. Moreover, during the negotiations and the subsequent implementation of the convention, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement, this knowledge will contribute to the improvement of the living conditions of Indigenous Peoples,” said one of the participants, Severin Sindizera, National Project Coordinator for the Partnership for Integration and Sustainable Development in Burundi.

The climate change negotiation workshop was structured in three participatory sessions conducted under the guidance of Eduardo Reyes, climate change expert, and the IPARD Program team of the FSC Indigenous Foundation. The Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), the Indigenous and Local Peoples’ Network for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa (REPALEAC), the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) and the RUZBUMET Foundation supported and participated in the workshop.

The workshop addressed topics related to the context of the negotiation spaces, the main regulations concerning Indigenous Peoples and forests, the contributions of Indigenous territories and countries, and recommendations on initiatives to make visible the contributions of forests in Indigenous territories to mitigate climate change in countries’ NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions).

The negotiators’ workshop has been a very important training space. As a young gunadule woman, it has helped me to learn about and affirm several issues that are important in climate change negotiations. For example: processes, the actors in the processes, the advocacy that we must do, the negotiating groups and coalitions that exist in the different countries, and the importance of the NDCs,” said Jocabed Solano from the Guna People of Panama and Co-Director of Memoria Indígena.

Climate Change Negotiation Training

The first session featured a presentation on the United Nations Climate Change Conference including its itinerary, hierarchical structure, and the main mechanisms for structuring the thematic agendas and decision-making in the official sessions of the parties. Indigenous Peoples’ organizations learned in detail about the functioning of this advocacy space to be able to prepare their interventions to reach key audiences with national and international influence.

The second session focused on the main actors and coalitions involved in the climate negotiation process to clarify the dynamics of the official debates. Issues such as representation, organization of blocks and coalitions by country, region and priorities were covered. One of the most relevant topics of this session was the clarification of the process that Indigenous Peoples organizations must follow in order for their needs and proposals to be considered in this space. Eduardo Reyes explained that although Indigenous Peoples do not have an official representation space among the parties, they can influence this space through the agendas of national governments, which is why it is important to carry out sustained advocacy work in each of the territories.

The third session focused on analyzing the international commitments ratified by the countries and their relationship with Indigenous Peoples, with special emphasis on the Paris Agreement and its subsequent instruments. The analysis considered the environmental, social, and economic implications and impacts for Indigenous Peoples in scenarios of compliance and non-compliance with the main agreements. During the presentation, Eduardo Reyes stressed the importance of carefully analyzing each of the instruments in order to prevent negative impacts on Indigenous Peoples and organizations, especially those belonging to the Global South.

The second part of the third session included the participation of Marcial Arias Medina from the Guna People, and Edgar Correa from the Mayan community of Belize, experts on the implementation of the decisions that must be made and the steps that must be taken to carry out the analyses requested by the Warsaw REDD+ Framework, in line with the Paris Agreement. The experts presented topics related to the instruments and tools available to elaborate measurements and reports that highlight the contributions of Indigenous Peoples to the processes of climate change adaptation and mitigation.

During their presentations, Marcial and Edgar emphasized the importance of data and evidence. This information allows negotiators to understand the elements and techniques they need to support their discussions, as many decisions are made based on data and scientific information.

For more information see the full workshop below, available in English, Spanish, and French.

Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Peoples manage a quarter of the world’s land surface and their territories are home to resources vital to the survival of humanity and the planet, and are sources of global solutions to climate change and carbon cycle management.

Despite their global importance, Indigenous Peoples are some of the most affected by climate change. Their territories are suffering the consequences of extreme climate phenomena such as droughts, floods, forest fires, changing agrarian cycles that cause food scarcity, and shortages of medicines derived from forests and plants.

In addition, Indigenous territories are threatened by extractive, agro-industrial, and infrastructure activities that are some of the largest global sources of emissions that cause deforestation and pollution. According to figures presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “gas emissions from human activities are responsible for approximately a 1.1°C increase in temperature in the period from 1850 to 1900.” Increased human activities, such as those mentioned above, will contribute to the climate crisis and temperature increase.

Throughout history, Indigenous Peoples have successfully coped with various crises, including climate phenomena, based on their traditional knowledge and practices. As a result, a number of studies have been undertaken to identify the key to dealing with the crises affecting the world. According to research published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights is vital for conserving forests and tackling global warming. The same research revealed that 36% of intact forest landscapes are found in Indigenous territories and remain standing beacause of their traditional knowledge and practices.

“The survival of humanity is linked to the respect we show towards nature; by destroying nature, humans are destroying themselves, because we are part of nature,” said one of the workshop participants, Adolphe Bope Bope Kwete, focal point for Pygmy Dignity (DIPY) in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The environmental, social, and economic impacts of climate change put communities, territories and forests at risk, which is why IPARD held this negotiation workshop with the aim of enabling leaders to promote their rights. According to Dina Juc, from the Maya Quiché people of Guatemala, responsible for the Human Rights area of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), “These tools help people to have concrete data and to present themselves with greater confidence when negotiating. This allows the Indigenous leaders who come to the negotiation space to have a strong support and base.”

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