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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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Collaboration to promote Indigenous Peoples’ rights and self-development in Africa 

A conversation with Basiru Isa of REPALEAC on the challenges of Indigenous Peoples’ recognition, rights, and natural resources.

In Africa, Indigenous Peoples are some of the most marginalized populations, face discrimination, and are excluded from decision-making on issues critical to them. They are facing threats to their rights, especially the right to land, and are impacted by climate change that manifests in droughts, floods, and locusts. They lack quality infrastructure and social services, such as education and health. All these challenges are further compounded by the fact there is confusion on the definition of Indigenous Peoples in the African context. 

To work with Indigenous Peoples organizations on the promotion of Indigenous rights and self-development in Africa, the FSC Indigenous Foundation, through the Indigenous Peoples Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD) Program, is creating a partnership with two major Indigenous Peoples platforms in the Africa Region: the Network of Indigenous and Local Communities for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa (REPALEAC) and the Indigenous Peoples Coordinating Committee of Africa (IPACC).  

The FSC-IF had a conversation with the Secretary General of REPALEAC Basiru Isa to hear his perspective on Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC) in Africa. Basiru has been involved with REPALEAC for more than ten years and is now in charge of the technical and programmatic section of the network. He is based in Cameroon.  

FSC-IF: Could you tell us about REPALEAC and its strategic plan and vision? 

Basiru Isa: REPALEAC is the network of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities for the sustainable management of forest ecosystems. It was created in 2003 in Kigali, Rwanda and today is a regional network of more than 560 Indigenous Peoples organizations that are members. It operates in eight countries: Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, and Rwanda. So, REPALEAC has eight international networks that work on a daily basis for the interests of Indigenous Peoples in their countries.  

REPALEAC developed a strategic plan in 2018 that runs from 2018 to 2025. It has three phases: the preparatory phase (2018 – 2020), the operationalization phase (2020 – 2021), and then now the implementation phase (2022 – 2025). This strategic plan has four strategic axes that are supported by operational objectives.  

The first axis is securing land, territories, and natural resources. Under this axis are the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ land rights and cartography of Indigenous Peoples’ land. The second priority axis is the participation of Indigenous Peoples in decision-making, especially in the management of their lands, forests, and natural resources at the local, national, and international levels. The third priority axis is consolidating economic benefits that are obtained from the sustainable management of natural resources. And the fourth priority axis is the sustainable strengthening of the living conditions of Indigenous Peoples. Finally, there is a transversal axis that deals with capacity building of Indigenous Peoples organizations, especially REPALEAC and its members.  

Group of Black Indigenous in the forest.

FSC-IF: What are the challenges to implement this plan and the challenges facing Indigenous Peoples in Africa? 

Basiru: The challenges are numerous but they are not beyond the international community. The first challenge is the recognition of Indigenous Peoples by states based on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Today, with the work of REPALEAC we are seeing advances in some countries, for example, the DRC is currently voting on a specific law for the rights of Indigenous Peoples. In Cameroon, there is already a national development plan for Indigenous Peoples. In the Republic of Congo, there is a specific direction at the Ministry of Justice which is dedicated to the rights of Indigenous Peoples. And recently in Burundi, there was the validation of the national development plan for Batwa communities.  

The challenge is for countries to understand that Indigenous Peoples are people who have specificities because their culture and rights need to be understood and respected by states. The second challenge is facilitating social services for Indigenous Peoples that are adapted to their needs, for example, access to schools that are adapted to their agricultural, hunting, or pastoral calendars. How can they reconcile going to school with maintaining their traditional way of living? Another challenge is for Indigenous Peoples themselves to understand their specificities, how they can fight for their rights, and how can we empower them. A final challenge is how we can mobilize resources to achieve our vision.  

FSC-IF: How can we overcome these challenges?  

Basiru: We can continue lobbying and advocacy at the national level for the recognition of Indigenous Peoples. Second, to promote the recognition of their rights, especially the right to education, the right to land, the right to natural resources, and the right to participate in decision-making. If you look at the axes of REPALEAC, we are working in these areas. Third, to work with states and donors to see how we can mobilize resources to ensure that services provided to Indigenous Peoples are adapted to their cultural norms and also empower Indigenous communities. I think these are some of the efforts that we can try to make. 

FSC-IF: How do you envision a collaboration with the FSC-IF in Africa? 

Basiru: I think the FSC-IF is one of the most recent innovative tools that can be used to change the mindset of both the national and international communities, especially in what we call Indigenous National Development Plans. From REPALEAC, we envision a productive relationship. When we look at the three objectives of IPARD, they align with the five strategic axes of REPALEAC. So there is a common vision between REPALEAC and the FSC-IF and I think it is very easy for us to work together. 

FSC-IF: How will this collaboration respond to the challenges facing Indigenous Peoples in Africa? 

With the development of an Indigenous Peoples Development Program in Africa, a lot of effort will be put on advocacy at the local, national and regional levels for the recognition of Indigenous Peoples. Secondly, we can work on activities that can be directly implemented in Indigenous communities. Also, we can see how together we can mobilize resources and build capacities of Indigenous Peoples, organizations, and communities. 

FSC-IF: What are the next steps? 

Basiru: We have had a long-term discussion and a face-to-face meeting in Nairobi. Now the next step is to explore a Memorandum of Understanding and define our next steps together.