A new generation of Indigenous leaders to promote rights and an alternate vision of development

Expert Degree empowers 44 Indigenous community leaders from Latin America to create and support agendas for change

The FSC Indigenous Foundation (FSC-IF) supported the 16th edition of the Course: Expert Degree in Indigenous Peoples, Human Rights, and International Cooperation for Indigenous leaders in Latin America offered by the Fund for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC) through the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. 

Strong Indigenous leadership is essential for community development. The students who attended the course will become part of a new generation of global leaders who will provide solutions to protect Mother Earth, rooted in their cosmovision, ancestral knowledge, and innovation.

The future of the whole planet depends on the future of Indigenous Peoples. 

The course provided participants with training to assume responsibilities and leadership roles in the design and creation of national public policies to defend and protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights. In addition to leadership and capacity development, the Expert Degree promoted community and knowledge exchange around to the common values among the Indigenous students and awareness of shared challenges. 

Myrna Cunningham, Vice President of the board of FILAC, explained, “we have tried to promote a new intercultural higher education model which combines, in a very respectful way, the knowledge of our Indigenous Peoples with the knowledge of modern science together, and innovate, through a constructive dialogue, solutions to respond to the barriers which keep our peoples oppressed and discriminated against.”  

Francisco Souza, Managing Director of the FSC-IF, emphasized why Indigenous leadership is so important. “Less than 5% of the population of the planet manages almost 50% of the territory. And this 50% of the territory has been extremely effective in protecting Mother Earth. Here we are talking about 70% of the planet’s native forests…Indigenous Peoples are important in proposing solutions to challenges we face in different parts of the planet.” 

Scholarships funded by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the Anne Deruyttere Foundation, the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the FSC Indigenous Foundation allowed 44 students to attend this course, including 25 Indigenous women leaders. The FSC-IF supported nine students from different Indigenous Peoples organizations in Bolivia, Guatemala, and Panama. 

“These topics deepen knowledge related to the human rights of Indigenous Peoples to achieve an alternative vision of more human development,” said Enrique Obaldia Pérez of the Guna People of Panama, one of the students supported by the FSC-IF. 

Listen to him discuss the importance of learning about the colonization of power, of being and knowing, intercultural education, multilingualism, development of identity, racism, and of living well.  

“I will continue to strengthen this knowledge which I consider a way to keep the essence of our true identity as Indigenous Peoples alive,” said Liria Elizabeth Tay Ajquill of the Maya Kaqchikel People of Guatemala, another student supported by the FSC-IF. 

Watch Liria’s video on how knowledge can lead to increased visibility of Indigenous Peoples and societies where collective rights and identity are respected and protected. 

Read more testimonies of previous graduates here.  

At FSC-IF we believe that Indigenous Peoples and their organizations have the capacity and should have access to the right tools and skills to be able to defend their rights, territories and livelihoods and achieve their vision of development. The FSC-IF and its Program the Indigenous Peoples Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD) work to strengthen the capacities of Indigenous Peoples’ organizations through the development of leadership, planning, management, organizational, technical, and negotiation skills, as well as the capacities of other stakeholders in Indigenous issues.  

Watch the closing ceremony of the 16th edition of the Expert Degree here


Integrating Indigenous Peoples into the NDC process through capacity development

At COP27, Indigenous leaders and partners shared successful cases of Indigenous participation in REDD+ strategies as part of the NDCs in Costa Rica and Peru

At COP27, the FSC Indigenous Foundation, the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), the Association for Research and Integral Development (AIDER), and Ecosphere+ convened experts at an event on November 16 in the UNFCCC Capacity Building Hub, Integrating Indigenous Peoples into the NDC process through capacity development. This event highlighted Indigenous communities effectively engaging in the carbon market and shared lessons, strategies, and recommendations to drive Indigenous capacity development. 

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are part of the strategy to achieve the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to commit to actions to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Indigenous Peoples are critical for climate mitigation, as their territories are sources of global solutions to climate change and are vital to conserving and restoring ecosystems. Indigenous Peoples and local communities are custodians of 20% of forest carbon in tropical and subtropical countries, which is equivalent to 218 billion tons of carbon, or more than 30 times the total global energy emissions in 2017.

It is critical to scale up and better integrate Indigenous Peoples in NDC processes with governments through capacity development. 

Case studies: Indigenous participation in the NDCs and lessons for capacity development 

A panel with Indigenous leaders and partner organizations shared initiatives in Costa Rica and Peru related to the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism that are part of the NDCs.

Levi Sucre, Coordinator of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB) described his experience leading the consultation for the REDD+ strategy in Costa Rica. He explained how the government facilitated Indigenous leaders’
understanding of key issues such as climate change for the consultation process and the importance of having a young cultural mediator who speaks the Indigenous language to interpret and understand the REDD+ strategy.

He stated, “We need to integrate the Indigenous worldview into the REDD+ national strategy. These concepts must be understood in order to create a more integrated proposal.”

The next two panelists spoke about the Alianza Forestal, a Community Forest Management initiative that incorporates REDD+, developed by AIDER in Peru. 

Diana Mori, representative of the Shipibo-Conibo Indigenous group, spoke about Indigenous women’s participation in the struggle for collective rights and communal forests and how communities have adapted their traditional knowledge of forest management with proposals and voluntary standards for FSC certification. Indigenous Peoples need to understand climate finance and how certification mechanisms work.

She emphasized the resiliency of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous women.

“Communities have the capacity to adapt to change.”

Marioldy Sánchez, Head of Project Management at AIDER, discussed capacity development efforts with communities and their leaders on climate finance with REDD+ and the management of Indigenous forests with an integral perspective. She emphasized the importance of starting from the holistic perspective of Indigenous Peoples and training Indigenous leaders.

She stated, “Strategic alliances, such as the Forest Alliance, allow for capacity building for Indigenous Peoples. It is important that other sectors learn from the intersectoral dialogue of this experience and exchange ancestral knowledge.”

Berlin Diques, President of the Regional Organisation AIDESEP Ucayali (ORAU), spoke about how Indigenous Peoples are asking for clear public policies to protect the forests and mitigate climate change, and that strategic alliances are key to advancing and speeding up our processes. He emphasized that civil society and Indigenous organizations must take the lead in the process to develop technical capacities. 

He said, “Mechanisms should be participatory and socialized with Indigenous Peoples and leaders. It is important to have information before making decisions that involve our territories and resources.”

Panelists concluded that Indigenous Peoples must be supported with improved capacity development to keep safeguarding forests and practicing nature-based solutions through existing mechanisms such as REDD+, certification, and the NDCs. 

Rita Spadafora, IPARD Program Lead for Capacity Development and Inclusion at the FSC Indigenous Foundation, moderated the event and closed with a message that we must focus on improving the capacities of Indigenous Peoples and governments to create the conditions for Indigenous Peoples to influence the climate agenda with the capacity to negotiate the recognition of their contributions to mitigate climate change within the NDCs.

View a recording of the event here (in Spanish).

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