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.
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 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 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.
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.”
Watch a video where she speaks more about the training.
The FSC Indigenous Foundation Launches the “Indigenous Voices” Podcast
“Indigenous Voices” is a podcast produced by the FSC Indigenous Foundation, dedicated especially to highlight the vision and perspectives of the Indigenous Peoples of the world.
Panama City, Panama. The FSC Indigenous Foundation is launching the “Indigenous Voices” podcast as part of its work to recognize the global value of Indigenous Peoples, their rights, livelihoods, territories, and natural capital. Indigenous leaders and experts on Indigenous Peoples from around the world participate in this podcast and share their thoughts on the main issues faced by Indigenous Peoples, as well as their relationship with the conservation of forests and other natural ecosystems, cultures, biodiversity, and life on the planet.
In each episode, we listen to their experiences, opinions, analyses, and proposals related to the global issues we face as human beings.
We present the first episodes of “Indigenous Voices” below.
Episode 1 – Indigenous Peoples: A Light in the Darkness
In the first episode of “Indigenous Voices”, Anders Blom, a member of the Sámi People of Sweden, Chairman of the FSC Indigenous Foundation Board, and Former President of the Protect Sápmi Foundation, will share his reflections on the main challenges that Indigenous Peoples around the world are facing and how the FSC Indigenous Foundation is addressing these challenges at many levels.
“One of the most important characteristics of the work done by the FSC Indigenous Foundation is the recovery of Indigenous Peoples’ values. Values that are repeated in communities around the world and that can be replicated to protect the planet.”
In addition, Anders will provide specific recommendations for donors, investors, and companies to join efforts and coordinate joint actions with Indigenous Peoples to address the climate crisis.
The episode will also feature Anders’ analysis of the global commitment to invest $1.7 billion to fight and mitigate climate change involving the effective participation and leadership of Indigenous Peoples.
Listen to the first episode here.
Episode 2 – Our Connection with Nature
The second episode of “Indigenous Voices” will explore the millenary relationship of Indigenous Peoples with nature and how this harmonic connection based on reciprocity has managed to conserve the natural resources essential for the survival of humankind.
Te Ngaehe Wanikau of the Maori People of New Zealand and alternate member of the FSC Permanent Indigenous Peoples Committee will explain the connection between Indigenous Peoples and nature, and analyze the importance of understanding this relationship to meet the goals of sustainable development and face the climate, health and food crises.
“By taking care of the Earth, the Earth will take care of you, if you take care of people, people will take care of you. Just as the gods protect the environment, water, forests and lands, we humans have a responsibility to take care of them as well.” Te Ngaehe Wanikau
In addition, this episode also shares the key to co-create successful solutions for governance and management of Indigenous territories and natural resources.
Listen to the second episode here.
Episode 3 – Transforming the World
In the third episode of “Indigenous Voices,” Francisco Souza, member of the Apurinã People of the Brazilian Amazon and Managing Director of the FSC Indigenous Foundation, will share his experience of more than 30 years building and leading initiatives related to Indigenous Peoples, forests, sustainable development, climate change, business development, climate change, finance, and the environment in more than 40 countries.
Additionally, he will tell us his story and the motivations that led him to become the Managing Director of the FSC Indigenous Foundation and to drive the co-creation of long-term solutions based on the vision, values, and ancestral knowledge of Indigenous Peoples,
“Indigenous Peoples are willing to share their holistic vision of caring for nature with the world; the time has come to establish a dialogue between the different sectors so that Indigenous Peoples can guide us towards a balance with the Earth. To this end, the rights of Peoples to self-determination, non-violence, free prior and informed consent protocols, and to conserve their territories must be respected.” Francisco Souza
Listen to the third episode here.
Episode 4 – Speak to the World
In the fourth episode of “Indigenous Voices,” we speak with Tabea Casique, Indigenous leader of the Asháninka People of Peru, Coordinator of the Education, Science and Technology Area of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) and member of the FSC Permanent Indigenous Peoples Committee representing South America.
This episode shows how the promotion of education, science and technology are the key elements to strengthen Indigenous organizations as well as to promote the creation of innovative solutions focused on the needs of Indigenous Peoples.
“Women’s participation from the communities is not visible. However, they contribute a lot from their communities, accompanying them with communal and organizational work in defense of territories and forests and Indigenous governance.” Tabea Casique
Listen to the fourth episode here.
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.
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.
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.