Report on the Indigenous Peoples Global Summit
on Climate Change - Dena’ina Center Anchorage Alaska
20-24 April, 2009
By Fiu Mataese Elisara-Laulu, Executive Director/OLSSI
The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) hosted more than four hundred participants, donors, and observers in the first ever Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change held in the Dena’ina Conference Center in Anchorage, Alaska, USA between April 19th and 25th, 2009. I was invited to attend the Summit by ICC to be part of the Pacific delegation and to prepare and deliver the statement and report on climate change from the Pacific region.
The Summit gave indigenous participants from around the world the opportunity to share information about climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, as well as on the transfer of appropriate technology and finance as agreed in the Bali Acton Plan (BAP) as an outcome of the UNFCCC conference of the parties held in the city of Bali Indonesia in November and December 2007. The Summit also enabled the indigenous peoples to adopt the necessary steps to ensure their point of view is included in international treaties and instruments. The Summit’s goal was to lead the way in providing representatives with knowledge to take back home in order to work more effectively on climate change impacts.
The summit was also able to develop key messages and recommendations to be articulated to the world at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009.
Indigenous Peoples from all regions of the world depend upon the natural environment. Their rich and detailed traditional knowledge reflects and embodies a cultural and spiritual relationship with the land, ocean and wildlife. However, human activity is changing the world’s climate and altering the natural environment to which Indigenous Peoples are so closely attached and on which they so heavily rely.
In a very real sense, Indigenous Peoples are on the front lines of climate change. They observe climate and environmental changes first-hand and use traditional knowledge and survival skills to adapt to these changes as they occur. Moreover, they must do so at a time when their cultures and livelihoods are already undergoing significant changes due, in part, to the accelerated development of natural resources from their traditional territories stimulated by trade liberalization and globalization.
Reflecting their position as “stewards” of the environment and drawing upon their age-old traditional knowledge—the heart of their cultural resilience—Indigenous Peoples were among the first groups to call upon national governments, transnational corporations and civil society to do more to protect the Earth and human society from climate change.
Indigenous delegates were selected from each of the UNPFII regions, with a view to ensuring balanced representation of professional expertise, gender balance and stakeholder participation within the available funds. Additional participants include both indigenous representatives and observers, who were interested in attending the Summit and were able to fund their own costs.
The Summit was designed to produce a legacy for the participants to adopt an Indigenous Peoples Declaration and Action Plan on Climate Change for presentation and discussion at COP 15 in Copenhagen and beyond.
The summit agenda was designed to promote discussion and sharing among and between representatives of Indigenous peoples from all regions of the world with a view to developing the declaration and action plan as an outcome. The agenda begins with reports by Indigenous peoples on the impacts and effects of climate change in their regions, supplemented by information already generated by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others, and then to a presentation of research commissioned specifically for the Summit and briefings on international instruments to address climate change.
This was followed by four simultaneous thematic sessions, and a full day’s dialogue with representatives of governments, businesses, foundations, international agencies, NGO’s and others. The final day focused on finalizing the Summit declaration and despite a half day scheduled free for participants in the last day, the different positions taken by different regions of the indigenous peoples around the world on the issue of moratorium on fossil fuels, forced the Summit to spend all of the last day until 7.00pm to adopt a compromised language in the final Declaration as reflected in 1 (A) and (B) of the outcome. I stayed to the end to lead the Pacific negotiation and to defend our principled position in what we believe as non-negotiable positions about pushing for cuts in fossil fuels at source thus supporting a moratorium on any new fossil fuel developments (see the copy of the Declaration as part of this report).
Statements from the Regions (Pacific Statement):
Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change
Anchorage Alaska, USA, 19-25 April 2009
Topic: Climate Change: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges
Draft Prepared by Fiu Mataese Elisara, Executive Director, OLSSI, Samoa
We, the indigenous peoples of the world, are at the prow of the ship – anticipating the oncoming waves of climate change. We are here to alert humanity on what is already happening and headed our way.
Chairperson – Let me take this opportunity to congratulate you on your election to the chair. On behalf of the Pacific delegation we applaud the tremendous efforts of the Inuit peoples and the Inuit Circumpolar Council for being an excellent host of this Indigenous Peoples Global Summit on climate change. Like us in the Pacific, we share the same grave concerns about the impacts of climate change and we look forward to this week of sharing to learn from one another as we struggle together to find real solutions to our crisis! We also want to commend the pivotal work of the chairperson and members of the Steering Committee in making this conference possible as this will have undoubtedly been an immense and challenging ask for your valuable time, energy, and patience. The fact that we are all here is evident of a successful coordination for which we want to thank you all unreservedly.
“… Tuvaluans would not accept defeat on climate change. It is our belief that Tuvalu as a nation has a right to exist forever…”
This pledge from Prime Minister Apisai Ieremia of Tuvalu is a reflection of our collective Pacific voice.
For Pacific peoples, the discussion on climate change is not just a theoretical or scientific issue discussed in these global meetings! It is an intensely human discussion. Climate change is a reality that Pacific peoples are facing now! There are real and growing negative effects on our fundamental terrestrial and marine resources, the basis of our daily lives! For us it is a matter of life and death! Climate change is already a reality for Pacific men, women, and children. Pacific peoples are being forced to consider fleeing their cultural and geographic homelands. This should not be! One of our peoples, the Tuvaluans, are already losing their homes to rising seas. Other islanders have been displaced from their ancestral land bases. President Anote Tong of Kiribati recently stated that his government would “…consider buying land [or] we die and go extinct.”
As sovereign peoples and countries in the Pacific, this too should be our unconditional call. Our rights to exist as nations and survival of many of our small island states are not negotiable. These are protected under the Charter of the United Nations! Climate change directly violates those rights. Those responsible must bear responsibility and be held accountable for our demise when we lose our cultures, when our traditional ways of lives are trashed, and when we are denied our freedom to exist as peoples and as countries. We call on this Summit to be a forum to continue to pressure those culprits responsible for global warming to deliver on their commitments to take real and urgent action to curb climate change!
The low elevation and high quantity of insular coastlines in many of our countries make the Pacific a very vulnerable and high risk region to impacts of climate change. It now suffers from loss of coastal land and infrastructure due to erosion, inundation and tidal surges; increase in frequency and severity of cyclones; the warming of the oceans destroy coral reefs and the sea eco-systems which the livelihood of many of us islanders depend on; changes in rainfall patterns increase droughts in some areas and more rainfall cause flooding in other areas; increase in dengue fever and diarrhea outbreaks; sugarcane, yams, taro, banana plantations, and cassava which are the mainstay food sources for our peoples are lost due to extreme temperatures, changes in the seasons, and severity of rainfall; our drinkable water sources are affected due to changes in rainfall, sea-level rise, and inundation by sea water.
Dealing with man-made crisis such as climate change is expensive! Sometimes bloody and in human terms invariably late! We in the Pacific firmly believe that it would be more humane and less expensive to act preventively to focus on resilience and mitigation strategies and to meet threats upstream rather than to have them confront us as adaptation crisis downstream! After ravaging the resources of Mother Earth for longer than history, those responsible are only now beginning to realize how little they know about what they have done to themselves and unfortunately to the rest of us!
When the UNFCCC refused to recognize the UNDRIP and respect for those rights of indigenous peoples in Poznan this demonstrated a deliberate and continued violation of our rights to lands, territories and resources; cause forced evictions of our peoples; prevent access and threaten indigenous agriculture practices; destroy biodiversity, cultural diversity, traditional livelihoods and knowledge systems; cause conflicts and allow carbon traders through market based mechanisms to assume more control over our forests and natural resources.
For us in the Pacific, we call on our own governments to give urgent consideration to supporting the UNDRIP as we find it unacceptable that with a predominance of our peoples as indigenous, only one country joined 144 other countries of the United Nations General Assembly to endorse UNDRIP on 13 September 2007. In this connection, we want to commend Australia’s latest support of the UNDRIP as a first step and wish to eco the related comments of Jenny Macklin as Indigenous Affairs Minister as this move will ensure that the “flawed policies of the past will never be revisited”. We say ‘first step’ because we align ourselves fully with the statement made by Mick Dodson when he said “the value is not in existence but in implementation” within the national laws of Australia and not just treating this support as non-binding without legal obligations nationally. We demand the governments of USA, Canada and New Zealand to follow the example set by Australia. We call on our own Pacific countries to take urgent action and support the UNDRIP as any further delay on their part is tantamount to denying the rights of the Pacific peoples.
The UNDRIP establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples. The Declaration addresses both individual and collective rights; cultural rights and identity; rights to education, health, employment, language, and others. It outlaws discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them. It also ensures their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own priorities in economic, social and cultural development. The Declaration explicitly encourages harmonious and cooperative relations between States and indigenous peoples. With climate change, this can be a powerful tool for the Pacific to hold those responsible to account for their impacts on our peoples, our cultures, our natural resources, and our lives.
The Pacific Peoples seek leadership by example. All industrialized nations must demonstrate leadership by reducing carbon emissions within their own borders through deep and hard targets. This has to be the bedrock for any future international agreements on climate change. Negative impacts of climate change and sea level rise are already occurring in the Pacific. The flawed solutions to climate change such as bio-fuel, reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD), market based solutions, ocean fertilization that is targeting the Pacific Ocean, the establishment of State controlled protected areas/marine sanctuaries, and others supported in Accra and Poznan must be rejected. While some in the Pacific are trying to use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Pacific Indigenous Caucus at the Permanent Forum in 2008 opposed the REDD because its application violates the human rights of the vast majority of pacific peoples, who like the Tuvaluans, are losing their culture, lands, territories and resources because of climate change and rising tides. The UNDRIP cannot be manipulated to justify the REDD when the human rights of other indigenous peoples in the Pacific are being denied and their traditional livelihoods threatened.
For 22% of UNFCCC members however, the stakes are much higher; having their small islands swarmed by the encroaching ocean is no longer a question of whether it will happen but when this will take place. These are the 43 members of AOSIS that include the 14 independent countries of the Pacific. The Pacific islands through AOSIS made sure the UNFCCC negotiations in Poznan, Poland last year, heard their positions loud and clear. What is also clear is right from day one of UNFCCC, AOSIS set emission reduction goals, which many labeled as ambitious, that demanded Annex One countries reduce their carbon emissions by as high as 40% from their 1990 levels by 2020 and 95% by 2050. Such deep and rapid cuts would limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. The AOSIS submission to the Poznan negotiations stated that the avoidance of climate change impacts on small islands developing states (SIDS) must be one of the key benchmarks for assessing the appropriateness of any long-term goal.
It is now necessary to also fundamentally review the debt obligations of developing countries through the prism of climate change. Many of them are still paying for infrastructural investments that are no longer viable, or whose effective lifespan will be severely curtailed by climate change. How ironical! The rich countries must admit ecological debt owed us as a result of their historical and ongoing physical exploitation of our resources and peoples. The resource flow must therefore be from the North rich to the South developing countries like the Pacific and all reference to debts by our developing countries must be unconditionally cancelled.
History will judge us, not by the words we have spoken in these global meetings on these important issues, or the outcomes of the many climate change conferences, but by the sincerity of our efforts and the success we achieve in bringing about beneficial and positive changes!
We of the Pacific Region:
Background to the Four Simultaneous Thematic Sessions
Climate change has captured the attention of the international community and the public at large to an unprecedented extent. The impacts of climate change range from effects on agriculture to endangering food security, to rising sea-levels and accelerated erosion of coastal zones, increasing intensity of natural disasters, species extinction and the spread of vector-borne diseases.
The 2007 assessment report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), concludes there is unequivocal evidence that the earth’s climate system is warming, very likely due to anthropogenic (human caused) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In the absence of effective mitigation, the IPCC predicts that the earth’s air temperature will increase by 2.0 to 4.5 degrees by the end of the century, resulting in a sea level rise of at least 18 to 58 cms. Projected temperature increases in high latitudes, such as the Arctic are 5 to 7 degrees by 2099. The IPCC report presented evidence from all continents that show increasing regional climate change. Carbon dioxide, the principal GHG in the atmosphere, has increased by 35 per cent since the industrial revolution as a result of human activity, especially in the rich and industrialized nations. The emerging economies of China, India, Brazil and others are predicted to generate significant global GHGs. The impacts and effects of projected global warming on societies and cultures, as well as the environment and economy, are stark and worrying.
As a result of their close relationship with the land, including their traditional knowledge, indigenous peoples have observed and reported the impacts of global warming for several decades. Observed changes relate to temperature, amounts and qualities of rain and snow, length of seasons, distribution and abundance of plants and animals, and much more. Indigenous peoples are trying to cope with and adapt to these changes, with varying degrees of success.
Indigenous peoples are directly and disproportionately affected by climate change and by attempts nationally and internationally to mitigate its effects. In addition, indigenous peoples interpret and react to climate change impacts in creative ways, drawing on traditional knowledge and other technologies to find solutions, and increase resilience which may help society at large to cope with impending changes. Indigenous perspectives and their own efforts on mitigation and adaption are rarely considered by states or the international process to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Mitigation and adaption to climate change raise fundamental questions of the meaning and practice of sustainable uses of land and natural resources, sustainable uses and management of forests, sustainable agriculture, protection and enhancement of sinks and reservoirs of GHGs, efficient use of energy, development of renewable sources of energy, including small-scale, community-managed renewable energy systems. To protect and conserve the territories of Indigenous peoples these strategies need to reflect the ecological dimension of climate change, and also the human, political and legal rights of Indigenous peoples themselves.
The capacity of indigenous peoples to adapt to climate change has been compromised, not only as a result of the magnitude of the impacts of climate change, but because legal, political, financial and other means of support to Indigenous peoples from the international community has not been forthcoming. As stewards and custodians of large sections of the world’s biodiversity, cultural and language diversity, and traditional ecological knowledge, indigenous peoples can contribute significantly to the design and implementation of sustainable mitigation and adaptation measures.
The inclusion of indigenous peoples’ voices in issues affecting them is important in the ongoing debate about climate change. The right of indigenous peoples to participate in decision-making is confirmed in the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Agenda 21 adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janerio in 1992. Article 18 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states “Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions”.
Four themes were chosen to help delegates organize and explain their concerns and perspectives on climate change and to help structure recommendations for the declaration and action plan. Delegates in all thematic sessions were asked to address four questions outlined below, remembering that we wished to move beyond effects to solutions. Each thematic session was facilitated and have translation into the Summit official languages. The Thematic sessions also had a rapporteur to record the discussion. Each breakout group reported back to the Plenary to stress proposed solutions to the problems posed by climate change and with reference to the following four questions.
1. What are the key effects on Indigenous peoples and the natural environment of climate change?
2. What are Indigenous peoples doing to adapt to the impacts and effects of climate change?
3. What should national and local governments, international agencies, and research and educational institutions do to help Indigenous peoples adapt to the impacts of climate change?
4. What should be included in the Indigenous Peoples’ Declaration and Action Plan on Climate Change?
Theme 1: Health, Wellbeing and Food Security
Indigenous Peoples are among the most marginalized and disadvantaged populations in developed and developing countries. With cultural homelands particularly in rural areas of developing regions, they experience similar problems in relation to their traditional food systems, food security and overall health. This theme will examine perspectives and knowledge Indigenous Peoples apply for good nutrition and to promote their health, often in the midst of financial poverty. Discussion could focus on health promotion using local indigenous foods. The goal is to identify successful food-based strategies to protect and promote the health of Indigenous Peoples in the context of the impacts and effects of climate change. Key questions include: How has climate change impacted your communities’ health and well being? What are the main health concerns related to climate change? What is the impact of climate change on your ability to produce food? What adaptations can you make to protect and promote your ability to produce food? What steps are needed by governments to protect and promote your ability to produce food?
Theme 2: Ways of Knowing: Traditional Knowledge, Contemporary Knowledge and Decision Making
Responding to climate change puts a premium on the generation, interpretation and use of data and information in decision-making within communities, regions, countries and globally.
Over many generations indigenous peoples have developed a holistic and detailed understanding of their surroundings and this is often referred to as traditional knowledge. Much of this knowledge is passed down from generation to generation orally and is as a distinctive intellectual tradition that reflects close observation of the natural world not simply myth, legend or anecdote. Too often attempts to compare and contrast traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) with scientifically acquired data imply that the Indigenous people’s way of knowing is inadequate in contrast with science. This divide between these knowledge systems will be discussed as will the benefits to decision makers from generating, sharing and using indigenous and non-indigenous knowledge. Please give some examples of how your traditional knowledge explains the impacts and effects of climate change and helps you to adapt to these impacts and effects. How is your traditional knowledge treated by local and national governments and by scientists and researchers? Can you provide some examples of traditional knowledge on climate change being used in decision-making by governments? How would you like your traditional knowledge to be treated in the future?
Theme 3: Environmental Stewardship and Natural Resource Ownership and Management
Indigenous peoples share an intricate relationship with their lands, environment, territories and resources. This relationship is the very basis of their economic, social and cultural systems, their ecological knowledge, and their identities as distinct peoples. Their traditional livelihoods include subsistence agriculture, hunting and gathering, trapping, pastoralism and fishing. This session will address land and resource ownership, control and management sustainable resource use, biodiversity conservation, water quantity and quality and related issues. Key questions include: Do you have secure, legal rights to own and/or use land and natural resources in your traditional territories? Are the responses to climate change by local and national governments and international agencies respecting your rights to own and use land and natural resources? What is the impact of climate change-related actions by local and national governments and international agencies on biodiversity and environmental conservation in your traditional territories? This is the group that I joined and made contributions.
Potential Theme 4: Energy Generation and Use in Traditional Territories of Indigenous Peoples
It is estimated that 25.9 percent of GHG emissions stem from energy production, and current emissions are predicted to increase by 50 percent by 2030. Scientists are experimenting with numerous technologies for mitigating climate change and are taking two main approaches to reducing the global level of GHGs in the atmosphere. The first approach is to reduce consumption of fossil fuels by switching to alternative forms of energy and improving energy efficiency. The IPCC has identified hydropower, solar energy, wind, geothermal energy, tides, waves and biomass as renewable energy sources. Even advanced nuclear power is included, but this has been vigorously contested by environmental groups and indigenous peoples.
Many countries around the world are actively increasing their use of wind and solar energy. Wind energy could bring clean energy to the world and a tremendous windfall of economic development to some indigenous communities. It is estimated that the wind energy potential worldwide is 15 times the world’s energy demands, with much of this energy potential located on indigenous lands. Using solar power to generate electricity would seem to be a perfect cultural-economic match for indigenous people seeking to participate in climate mitigation. Indigenous peoples have long shared a special affinity for the power of the sun, as evidenced in various religious and cultural practices. More solar energy from the sun strikes the earth in one hour than all the energy consumed by the planet in an entire year. Yet, solar electricity provides less than 0.1 percent of the world’s electricity, and solar energy from sustainable biomass provides less than 1.5 percent.
The growing use of biofuels is increasingly controversial. Of particular concern is the dramatic shift in agricultural production patterns taking place to meet the demand for biomass.
Indigenous peoples are also concerned about the projected increase in the building of large hydroelectric dams, because of their potential displacement from their ancestral territories.
The second approach to reducing the level of GHGs in the atmosphere is to attempt to increase the earth’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide through reforestation or other more experimental methods such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).Is the promotion of biofuels an acceptable solution to climate change. What role should Indigenous peoples play in promoting forest conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy projects?
Address of the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) - H.E. Mr Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly – to the Indigenous Peoples Global Summit on Climate Change
It is an honor to join you here in Anchorage for this Global Summit of Indigenous Peoples on a defining issue of our time: Climate Change. This is a remarkable event, counting on the participation of representatives of indigenous peoples from around the world, and I welcome the move to integrate indigenous views, policies and deeply held values and visions into the global response to the challenges of global warming.
Indigenous issues at the United Nations are not new. They can be traced back to the 1950s. It is thanks to the persistence of indigenous peoples and support of a range of civil society and governmental advocates that they are taking their rightful place on the international agenda. But we cannot take this progress for granted: Indigenous people everywhere remain vulnerable.
With some 370 million people spread throughout some 90 countries around the world, indigenous peoples are interacting with the larger world more than ever. They are doing so while maintaining their rich cultures and identities as groups, grounded in a common past and aspiring to a common future.
The General Assembly has been in the forefront of addressing these harsh realities. The United Nations has the responsibility and the obligation to promote respect for the human rights of Indigenous peoples and to advocate strongly and systematically for the full participation of Indigenous peoples in development processes at all levels.
In 2005, the General Assembly launched the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People with the goal to “…further strengthen the international cooperation for the solution of problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as culture, education, health, human rights, the environment and social and economic development”.
The UN has established new institutions to address these long-neglected issues. These include the Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, represented here by Ms. Tauli-Corpuz, and recently the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
In some parts of the world, democratic participation of indigenous peoples has led indigenous leaders to important positions in government. Perhaps nowhere has this been more dramatic than in Bolivia where an indigenous labor leader, my dear friend Evo Morales Ayma, has become president. President Evo Morales’ deep commitment to advancing the interests of indigenous peoples is reflected by the presence of Bolivia’s Foreign Minister here with us today.
After 20 years of negotiations between Member States and representatives of indigenous peoples and human rights organizations, the Human Rights Council adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2006. A year later, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration as well. This historic document constitutes tangible proof of the increasing cooperation of States, indigenous peoples and the international community as a whole for the promotion and protection of the human rights of Indigenous peoples.
Parallel to this growing awareness of indigenous issues, the world is also coming to terms with the problems of global warming and the devastating climate changes that are occurring with greater frequency. This summit is highlighting the links between these parallel trends to explore the role of indigenous peoples in climate change policy. The world is beginning to recognize the importance of traditional knowledge in adaptation to and mitigation of climate change.
Indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change due to their usually close relationship with the environment. Their dependence on the delicate balance of our ecosystems highlights the fragility of their relationship with our dear Mother Earth. Climate change exacerbates the difficulties already faced by indigenous communities that I mentioned earlier.
Indigenous peoples are among those who contributed least to the climate change crisis because of their traditional livelihoods and sustainable lifestyles. It is a bitter irony, however, that they are suffering the worst impacts of climate change. They were the ones who made the first clarion call on climate change as they felt the impacts of this on their lands and waters. The indigenous peoples of the Arctic witnessed the unprecedented thawing of permafrost and the melting of their glaciers 30 years ago, even before the world was aware of climate change.
Indigenous peoples have demonstrated their resilience and their capacity to adapt to changes happening in their communities and they have accumulated substantial experience and knowledge in this process. They also have contributed significantly in keeping carbon under the ground as a result of their struggles to stop devastating oil, gas and mineral exploitation. They save the carbon in the trees because of their fights against loggers and deforesters.
Climate change poses threats and dangers to the survival of indigenous communities worldwide, even though they contribute the least to greenhouse emissions. In fact, indigenous peoples are vital to the many ecosystems in their lands and territories and help enhance the resilience of these ecosystems. In addition, indigenous peoples interpret and react to the impacts of climate change in creative ways, drawing on traditional knowledge and other technologies to find solutions that society at large can replicate to counter pending changes.
I appeal to the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples, as contained in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, be respected and implemented. This includes respecting the right of indigenous peoples to have their free, prior and informed consent obtained before any climate-change-related project is brought into their communities.
We must also ensure that indigenous peoples, who value the importance of maintaining a harmonious relationship with nature and have the lightest ecological footprints, participate in designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating climate change policies and programmes at all levels.
Let me close by bringing to your attention an important meeting that is deeply relevant to Indigenous Peoples around the world – indeed to all people who are struggling to have their voices heard in this period of global economic turmoil and hardship. A summit of leaders from all 192 Member States of the General Assembly will meet from 1 to 3 June to address the global economic and financial crisis and its impact on development. While smaller groups of countries have met to resolve the deepening economic and financial crisis, the United Nations is the appropriate forum where the needs and interests of all countries can be taken into account.
In addition to initiating a process of reform and democratization of international financial institutions, I personally hope this meeting will initiate a serious discussion about the global economy as it emerges from this crisis. It is a time for change and for rethinking our relationships with Mother Earth, including our unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. I believe that we need – and most people want – healthy societies that are not driven by hyper-consumerism or the obsessive accumulation of wealth and dominance over others. We need a reorientation of society in the direction of solidarity, social and ecological responsibility, brotherhood and sisterhood.
These are values that have survived within the communities of Indigenous Peoples all over the Earth despite all odds. You are among their strongest and most compelling advocates. Faced with a global crisis that is tipping millions of people into abject poverty each day, I believe the world is now listening. Let us be sure your voices are heard.
The Anchorage Declaration
24 April 2009
From 20-24 April, 2009, Indigenous representatives from the Arctic, North America, Asia, Pacific, Latin America, Africa, Caribbean and Russia met in Anchorage, Alaska for the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change. We thank the Ahtna and the Dena’ina Athabascan Peoples in whose lands we gathered.
We express our solidarity as Indigenous Peoples living in areas that are the most vulnerable to the impacts and root causes of climate change. We reaffirm the unbreakable and sacred connection between land, air, water, oceans, forests, sea ice, plants, animals and our human communities as the material and spiritual basis for our existence.
We are deeply alarmed by the accelerating climate devastation brought about by unsustainable development. We are experiencing profound and disproportionate adverse impacts on our cultures, human and environmental health, human rights, well-being, traditional livelihoods, food systems and food sovereignty, local infrastructure, economic viability, and our very survival as Indigenous Peoples.
Mother Earth is no longer in a period of climate change, but in climate crisis. We therefore insist on an immediate end to the destruction and desecration of the elements of life.
Through our knowledge, spirituality, sciences, practices, experiences and relationships with our traditional lands, territories, waters, air, forests, oceans, sea ice, other natural resources and all life, Indigenous Peoples have a vital role in defending and healing Mother Earth. The future of Indigenous Peoples lies in the wisdom of our elders, the restoration of the sacred position of women, the youth of today and in the generations of tomorrow.
We uphold that the inherent and fundamental human rights and status of Indigenous Peoples, affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), must be fully recognized and respected in all decision-making processes and activities related to climate change. This includes our rights to our lands, territories, environment and natural resources as contained in Articles 25–30 of the UNDRIP. When specific programs and projects affect our lands, territories, environment and natural resources, the right of Self Determination of Indigenous Peoples must be recognized and respected, emphasizing our right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, including the right to say “no”. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreements and principles must reflect the spirit and the minimum standards contained in UNDRIP.
Calls for Action
1. In order to achieve the fundamental objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), we call upon the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC to support a binding emissions reduction target for developed countries (Annex 1) of at least 45% below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 95% by 2050. In recognizing the root causes of climate change, participants call upon States to work towards decreasing dependency on fossil fuels. We further call for a just transition to decentralized renewable energy economies, sources and systems owned and controlled by our local communities to achieve energy security and sovereignty.
In addition, the Summit participants agreed to present two options for action which were each supported by one or more of the participating regional caucuses. These were as follows:
A. We call for the phase out of fossil fuel development and a moratorium on new fossil fuel developments on or near Indigenous lands and territories.
B. We call for a process that works towards the eventual phase out of fossil fuels, without infringing on the right to development of Indigenous nations.
2. We call upon the Parties to the UNFCCC to recognize the importance of our Traditional Knowledge and practices shared by Indigenous Peoples in developing strategies to address climate change. To address climate change we also call on the UNFCCC to recognize the historical and ecological debt of the Annex 1 countries in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. We call on these countries to pay this historical debt.
3. We call on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and other relevant institutions to support Indigenous Peoples in carrying out Indigenous Peoples’ climate change assessments.
4. We call upon the UNFCCC’s decision-making bodies to establish formal structures and mechanisms for and with the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples. Specifically we recommend that the UNFCCC:
a. Organize regular Technical Briefings by Indigenous Peoples on Traditional Knowledge and climate change;
b. Recognize and engage the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change and its regional focal points in an advisory role;
c. Immediately establish an Indigenous focal point in the secretariat of the UNFCCC;
d. Appoint Indigenous Peoples’ representatives in UNFCCC funding mechanisms in consultation with Indigenous Peoples;
e. Take the necessary measures to ensure the full and effective participation of Indigenous and local communities in formulating, implementing, and monitoring activities, mitigation, and adaptation relating to impacts of climate change.
5. All initiatives under Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) must secure the recognition and implementation of the human rights of Indigenous Peoples, including security of land tenure, ownership, recognition of land title according to traditional ways, uses and customary laws and the multiple benefits of forests for climate, ecosystems, and Peoples before taking any action.
6. We challenge States to abandon false solutions to climate change that negatively impact Indigenous Peoples’ rights, lands, air, oceans, forests, territories and waters. These include nuclear energy, large-scale dams, geo-engineering techniques, “clean coal”, agro-fuels, plantations, and market based mechanisms such as carbon trading, the Clean Development Mechanism, and forest offsets. The human rights of Indigenous Peoples to protect our forests and forest livelihoods must be recognized, respected and ensured.
7. We call for adequate and direct funding in developed and developing States and for a fund to be created to enable Indigenous Peoples’ full and effective participation in all climate processes, including adaptation, mitigation, monitoring and transfer of appropriate technologies in order to foster our empowerment, capacity-building, and education. We strongly urge relevant United Nations bodies to facilitate and fund the participation, education, and capacity building of Indigenous youth and women to ensure engagement in all international and national processes related to climate change.
8. We call on financial institutions to provide risk insurance for Indigenous Peoples to allow them to recover from extreme weather events.
9. We call upon all United Nations agencies to address climate change impacts in their strategies and action plans, in particular their impacts on Indigenous Peoples, including the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). In particular, we call upon all the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other relevant United Nations bodies to establish an Indigenous Peoples’ working group to address the impacts of climate change on food security and food sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples.
10. We call on United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to conduct a fast track assessment of short-term drivers of climate change, specifically black carbon, with a view to initiating negotiation of an international agreement to reduce emission of black carbon.
11. We call on States to recognize, respect and implement the fundamental human rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the collective rights to traditional ownership, use, access, occupancy and title to traditional lands, air, forests, waters, oceans, sea ice and sacred sites as well as to ensure that the rights affirmed in Treaties are upheld and recognized in land use planning and climate change mitigation strategies. In particular, States must ensure that Indigenous Peoples have the right to mobility and are not forcibly removed or settled away from their traditional lands and territories, and that the rights of Peoples in voluntary isolation are upheld. In the case of climate change migrants, appropriate programs and measures must address their rights, status, conditions, and vulnerabilities.
12. We call upon states to return and restore lands, territories, waters, forests, oceans, sea ice and sacred sites that have been taken from Indigenous Peoples, limiting our access to our traditional ways of living, thereby causing us to misuse and expose our lands to activities and conditions that contribute to climate change.
13. In order to provide the resources necessary for our collective survival in response to the climate crisis, we declare our communities, waters, air, forests, oceans, sea ice, traditional lands and territories to be “Food Sovereignty Areas,” defined and directed by Indigenous Peoples according to customary laws, free from extractive industries, deforestation and chemical-based industrial food production systems (i.e. contaminants, agro-fuels, genetically modified organisms).
14. We encourage our communities to exchange information while ensuring the protection and recognition of and respect for the intellectual property rights of Indigenous Peoples at the local, national and international levels pertaining to our Traditional Knowledge, innovations, and practices. These include knowledge and use of land, water and sea ice, traditional agriculture, forest management, ancestral seeds, pastoralism, food plants, animals and medicines and are essential in developing climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, restoring our food sovereignty and food independence, and strengthening our Indigenous families and nations.
We offer to share with humanity our Traditional Knowledge, innovations, and practices relevant to climate change, provided our fundamental rights as intergenerational guardians of this knowledge are fully recognized and respected. We reiterate the urgent need for collective action.
Agreed by consensus of the participants in the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change, Anchorage Alaska, April 24th 2009
With the help of Mikaele Maiava from Tokelau and Samoa, as well as Miss South Pacific 2008/2009 from Niue, Miss Vanessa Limatoa Marsh, the Pacific ‘show’ was arguably the best of the night when cultures of Indigenous Peoples from around were performed on Thursday night 23 April 2009. They were helped by the local Pacific Islander community in Anchorage and was webcasted to those around the world who were able to watch the indigenous peoples show that night. We were proud of our excellent efforts in this area.
Blessing of the Conference:
On Wednesday 22 April, 2009, the Pacific and Caribbean delegation were asked to deliver a morning blessing ceremony for the conference. I led this initiative from the Pacific together with representatives from Hawaii, Tokelau, and Fiji and end with all the Pacific delegation joining in with a traditional song.
My message homed in on stating the fundamental problem of climate change being that of arrogance and greed both human vices that speak to the weaker side of human beings and to our vulnerabilities as humans. The arrogance that pervades the modern psyche is an arrogance that compromises our souls. Greed is the unhealthy preoccupation we have with profit, accumulation of pecuniary or material gains for individual and corporate benefit at the expense of others and through the exploitation of nature and Mother Earth.
Trees and forests were lungs of Mother Earth critical to the production of clean air and that in our Samoan indigenous reference, trees gave a life and a soul. When a tree is cut down we perform a chant called ‘faalanu’ and when a tree is cut down we say “Ua oia le vao – Ua oi le laau – literally meaning the tree cries out with pain, and the faalanu chant is performed to seek pardon for causing pain to the tree. Naute provides everyone’s needs and the relationship between trees, forests, animals, ocean, Mother Earth is one of balance, where boundaries are respected and protected.
In our arrogance and greed, man has encroached the boundaries of what is right and just. As we search for solutions in Anchorage we need to open up to the wisdom of others as what has happened to Mother Earth as man has become more knowledgeable through science, is that this very knowledge has given man a much greater capacity to abuse the elements and forget the need for harmony. In that context, we need in our search for balance and harmony a culture of humility and sharing where arrogance and greed are openly admitted and addressed as the first step to healing.
This was followed by a chant from Hawaii and a call to Tagaroa from Tokelau with the ending prayer from Fiji with all of our Pacific participants singing the end traditional song from Hawaii.
The Pacific Delegation to the Global Summit:
Vanessa Limatoa Marsh
Fiu Mata'ese Elisara
Aunty Betty Jenkins
Aunty Honey Awai-Lennox
Kathleen T. Kang-Kaulupali
Aulani Wilhelm Maton
I want to thank my President and our Board of Directors for agreeing to my participation in the Summit. It was a great opportunity for OLSSI to lead this large Pacific delegation and I also took the opportunities available to me during the Summit to engage in interviews with media and press from around the world in advocating the issues that are important for OLSSI, Samoa and the indigenous peoples of the Pacific region.