Efforts in Bonn to protect indigenous peoples winning big

Guest post from Bonn by Chris Meyer, EDF’s Amazon Project Coordinator

Indigenous leaders supporting strong protections in global climate change efforts for indigenous peoples won a major victory this week in the new negotiating text unveiled at the Bonn climate change talks.

A member of the indigenous group COICA measures a tree to estimate the amount of carbon it contains. A new U.N. negotiating text includes strong protections for indigenous peoples.

Provisions to protect indigenous peoples included in text

The indigenous peoples' language in the new LCA (Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention) text is taken from the UN Declaration on Human Rights for Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which EDF and our partners from the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazonian River Basin (COICA) strongly supported back in Copenhagen.

Most promising in this is that the two-year-old brackets around the text – text is [bracketed] when it is controversial and does not have unanimous support from countries – have been removed.  This is a big victory for indigenous leaders, as it indicates strong support for indigenous peoples' rights.

Indigenous peoples who live in tropical forests communities (like in Brazil, Latin American, and Indonesia) stand to be affected by and gain the most from efforts to reduce deforestation, which has been identified as a primary way to curb climate change.

We know that first ensuring indigenous peoples' rights to their lands and natural resources is critical to policies for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), so the fact that the indigenous peoples' language is un-bracketed in the text is extremely encouraging to us and our indigenous partners.

Efforts paying off

These changes, however, didn’t come without efforts from advocates for indigenous peoples.

In Copenhagen, COICA, under the leadership of its chief political advisor on international relations and economic matters Juan Carlos,  executed a successful education and lobbying effort pushing for UNDRIP provisions to be included in the text; the language did make it into the REDD section of the text, but with brackets (the ones that have since been removed) around it.  Last year, I also worked with Juan Carlos and other indigenous leaders to insert strong human rights language in the REDD negotiating text.

What’s next

Throughout the next week of the Bonn meeting, Juan Carlos and the indigenous peoples’ caucus will continue efforts to ensure any Bonn decisions support and protect indigenous peoples within REDD policies.

This means, as an example, including in REDD language "capacity building", which is a necessary step to prepare countries for REDD policies that include determining the amount of emissions from forest destruction, using satellite images to identify deforestation, and training people to enforce forest protection laws.  COICA will also be working to ensure that social safeguards – like providing a mechanism for complaint resolutions and ensuring rights of indigenous peoples to free, prior, and informed consent – are a part of the monitoring, reporting, and verification activities required in REDD implementation.

The caucus will develop suggestions of new text for the delegates to add in the negotiating text on these subjects.  Once that’s done, they’ll need to find a country to introduce and support this text.

EDF and COICA share a strong interest in maintaining and increasing the human rights language in the negotiation texts in regards to deforestation and climate change.  There’s still work to be done, but our groups are encouraged by this first step and will be maximizing our time in Bonn to keep up this positive momentum.

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