Climate change concerns unites the World's indigenous peoples at Global Summit in Anchorage, Alaska
24 Apr 2009
by Ibrahim Njobdi, Bororo journalist, Cameroon and other news sources
Thursday, 23 April 2009
Indigenous groups all over the world are brainstorming on the best strategies to tackle climate change effects negatively affecting the lives of their communities in the city of Anchorage in the state of Alaska, USA.
Over 500 indigenous representatives from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Carribean, Artic and Latin America are attending the Indigenous Peoples Global Summit on Climate Change hosted by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference.
''Our indigenous people are saying that the effects of climate change right now [are] affecting our right to practise our culture,'' Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, told CBC News on Wednesday.
''It's affecting our right to live in a sustainable manner, and to have access to our traditional food systems.''
Main speakers at the five day summit (20 to 24 April 2009) include indigenous leaders from hard hit Arctic regions of Greenland, Russia, Scandinavia and Alaska; as well as delegates from highly vulnerable regions of the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. Speakers highlighted issues of climate changes and threats to livelihoods and food security from each global region, highlighting their own specificities.
While some regions are confronted with drought like East Africa, others are tackling floods and rising sea levels which is causing the disapearance of some small islands. Salination and land degradation from flooding and rising seas are destroying sensitive habitats of biodiversity on which indigenous people depend, especially on the small island states.
Stakeholders in the global climate change debate including the World Bank, United Nations agencies and internatinal NGOs and donors are attending as observers.
Mrs Mary Simat, out-going Chairperson of IPACC addressed the Summit about the vulnerability of nomadic herding communities in the drylands regions of Africa. Pastoralists have lived according to sound adaptative approaches to rain insecurity for thousands of years. Simat explained how during droughts, Maasai and other pastoralists change the composition of their herds and move livestock in smaller clusters to different altitudes to reduce the impact of humans and livestock on the ecosystems which support them. It is an indigenous principle in Africa that humans are partners with nature and must allow ecosystems to regenerate to their full capacity when there is climate or other biodiversity instability present.
Climate changes pose new threats to both biodiversity and indigenous peoples. Mrs Simat referred to IPACC's Bujumbura Strategic Action Plan (2007) on environment, natural resources and climate. She pointed out that African states have been making decisions about land use and exploitation of resources which are not based on an ecosystems approach to sustainability. African governments have encouraged deforestation and alienation of land from indigenous peoples who have been stewards of biodiversity for thousands of years. Maasai territories are rich in flora and fauna because of the community's ability to change their land use when rain is insufficient. These days that land is going to other communities who strip the resources and cause the land to degrade past the point of being able to repair itself.
The conference voted that the Maasai approach to adaptation, by carefully monitoring ecosystem resilience, was an excellent example of adaptation. IPACC is pushing the United Nations and African governments to put adaptation much higher on the agenda of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
IPACC Director of Secretariat, Dr Nigel Crawhall noted at the Bonn climate negotiations earlier in the month: ''The West is only interested in mitigation activities and carbon offsets. For Africa, we have to face the reality of climate change and governments must work with indigenous and local peoples to understand the link between adaptation and ecosystem resilience. Everytime the UN talks about money or mitigation the room is overflowing, when they talk about adaptation and survival then the rooms are half empty. This has to change and IPACC is leading that advocacy work.''
Mr Emmanuel Nengo of UNIPROBA in Burundi has emphasised the need for solidarity between indigenous Africans from dryland pastoralist territories and those from the Equatorial rainforests of Africa. There is a split being caused by donors where foreign mitigation activities are being pushed in forest territories and adaptation is being seen as a drylands issue. Indigenous peoples suffer from legal discrimination and weak land rights in Africa. The issue of land tenure and the stewardship of natural resources needs to be at the centre of indigenous peoples' relationship with African governments, donor agencies and United Nations agencies.
By the time the five-day summit winds up Friday, delegates are expected to draft a formal declaration and action plan on climate change, which will be presented to the 15th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009.
Some of the decisions expected to come out of the meeting will include a strong apeal to states and the UN to address the effects of climate change on vulnerable communities as well as valorising their traditional mitigation and adaptation measures on climate change and their inclusion in the processes of the global debate on climate change under the canopy of the UN.
As a way forward,a series of activities will be organised at national,regional and global level to feed into the United Nation`s framework convention on climate change conference of parties to be held in Copenhagen Denmarkat the end of the year where major decisions on climate change are expected to be taken.
IPACC has already initiated national workshops of mitigation and the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. Workshops are currently being held in Uganda and Kenya, with new workshops due during the year in Gabon, Cameroon and Burundi.
IPACC is also strengthening advocacy capacity in relation to the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) which have been put together without adequate understanding of traditional ecological knowledge, indigenous peoples adapatitive expertise or a proper grasp of the social-ecology of ecosystems resilience.
IPACC is working with UNESCO and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation to promote participatory mapping of indigenous territories and ecosystems, and linking this up with Education for Sustainable Development and community planning for adaptation and mitigation in the face of climate change. IPACC and the African Biodiversity Network have been looking at strategies to reduce conflict over natural resources between hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, fishing communities and rural African farmers. Major multinational companies are causing serious biodiversity destruction from mining, logging and petroleum extraction, putting the lives of millions of Africans at risk in the face of the extreme climate changes unfolding across the continent.
The pan-Arctic indigenous peoples' organisation the Inuit Circumpular Council (ICC), raised about a million US dollars to organize the summit which brought together over 500 people. Mrs Simat was funded by IPACC's partner, Conservation International.