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Indigenous forest leaders prepare for COP15

2 Nov 2009   
Bujumbura, Burundi

27 October 2009

Indigenous African leaders from East and Central Africa met in Bujumbura, Burundi to finalise a joint strategy and statement on climate change. Leaders from forest based communities in Gabon, Cameroon, DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya participated in a joint UNIPROBA-IPACC policy meeting to set out their concerns, priorities, action plan and statement ahead of the 15th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, due to take place in Copenhagen Denmark.

Leaders emphasised that indigenous peoples are important stakeholders in climate stabilisation in Africa. All indigenous peoples are being hard hit by droughts and flooding in Africa, and they must educate their communities as to the causes and engage with national governments about equitable and sustainable responses.

The primary issues were to promote a fair and community-focussed approach to REDD plus financing for forest conservation in Africa. Government forestry officials from Uganda and Kenya gave presentations on how their governments are contracting with local communities to conserve tropical forests, and introduce new forms of carbon financing.

Kanyinke Sena, an Ogiek activist from Kenya has recently been named a consultant to the World Bank on the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility's programme in the East and Horn of Africa. Sena emphasised the importance of ensuring good consultations with indigenous peoples.

''Currently, there are indigenous leaders who know more about REDD than people in government. REDD and carbon financing is new for all of us in Africa. The civil society and governments need to work closely on setting up a viable framework for benefit sharing from carbon financing. This is an opportunity for indigenous peoples. Governments need to understand also that REDD is closely linked to land rights and tenure security. Very few indigenous peoples currently have secure land rights, and that needs to be resolved in REDD is to work.''

Leonard Fabrice Odambo, a Bakoya activist from Gabon, reported back on the national REDD plus workshop in Libreville. Speaking in French, Odambo, emphasised that indigenous peoples are experiencing climate change first hand. Many of the older people feel that they have upset the forest spirits and are trying to pursue rituals to bring peace back to the rainforest. ''People do not understand the causes of climate change and this is causing a lot of hardship for our people. It is our responsibility to work with Government to educate the public about climate change, adaptation and mitigation.'' Gabon is one of the African states more likely to implement a REDD plus strategy.

In a surprise move, the conference strongly endorsed a statement that African Protected Areas should be funded by REDD plus financing mechanisms. African National Parks are underfunded and some are subject to legal and illegal logging and mining. It is in the interest of indigenous peoples to defend biodiversity, including National Parks. IPACC will stronly support the Conservation NGOs in Copenhagen to lobby for the inclusion of Protected Areas inside REDD.

On the other side of the equation, indigenous peoples are asking for support from the Conservation sector to support the recognition of indigenous peoples' rights both at the Copenhagen meeting in December, as well as at the next major meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010. The UN CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas (POWPA) is due for review in Nairobi in May 2010, and indigenous peoples in Africa want explicit recognition of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the international rights standard.

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, a Chadian Bororo activist from the organisation AFPAT in N'djamena, reported back to the meeting about the AMCEN meeting of African Environmental Ministers in Addis Ababa the week prior to the Bujumbura meeting. African ministers are rejecting any reference to specifically vulnerable communities in Africa - indigenous peoples, nomads, fishing people, coastal communities, urban poor or women. In another move by Africa to ignore international human rights standards, AMCEN ministers rejected international standards recognising indigenous peoples' rights and are pushing for a narrow strategy in Copenhagen that is likely to cause friction with the civil society and other regions of the world.

Overall, IPACC members at the meeting emphasised that African States need to improve their negotiation skills at the UNFCCC COP. They should concentrate less on bloc politics and more on the needs of their citizens to have national frameworks of adaptation and mitigation that involve rural, mobile peoples, with equitable funding and technology transfers. IPACC strongly favours resuscitation of the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs), as a framework for ecosystem-based adaptation and engagement of different scales of stakeholders, including rural indigenous peoples.

The meeting was funded by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation EU-ACP (CTA), as part of a five year programme to strengthen the IPACC indigenous network on the African continent. The cooperation agreement focusses on advocacy capacity in relation to natural resources and climate issues, as well as introducing new technologies to rural communities. Jeniffer Koinante, Deputy Chairperson of IPACC gave a presentation on how the forest-based indigenous peoples of Kenya are using participatory 3-Dimensional models (P3DM) to help them review traditional adaptation customs, knowledge and practices, which could be harnessed to strengthen resilience of ecosystems and communities in the face of climate change.




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