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Indigenous people wants say in UN climate change process

9 December 2008

“First and foremost the states must recognize the rights of indigenous people as enshrined in the UN declaration on Indigenous People. Then we demand that they should establish an expert body on indigenous people and climate change,” says Pashuram Tamang of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC).

Tamang a Nepalese is amongst a group of some 30-40 indigenous activists who are in Poznan, Poland making this case to governments who are meeting for a crucial round of climate change negotiations. “Indigenous people contribute the least to global warming and climate change but are the immediate victims of climate change,” he says.
“Climate change decisions taken over here will affect indigenous people, their lands, territories and rights,” Tamang adds.

This is the penultimate round of negotiations before the UN is expected to reach a new climate change deal in December 2009 in Copenhagen. The new deal will set CO2 and other targets for countries to meet when those set by the current Kyoto protocol end in 2012. One of the targets that need to be decided by 2009 is on the reduction of emissions from deforestation. Tamang points out that all over the world a majority of forest dwellers are indigenous people but they are not being consulted in this process of setting targets. Indigenous activists have had a series of meetings with government delegates and officials including the President of the Conference of Parties (the 192 states that have signed up to the climate change treaty).

Tamang also points out that the number of indigenous activists present at the meeting has been restricted due to lack of funds and is significantly smaller than other lobbying groups who are at the negotiations. IIPFCC is also calling on the UN to set up a fund to help indigenous activists to be able to participate at international meetings such as this.

The UN climate change process is entirely state driven. A resolution to create the expert body and set up a fund will have to be sponsored by a state and then agreed to by all the 192 states. States will take such decisions at a closed door meetings just prior to the end of the conference on 12 December.