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Open doors to indigenous and minority communities at Copenhagen climate change conference – MRG

8 December 2009

Communities worst affected by climate change can no longer remain on the fringes while states take critical decisions at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Minority Rights Group International says. Pressure is mounting on the delegates from 192 countries, who are meeting in Copenhagen, from 7-18 December 2009, to seal a deal setting targets to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to take a series of other measures to reduce the global impact of climate change.

However, indigenous and minority communities, who live in ecologically fragile areas and are at the forefront of climate disasters, have no opportunity to input into these negotiations and they will be shut out of the meetings as delegations take major decisions.

"Climate change is undeniably a human rights issue. There are many people across the world who are losing their lives, livelihoods, homes, cultures and traditions because of climate change," says Carl Soderberg, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communications.

"If a climate change deal is reached, the decisions states take will have a major impact on the lives of these people and their communities, which is why it can’t be done without consulting them," he adds.
Governments are expected to consult communities at the national level, on the impact of climate change, and possible mitigation and adaptation plans, and take forward their input to the international level discussions. However MRG’s research in Africa and Asia, show that many communities who are struggling with the effects of climate change have not been consulted by their governments.

Other inter-governmental processes such as the Convention on Bio Diversity (CBD) have created a working group through which indigenous peoples and local communities are able to input into the negotiations at the international level.
MRG in its pioneering research in 2008 on how climate change affects human rights, has also argued that traditional knowledge, developed by indigenous communities to use natural resources in a sustainable way, should be factored into these international level negotiations.

"The reason why we have reached this critical stage is that so many people nowadays live separated from the natural environment. Of course, we – and our governments – should be listening to those indigenous and minority communities who still maintain that link," Söderbergh explains.

MRG calls on the states’ representatives gathered at Copenhagen to listen to and learn from those communities who are most affected by climate change. Moreover, the following should be included in any final outcome document:

– States recognise that climate change affects the human rights of individuals and communities – including those of minorities and indigenous peoples – around the world.
– Furthermore, states acknowledge the responsibility they share to uphold and protect the human rights of those persons and communities affected by climate change.

"Without such language, the final outcome document will lack the necessary acknowledgement that there is a human face to climate change," Söderbergh concludes.

Notes to the Editor:
i. For interviews with MRG’s climate change experts or community representatives in Africa, Asia and Latin America who are affected by climate change, please contact MRG’s press office on +442074224205 or +447870596853.
ii. For information on the UN Climate Change process and the Copenhagen conference please see the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
iii. MRG has produced two briefing pages on the impact of climate change on indigenous and minority communities they can be found on:
iv. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.