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UN process in reaching a new climate change deal excludes those most affected

20 November 2008

A new climate change deal will be seriously compromised if countries continue to shut out the voices of those most affected by global warming, an international human rights group warns in a new report. With just ten days to go before the start of crucial UN climate change negotiations in Poznan, Poland, Minority Rights Group International says the UN process is flawed as communities that have first-hand experience of dealing with climate change are not allowed to participate.

192 UN member states will take important decisions at this penultimate round of talks in Poznan ahead of negotiations next December in Copenhagen when a new climate change deal is expected to be reached. The new deal will fix CO2 emission and other targets for countries to follow when those set by the current Kyoto protocol end in 2012. 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 international level negotiations.

“It is incomprehensible how governments believe they can discuss the effects of climate change and agree targets without the input of those who already face the impacts of climate change,” says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director.

Targets to be decided by states include those related to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), but forest-dwelling communities who are mostly indigenous people are not being effectively included in the discussions. “Indigenous peoples have for centuries adapted to changing environments and would be able to contribute substantially to adaptation strategies the UN is trying to include in a new climate change treaty,” he says.

The impact of climate change hits indigenous and minority communities the hardest because they live in ecologically diverse areas and their livelihoods are dependent on the environment, says the new MRG briefing launched today. Inuits in the arctic are seeing people fall through melting ice, long droughts in east Africa are resulting in food shortages for pastoralists and Khmer Krom rice farmers in the Mekong delta in south Vietnam are seeing their crop yields fall. Minorities are often amongst the poorest and most marginalised communities and are most likely to face discrimination when climate-related disasters occur, as is the experience of lower-caste Dalits in India.

“There has been a lot of attention paid to the damage climate change is doing to the environment and the loss of certain plant or animal species, but we aren’t sufficiently recognizing the impact on people,” says Farah Mihlar, the author of the report. “There are entire communities that could be lost. Cultures, traditions and languages could be wiped off the earth,” she adds. In a series of testimonies gathered for the briefing, community representatives from across the world express deep frustration at their exclusion from the international negotiations and the paper calls on the UN to set up a mechanism, similar to that of CBD, to enable communities to be included in the negotiations.

Interview opportunities

In London – Mark Lattimer, Executive Director, Minority Rights Group International. – Farah Mihlar, MRG, author of the briefing paper.
Interviews can also be arranged with representatives from the following communities: – Inuit in Alaska – Sami in Norway or Finland – Pastoralists in Uganda and Kenya – Dalits in India
To arrange interviews with community representatives or with experts in London please contact: Farah Mihlar
Office: +44 (0)207 422 4205
Mobile: +44 (0)7870596863
E mail: [email protected]

Notes to Editor

i. MRG’s new briefing paper ‘Voices that must be heard: Communities combating climate change’ will be available on on the afternoon of 19 November 2008. Copies of the report can also be e-mailed earlier if required.
ii. For details of the UN climate change negotiations starting on December 1st in Poznan see
iii. MRG also runs ‘A show of hands’ an online campaign urging the public to sign up to a letter calling on the UN to include communities in the current climate change negotiations.
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