Wednesday, May 6, 2009

U.S. Position On UNDRIP Under Review By Obama Administration

U.S.: Obama Urged to Sign Native Rights Declaration

By Haider Rizvi
IPS - Inter Press Service

UNITED NATIONS, May 6 (IPS) - The United States is considering whether to endorse a major U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for the recognition of the rights of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples over their lands and resources."

The position on [this issue] is under review," Patrick Ventrell, spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the U.N., told IPS about the Barack Obama administration’s stance on the non-binding U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Approved by a vast majority of the U.N. member states in September 2007, the General Assembly resolution on the declaration was rejected by the George W. Bush administration over indigenous leaders’ argument that no economic or political power has the right to exploit their resources without seeking their "informed consent."

Three other "settler nations" of European descent, namely Canada, New Zealand and Australia, also voted against the declaration, which states that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain their cultures and remain on their land.

However, last month, the new left-leaning government in Canberra reversed its position, announcing support for the declaration.

"We show our respect for indigenous peoples," said Jenny Macklin, a member of the Australian parliament. "We show our faith in a new era of relations between states and indigenous peoples in good faith."

The new government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has also offered an apology to the indigenous communities who suffered at the hands of European settlers for decades.

Indigenous rights activists in the United States say they want the new liberal democratic government in Washington to make a similar move to address the grievances of native communities who have long been subjected to abuse and discrimination.

"The U.S. [should] become a resolute supporter of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," argued James Polk, who writes for Foreign Policy in Focus, a progressive periodical published by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

"It’s a comprehensive document that affirms that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, and that, in the exercise of their rights, they should be free from their discrimination," he added.

The declaration reflects growing concerns of aboriginal communities about the continued exploitation of their resources and suppression of their cultural vales and practices by commercial concerns and governments that are alien to their cultures.

According to many scientists, the traditional knowledge and cooperation of indigenous communities are vital elements in the global fight against climate change and loss of biodiversity.

During his election campaign, President Obama repeatedly said that he cared about the issues facing Native American communities and insisted that they could trust him – pledges that are now being watched closely.

As [he] reached out to new voter blocs last summer, Obama made a campaign stop at an Indian reservation in Montana, where he told the audience, that, as an African American, he identified with their struggles.

"I know what it’s like to not have always been respected or to have been ignored and I know what it’s like to struggle and that’s how I think many of you understand what’s happened here on the reservation," Obama said.

In his speech, Obama added: "A lot of times you have been forgotten, just like African-Americans have been forgotten or other groups in this country have been forgotten."

In the Nov. 4 presidential elections, a vast majority of Native people voted for Obama, according to Frank LaMere of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, who led the American Indian delegation to the Democratic Convention.

On the campaign trail in Montana, Obama was adopted as an honourary member of the Crow Tribe, a ceremony that natives say is reserved for special guests. On that occasion, he was given a new name, "Barack Black Eagle."

Before Obama became the first-ever non-white president of the United States, the country faced scathing criticism from a Geneva-based U.N. rights body for its treatment of the indigenous communities and objectionable use of their traditional lands and resources.

In March 2006 and again in 2008, a panel of U.S. experts analysed the U.S. government’s treatment of indigenous citizens and ruled that it was guilty of racial discrimination.

Canada, another settler-nation founded on the indigenous territories in North America, has also been scolded by the U.N. Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) for its abusive and discriminatory treatment of acts of native communities.

The right-wing government in Ottawa continues to justify its current policies towards the native population as just and fair with no indication whatsoever of a willingness to sign the U.N. document on indigenous peoples’ rights.

In the United States, there appears to be some signs of policy shift with regard to the U.S. government’s relations with the American Indian communities. Some representatives of indigenous tribes are currently working with Obama as advisors.

However, it remains unclear when and if the Obama administration would sign the declaration. "I can’t comment further," said Ventrell about the outcome of discussions on possible U.S. support.
Article: Copyright © 2009 IPS-Inter Press Service
Image: Copyright 2009 TPM Media LLC

Native Rights News is making this material available in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine codified at Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107: This article is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information. Distribution of this material is for research and educational purposes that will promote social and economic justice and benefit society.
Native Rights News (NRN) is published by the Alliance for Indigenous Rights, a nonprofit corporation owned and operated by Temple Beit Shem Tov as part of its Peace and Justice Ministry.

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Social Justice and Food Security at Heart of Bolivian and Venezuelan Land Reform Measures

Analysis by Adam Kott and David Rosenblum Felson

The Cutting Edge News
May 5, 2009

Latin America’s battalion of left-leaning leaders has been in full voice as they turn to achieve the land reform goals of the Bolivarian Revolution. This oft-quoted but somewhat vague social ideal is loosely centered on populist measures such as the equitable distribution of private land and the abatement of poverty. The tenets of this revolution are best seen today at work in Venezuela and Bolivia, where Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales attempt to achieve their objectives through vigorously promoted land reform initiatives.

Historically, much of the land parcels in these Andean nations has been under the tight control of a relatively select few multinational corporations, as well as elite European-descended land-holding families. Many of the latter were for decades, often sanctioned by corrupt officials to use coercion or other unscrupulous practices, including counterfeit land titles, to wrest land with murky legitimacy from the indigenous population. Today, leaders like Chávez and Morales are striving to rectify history’s injustices by returning the property back to its original owners. These grassroots initiatives on the part of the indigenous have been controversial, to say the least, and have repeatedly brought both nations to the brink of class warfare.

Repercussions of the January 25th Referendum

Since the enactment of the January 25, 2009 constitutional referendum, in which 61 percent of Bolivians voted in favor of ratifying, President Evo Morales has initiated a series of measures aimed at improving the rights of the 4 million indigenous peoples who make up nearly two-thirds of his country’s total population.

In addition to increasing the autonomy of provincial governments, as well as granting designated indigenous representation in congress, the referendum results also will limit individual private landholdings. This stand-off undoubtedly will perpetuate an already existing tense situation between the wealthy landowners of the eastern lowlands and the pro-indigenous Morales administration. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) stated that in the eastern region of Bolivia, 25 million hectares (62 million acres) of top-quality agricultural land is managed by a mere 100 select families. The remaining 5 million hectares (12 million acres) of arable land in the country are shared among 2 million campesinos.

Now coming off a big win, Morales will have the theoretical ability to remain in power until 2014, which is not likely to diminish the opposition’s hostility towards him, but rather intensify it. In this milieu, social harmony is bound to be more difficult to obtain. This is due to the deeply rooted social conflict which for years has been besieging Bolivia and the growing political and economic influence being sought after by the indigenous majority. Whereas a triumphant Morales and his indigenous supporters may view the new constitution as an egalitarian and empowering document, the white Europeanized opposition understandably perceive it as discriminatory and insensitive to their special needs. One thing is for certain, land distribution in this Andean nation has long been a source of strained relations between the indigenous majority and the elite minority.

Morales, of the Aymara ethnic group, appears determined to drastically restructure and democratize Bolivia’s historically unequal agrarian land holding patterns. "The concentration of land in Bolivia appears to be among the worst in the entire world," contend Mark Weisbrot and Luis Sandoval of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "The largest farms, although only 0.63 percent of the total, encompasses more than 66 percent of all agricultural land. At the other end of the spectrum, 86 percent of farms account for just 2.4 percent of agricultural land, and many other rural farmers own no land at all."

Bolivian Land Reform

In the first of what would be a number of attempts at reorganizing land usage patterns, former president, Victor Paz Estenssoro, led the fight to enact the 1953 Agrarian Reform Law. The measure, which is largely seen as an underlying cause for the present tension over land ownership, granted indigenous peoples modest plots of land while massive landholdings were bestowed upon the non-indigenous fraction of the population in an attempt to develop the country’s fading agricultural sector. According to a 2007 COHA report by research associate Laura Starr, "the Bolivian reform being promoted at that time affected 32 million hectares (79 million acres) of land, which were distributed to 40,000 medium and small-sized family farmers. At the same time, more than half a million indigenous and peasant families divided up only about 4 million hectares (10 million acres), almost exclusively in the less favorable western highlands of the country." In 1996, former president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, initiated a would-be land reform measure that defined itself as seeking to boost national productivity levels. As a result of the law, land had to serve a social or economic purpose.

Douglas Hertzler, a highly-regarded anthropologist working in Bolivia, asserts that, "the law made large speculative landholdings subject to redistribution to the landless, but it failed to establish adequate criteria to regulate this process, so that land redistribution did not move forward." Initially paying little attention to the strong opposition movement emanating from the eastern provinces, Morales now appears eager to make lasting changes to Bolivia’s traditionally preferential and asymmetrical land distribution policies.

According to the World Bank, the richest 10 percent of Bolivians consume 22 times more than the poorest 10 percent. Morales observed this during a speech he gave in March to a group of Guaraní Indians, "Private property will always be respected but we want people who are not interested in equality to change their thinking and focus more on country than currency." He continued, "Today, from here, we are beginning to put an end to the giant landholdings of Bolivia." That same day, Morales granted over 38,000 hectares (94,000 acres) of land to indigenous communities. But lowland elites, like Ronald Larsen, have vehemently opposed such measures. Larsen, an ardent opponent of Morales’ policies, purchased vast land holdings in the southeastern region of the country. Although he has spent the last 40 years working the land, recent Morales-inspired measures may well lead to the expropriation of the majority of it. "They’re taking it away over my dead body," said Larsen.

The January constitutional referendum curbs landholdings to 5,000 hectares (12,400 acres) as well as requires land to serve at all times a social or economic function. While Morales’ latest initiatives certainly have provoked uproar as well as praise, the efficacy of such reforms remains a serious question. Meanwhile, Bolivia is not the only country in the region attempting to overhaul its land tenure system.

A Look at Recent Venezuelan Land Reform Attempts

It was soon after Chávez took office in 1999 that he began to reorganize Venezuela’s agricultural land use policy under the label "Vuelta al Campo" (Return to the Countryside). This should come as no surprise, as Venezuela has had a long history of unbalanced land ownership. For example, in 1937, large haciendas of 1,000 hectares or more were owned by only 4.8 percent of landowners, but comprised 88.8 percent of all cultivatable land. In 2001, Chávez initiated progressive legislation entitled the "Law on Land and Agrarian Development." This measure allowed for the Chávez government to seize large tracts of land and redistribute them as it deemed appropriate. The measure was enacted by the government in an attempt to bridge the vast inequality gap in Venezuela, a nation where much of the wealth traditionally remained in the hands of a select few.

According to the CIPE Development Institute, prior to the 2001 reforms, 5 percent of the Venezuelan population owned 80 percent of the land. What is more shocking is that 60 percent of agricultural laborers have no ownership over the land they work. As a result, since the passing of the law eight years ago, Venezuelans have witnessed tensions rise between the landed elites and the landless working-class population.

President Chávez worked quickly to redistribute land holdings once land reforms had been passed. In 2003, he assigned his older brother, Adán Chávez, to head the process. Adán enacted the "Plan Ezequiel Zamora," which, over a one year period, redistributed nearly 1.5 million hectares of land to 130,000 families. Over the next year, the Chávez government distributed another 500,000 hectares to poor farmers throughout the nation.

While there has been a degree of success in the implementation of land redistribution programs, it has come at no small cost. Campesino leaders who have been trying to enforce the new land reform measures for years, have had to face violent oppression at the hands of the land owners and their private forces. According to Venezuela Analysis, more than 200 rural leaders have been murdered since the reforms passed, and the true number may be twice that figure. The murders are thought to have been carried out by thugs hired by the elite, whose land is now under threat of seizure by the government. These forces are often unorganized, but nonetheless, have been able to bring terror to Venezuela’s countryside much like the paramilitary vigilante forces that were formed to protect threatened land barons in Colombia.

Chávez’s Recent Initiatives

In the past several months, Caracas has been unusually active in putting its mind to accumulating land for redistribution and for public infrastructural purposes. In an unusually forceful manner, the government’s National Land Institute (INTI) recently expropriated one parcel of over 2,800 hectares (7000 acres) with the help of National Guard troops for fear that recent clashes between the entrenched landowners and the landless peasants would spiral out of control. In some cases, such land holdings have been largely idle despite their rich soil and great potential for agriculture. Despite ample arable land, Venezuela has historically imported the majority of its food supplies. With the advent of its growing wealth from oil drilling royalties, Venezuela shifted away from using its landholdings for subsistence agriculture in favor of growing cash crops. This meant that while the middle class could readily pay for imported produce, the same could not be said about the poor. Thus, characteristically, land has been held by affluent Venezuelans as a symbol of prestige rather than a source of food production.

A 2005 BBC report made the point that the Chávez administration, "insists it is impossible for Venezuela to grow enough food for the poor, as long as so much land is in the hands of so few." This is a principal force behind Venezuela’s current land redistribution initiative. The government is now in the process of taking over some of Venezuela’s largest and most profitable farms as well as estates that have been either ignored or underused. Venezuela’s president undoubtedly has the best of intentions in carrying out these actions, most notably the creation of sustainable development. This effort is in stark contrast to the current agricultural situation in much of the nation, where international companies, such as Ireland’s Smurfit Kappa have grown crops on Venezuelan acreage that didn’t offer long term sustainability, but drained the soil of precious minerals. After taking control of 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) that belonged to the Dublin based group, Chávez explained, "We are going to use all the eucalyptus wood sensibly and harvest other things there, beans, corn, sorghum, cassava and yam."

Despite his push for land reform, Chávez has not found universal solidarity behind it within his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Governor of the state of Portuguesa, Wilmar Castro, a member of PSUV, has publicly criticized recent expropriations of land for use by landless peasants, blaming the government for its failure to redistribute land through proper legal channels. Governor Castro’s policy is strongly at odds with federal law that allows peasants to utilize unoccupied private land. Another incident that shows the increasingly fractured nature of Venezuelan society occurred on April 17. Authorities in the state of Portuguesa evicted more than sixty landless farmers and three INTI workers from privately owned land that state officials had marked for appropriation and redistribution. With local authorities completely disregarding the policies emanating from Caracas, it is unclear how Chávez will be able to enforce his policies at the provincial level.

If the state achieves its goal, land that has been expropriated will be turned over to what, in many cases, are newly formed agrarian communes that will specialize in cultivating crops native to the region. Such measures will ensure the long-term viability of the land, encourage the employment of local campesinos, and supply food to subsidized markets all over the country. According to a 2006 report entitled "Land Reform in Venezuela," Chávez also hopes to build a food processing plant and research center on some of the expropriated government land to ensure that Venezuela’s facilities remain on par with other agricultural nations in the region.

Food security has been a recent hot-button issue in Venezuela. Under Article 305 of the constitution, the president has the authority to seize any land he sees fit if it is in the interest of food security. This was most recently reflected when Chávez ordered the expropriation of U.S. food giant Cargill on claims that the company was selling rice at prices that exceeded the legal limit for the country. Chávez has good reason to be worried about his nation’s food supply, as it currently imports 70 percent of Venezuelan food that is consumed from abroad. With rising import costs, it has been wise of him to bolster Venezuela’s self-sufficiency by allocating unused land to farmers who have a demonstrated zeal for producing crops. A 2005 land reform law decreased the amount of idle land one could hold. As a result of this, one could allow high quality land to be idle only if it was 50 hectares or less in size, which cut the original figure that one had to meet in half. The limits on unused, low quality holdings were also lowered, decreasing from 5000 hectares to 3000 hectares. Any idle lands above these two limits were subject to peasant invasion and eventual redistribution by the National Land Institute.

According to Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Elias Jaua, land reform already has allowed for a massive increase in national food production. Almost 1 million hectares (2.47 million acres) of the redistributed land are now producing food for domestic consumption, including meat, grain, and vegetables. This staggering amount accounts for nearly 90 percent of the total land appropriated for redistribution.

If those whose lands were expropriated by the government wish to legally challenge the authorities, they will face a long and arduous process. According to Cort Greene, a Latin American political analyst, in 2005 the government legalized preemptive occupation by giving the peasants who storm large estates cartas agrarias. Such documents dictate nothing in terms of formal ownership rights, but nonetheless grant peasants the right to use the land and profit from it until all legal disputes are finalized. The distribution of these cartas essentially ignores prior legal contracts and land deeds and grants the property to whoever professedly will make the best use of it.

The Future of Land Ownership

Having never fully recovered from the declination brought about by the Spanish conquest, the indigenous of South America have, to a large degree, experienced systematic inequality, often being viewed as little better than chattel. The issue of land reform is not peripheral to this process. In Bolivia, two-thirds of the land is owned by one percent of the population. Prior to Morales’ recent reforms, indigenous peoples, who represent the country’s clear ethnic majority, controlled under 10 percent of the land.

In contrast to Bolivia, the indigenous population of Venezuela only accounts for a mere 2 percent of the total population. While Chávez has not made land reform an entirely indigenous-focused issue, he certainly has done his part in trying to ensure that Venezuela’s first people get their due compensation. However, many of Venezuela’s indigenous do not think of land as a top priority, and disagree with policies emanating from Caracas. In a January 15 article in the Economist titled "Venezuela’s Indigenous People: A Promise Unkept," Rosario Romero, an indigenous Yukpa, explains, "Invasions are very bad. The ranchers worked for what they have." She adds that, contrary to what radical Yukpa leaders say, her parents never suggested these lands were theirs. Romero’s perspective offers an interesting look into the dichotomy that helps explain Venezuela’s land reform. Although she may have a minority opinion, it is important to note that there is more to this issue than meets the eye.

Yet Chávez and Morales are not the only Latin American governments reworking land titles. The Movimiento Sem Terra, or Landless Peasants Movement, established in 1980, has attempted to dramatically alter Brazil’s historically unjust system of land distribution. At times, however, the movement’s supporters have had to pressure an occasionally reluctant Lula administration. Moreover, in 2008, Raul Castro initiated a land reform program that sought to redistribute unutilized state-owned land to cooperatives.

Land reform historically has been one of the fundamental activities on any "must" list of progressive governments. In an attempt to secure a guaranteed food supply, former Chilean president, Salvador Allende, initiated a sweeping land reform. This came at a time when only 8 percent of Chile’s gross national product (GNP) came from the countryside. From 1971 to 1972, 3,282 farms were expropriated by the Allende administration. While the reform initiatives were largely popular, they did polarize the electorate into two bitterly divided sides. Harvard research fellow, Thomas John Bossert argues that, "the revolutionary effect of such [agrarian] reforms is usually seen as coming not from beneficiaries of the reform, but rather from those frustrated by the failure of the reform to grant them land."

Both Chávez and Morales have taken worthy first steps towards a less discriminatory distribution of land, but both leaders still have much work yet to be done with those who they have since agitated. Nevertheless, a wave of optimism has swept across the affected region, where steps have been taken to grant more equitable land rights to a rural population which historically has been discriminated against. While Chávez and Morales are gaining political capital by distributing land to the masses, they also risk alienating some of the most productive sectors of society. In the end, and with the best of intentions, they may be doing harm to both of the countries’ long-term political and economic stability. But the concern of an equitable reform of the land remains an issue calling out for redress.

Adam Kott and David Rosenblum Felson are Research Associates at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

Copyright © 2007-2009 The Cutting Edge News

Native Rights News is making this material from The Cutting Edge News available in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine codified at Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107: This article is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information. Distribution of this material is for research and educational purposes that will promote social and economic justice and benefit society.
Native Rights News (NRN) is published by the Alliance for Indigenous Rights, a nonprofit corporation owned and operated by Temple Beit Shem Tov as part of its Peace and Justice Ministry.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Anchorage Declaration of the Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change

[Editor's Note: Our thanks to the Western Shoshone Defense Project (WSDP) for forwarding a copy of the Anchorage Declaration to us. For information and background about the summit itself, see our April 25th post titled Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change.

Following is the Declaration from the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change held in Anchorage, Alaska April 20 – 24th.

The Anchorage Declaration
24 April 2009

From 20-24 April, 2009, Indigenous representatives from the Arctic, North America, Asia, Pacific, Latin America, Africa, Caribbean and Russia met in Anchorage, Alaska for the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change. We thank the Ahtna and the Dena’ina Athabascan Peoples in whose lands we gathered.

We express our solidarity as Indigenous Peoples living in areas that are the most vulnerable to the impacts and root causes of climate change. We reaffirm the unbreakable and sacred connection between land, air, water, oceans, forests, sea ice, plants, animals and our human communities as the material and spiritual basis for our existence.

We are deeply alarmed by the accelerating climate devastation brought about by unsustainable development. We are experiencing profound and disproportionate adverse impacts on our cultures, human and environmental health, human rights, well-being, traditional livelihoods, food systems and food sovereignty, local infrastructure, economic viability, and our very survival as Indigenous Peoples.

Mother Earth is no longer in a period of climate change, but in climate crisis. We therefore insist on an immediate end to the destruction and desecration of the elements of life.

Through our knowledge, spirituality, sciences, practices, experiences and relationships with our traditional lands, territories, waters, air, forests, oceans, sea ice, other natural resources and all life, Indigenous Peoples have a vital role in defending and healing Mother Earth. The future of Indigenous Peoples lies in the wisdom of our elders, the restoration of the sacred position of women, the youth of today and in the generations of tomorrow.

We uphold that the inherent and fundamental human rights and status of Indigenous Peoples, affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), must be fully recognized and respected in all decision-making processes and activities related to climate change. This includes our rights to our lands, territories, environment and natural resources as contained in Articles 25–30 of the UNDRIP. When specific programs and projects affect our lands, territories, environment and natural resources, the right of Self Determination of Indigenous Peoples must be recognized and respected, emphasizing our right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, including the right to say “no”. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreements and principles must reflect the spirit and the minimum standards contained in UNDRIP.

Calls for Action

1. In order to achieve the fundamental objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), we call upon the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC to support a binding emissions reduction target for developed countries (Annex 1) of at least 45% below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 95% by 2050. In recognizing the root causes of climate change, participants call upon States to work towards decreasing dependency on fossil fuels. We further call for a just transition to decentralized renewable energy economies, sources and systems owned and controlled by our local communities to achieve energy security and sovereignty.

In addition, the Summit participants agreed to present two options for action which were each supported by one or more of the participating regional caucuses. These were as follows:

A. We call for the phase out of fossil fuel development and a moratorium on new fossil fuel developments on or near Indigenous lands and territories.

B. We call for a process that works towards the eventual phase out of fossil fuels, without infringing on the right to development of Indigenous nations.

2. We call upon the Parties to the UNFCCC to recognize the importance of our Traditional Knowledge and practices shared by Indigenous Peoples in developing strategies to address climate change. To address climate change we also call on the UNFCCC to recognize the historical and ecological debt of the Annex 1 countries in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. We call on these countries to pay this historical debt.

3. We call on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and other relevant institutions to support Indigenous Peoples in carrying out Indigenous Peoples’ climate change assessments.

4. We call upon the UNFCCC’s decision-making bodies to establish formal structures and mechanisms for and with the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples. Specifically we recommend that the UNFCCC:
a. Organize regular Technical Briefings by Indigenous Peoples on Traditional Knowledge and climate change;
b. Recognize and engage the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change and its regional focal points in an advisory role;
c. Immediately establish an Indigenous focal point in the secretariat of the UNFCCC;
d. Appoint Indigenous Peoples’ representatives in UNFCCC funding mechanisms in consultation with Indigenous Peoples;
e. Take the necessary measures to ensure the full and effective participation of Indigenous and local communities in formulating, implementing, and monitoring activities, mitigation, and adaptation relating to impacts of climate change.

5. All initiatives under Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) must secure the recognition and implementation of the human rights of Indigenous Peoples, including security of land tenure, ownership, recognition of land title according to traditional ways, uses and customary laws and the multiple benefits of forests for climate, ecosystems, and Peoples before taking any action.

6. We challenge States to abandon false solutions to climate change that negatively impact Indigenous Peoples’ rights, lands, air, oceans, forests, territories and waters. These include nuclear energy, large-scale dams, geo-engineering techniques, “clean coal”, agro-fuels, plantations, and market based mechanisms such as carbon trading, the Clean Development Mechanism, and forest offsets. The human rights of Indigenous Peoples to protect our forests and forest livelihoods must be recognized, respected and ensured.

7. We call for adequate and direct funding in developed and developing States and for a fund to be created to enable Indigenous Peoples’ full and effective participation in all climate processes, including adaptation, mitigation, monitoring and transfer of appropriate technologies in order to foster our empowerment, capacity-building, and education. We strongly urge relevant United Nations bodies to facilitate and fund the participation, education, and capacity building of Indigenous youth and women to ensure engagement in all international and national processes related to climate change.

8. We call on financial institutions to provide risk insurance for Indigenous Peoples to allow them to recover from extreme weather events.

9. We call upon all United Nations agencies to address climate change impacts in their strategies and action plans, in particular their impacts on Indigenous Peoples, including the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). In particular, we call upon all the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other relevant United Nations bodies to establish an Indigenous Peoples’ working group to address the impacts of climate change on food security and food sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples.

10. We call on United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to conduct a fast track assessment of short-term drivers of climate change, specifically black carbon, with a view to initiating negotiation of an international agreement to reduce emission of black carbon.

11. We call on States to recognize, respect and implement the fundamental human rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the collective rights to traditional ownership, use, access, occupancy and title to traditional lands, air, forests, waters, oceans, sea ice and sacred sites as well as to ensure that the rights affirmed in Treaties are upheld and recognized in land use planning and climate change mitigation strategies. In particular, States must ensure that Indigenous Peoples have the right to mobility and are not forcibly removed or settled away from their traditional lands and territories, and that the rights of Peoples in voluntary isolation are upheld. In the case of climate change migrants, appropriate programs and measures must address their rights, status, conditions, and vulnerabilities.

12. We call upon states to return and restore lands, territories, waters, forests, oceans, sea ice and sacred sites that have been taken from Indigenous Peoples, limiting our access to our traditional ways of living, thereby causing us to misuse and expose our lands to activities and conditions that contribute to climate change.

13. In order to provide the resources necessary for our collective survival in response to the climate crisis, we declare our communities, waters, air, forests, oceans, sea ice, traditional lands and territories to be “Food Sovereignty Areas,” defined and directed by Indigenous Peoples according to customary laws, free from extractive industries, deforestation and chemical-based industrial food production systems (i.e. contaminants, agro-fuels, genetically modified organisms).

14. We encourage our communities to exchange information while ensuring the protection and recognition of and respect for the intellectual property rights of Indigenous Peoples at the local, national and international levels pertaining to our Traditional Knowledge, innovations, and practices. These include knowledge and use of land, water and sea ice, traditional agriculture, forest management, ancestral seeds, pastoralism, food plants, animals and medicines and are essential in developing climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, restoring our food sovereignty and food independence, and strengthening our Indigenous families and nations.

We offer to share with humanity our Traditional Knowledge, innovations, and practices
relevant to climate change, provided our fundamental rights as intergenerational
guardians of this knowledge are fully recognized and respected. We reiterate the urgent
need for collective action.

Agreed by consensus of the participants in the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on
Climate Change, Anchorage Alaska, April 24th 2009
Source: Western Shoshone Defense Project (WSDP)

Native Rights News is making this Declaration available in accordance with the wishes of its authors. This article is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information. Distribution of this material is for research and educational purposes that will promote social and economic justice and benefit society.
Native Rights News (NRN) is published by the Alliance for Indigenous Rights, a nonprofit corporation owned and operated by Temple Beit Shem Tov as part of its Peace and Justice Ministry.

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