Saturday, November 29, 2008

Indigenous People Demand Voice in Climate Talks

by Haider Rizvi |, Nov 28, 2008

UNITED NATIONS - Calls for greater participation of the world’s indigenous leaders are on the rise as another round of talks on global climate change opens in the Polish city of Poznan next week.

[At the banquet on the first evening of the 2008 World Summit of Indigenous Cultures in Taipei. (flickr photo by davidreid)]At the banquet on the first evening of the 2008 World Summit of Indigenous Cultures in Taipei. (flickr photo by davidreid)

“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 [its] impacts,” said Mark Lattimer of the London-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG).

In a study released last week, MRG researchers warned that a new climate change agreement would be “seriously compromised” if policymakers continued to shut out the voices of those most affected by global warming.

More than 8,000 delegates from around the world are expected to participate in the meeting at Poznan. The two-week meeting is supposed to hammer out further international commitments to fight climate change, including climate-related financial assistance for developing countries.

UN officials hope the meeting will prove to be a “milestone on the road to success” for the negotiation process launched at past conferences, because it is tasked with setting the agenda for next year’s final talks on a climate change treaty.

But in Lattimer’s view, the UN process is deeply flawed, because it does not allow the communities that have first-hand experience of dealing with climate change to participate in the negotiations.

For one, official delegates in Poznan are expected to set targets on carbon emissions from deforestation, but forest-dwelling communities who are mostly indigenous people may not be included in those discussions.

According to MRG’s new report, the impact of climate change hits indigenous communities hardest because they live in ecologically diverse areas and their livelihoods are dependent on the environment.

To cite some examples of climate change impact on indigenous communities, the report refers to unprecedented levels of ice-melt in the Arctic region, droughts in east Africa, and a rapid fall in crop yields in Vietnam.

Minorities, according to the report, are often among the poorest and most marginalized communities and are most likely to face discrimination when disasters occur during climate changes.

“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 its impact on people,” said Farah Mihlar, the report’s author.

“There are entire communities that could be lost,” she added in a statement. “Cultures, traditions, and languages could be wiped off the earth.”

At the climate change conference held in Bali, Indonesia, last December, indigenous rights activists held a series of demonstrations against their exclusion from the official talks.

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