The Qollasuyo Declaration: Indigenous Peoples Demand Full Participation in Climate Talks and Decisions

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The statement below was issued on March 19, at the conclusion of a conference held in the Qollasuyo district of the province of La Paz, Bolivia, on “The Role of Indigenous Peoples in the Protection of Bio-Cultural Diversity: The Effect of Deforestation and Gas Emissions on Climate Change.”

According to a report in the Chilean newspaper El Rancahuaso, the meeting was sponsored by six groups:

  • Coordinating Body of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin;
  • Andean Coordinating Committee of Indigenous Organizations;
  • Indigenous Council of Central America;
  • United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues;
  • Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues;
  • Fund for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The conference recommendations will be submitted to Seventh Session of the Permanent UN Forum on Indigenous Issues, which will be held from April 21 to May 2 in New York City. The theme of that session will be “Climate Change, Bio-Cultural Diversity and Livelihoods: The Stewardship Role of Indigenous Peoples, and New Challenges.”

The Qollasuyo Declaration on Climate Change

The Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala [the Americas] have gathered in the International Conference on “The Role of Indigenous Peoples in the Protection of Bio-Cultural Diversity: The Effect of Deforestation and Gas Emissions on Climate Change.”

With great respect for our ancestors and our Mother Earth, we declare that:

The Indigenous Peoples, who inhabit the most fragile ecosystems on the planet, including tropical rain forests, deserts, moors, mountains and islands, are the most vulnerable to the effects of global warming. The impact of climate change endangers our Mother Earth, our culture, our environment and our livelihood.

These changes are the result of the Western model of development, which is based on a rapacious capitalism that does not respect Mother Earth. In this century it is estimated that the average temperature will rise 1.8°C to 4.0°C, accelerating the impact of climate change on Indigenous Peoples. We insist that industrialized countries are solely responsible for the changes that are profoundly affecting Mother Earth, and we reject any suggestion that indigenous peoples have any responsibility for them.

The catastrophic effect of these changes can already be perceived in our territories: chaotic climatic problems including prolonged rainfall, flooding and droughts, deglaciation, rising sea levels, the expansion of endemic diseases, fires in the tropical rain forest, changes in the growing season. They are breaking the chain of life, threatening the survival of our peoples, and inducing high rates of extreme poverty. Indigenous women are particularly affected.

Even though we suffer disproportionately from climate change today, change caused mainly by excessive exploitation of natural resources, we are marginalized when attention turns to the development of policies and programs to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Multilateral agencies, the private sector, international NGOs and governments, etc. are proposing mitigation and adaptation policies that, although advanced as “solutions,” affect the exercise of our rights and outrageously assault our way of life. These supposed “solutions” include development of monoculture farming, production of biofuels, carbon sequestration, reduced emissions through avoiding deforestation and creating protected areas.

Historically, as different environmental pressures have affected our surroundings, Indigenous Peoples have been able to use our traditional knowledge to adapt. Because we still have that ability, we can propose alternative approaches to adaptation and mitigation.

It is time for Indigenous Peoples to be full participants in the national and international processes, discussions and actions related to climate change, biodiversity, protected areas etc.

Therefore we demand:

1. Full and effective participation in the processes of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the conventions on Biological Diversity and Protected Areas, and others.

2. Establishment of an indigenous expert group on climate change and traditional knowledge within the UNFCCC.

3. Coordination with agencies and specialized agencies of the United Nations such as the CBD, UNFCCC, UNESCO, FAO, UNICEF, GEF, UNPFII, UNDP and others that are involved in implementing actions and policies on climate change that affect Indigenous Peoples.

4. That the Permanent Forum [on Indigenous Peoples] recommend that a Special Rapporteur from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights produce a report on the impact of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples.

5. Projects and programs related to climate change and adaptation should:

a. Fully respect the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples.

b. Consult effectively in advance, to obtain free and informed consent.

c. Be subject to the requirements of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Convention 169 of the ILO, and other relevant national and international agreements.

d. Respond to the needs, priorities and real experiences of Indigenous Peoples.

6. The implementation of UNFCCC policies should be subject to the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

7. Financial mechanisms to ensure that Indigenous Peoples have access to funds for adaptation, capability development, technology transfer, etc. should be expanded and made more flexible.

8. Programs and strategies specific to the climate change mitigation and adaptation needs of Indigenous People should be recognized and supported.

Adopted in Qollasuyo, La Paz, Bolivia, March 2008

(Translation by Ian Angus, Climate & Capitalism)

Acronyms in this statement: CBD Convention on Biological Diversity; FAO Food and Agriculture Organization (of the United Nations); GEF Global Environment Facility; ILO International Labour Organization; NGO Non-Governmental Organization; UNDP United Nations Development Programme; UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; UNFCCC United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; UNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund; UNPFII United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.