Indigenous communities, through their representatives, put forth their case, during the ongoing climate negotiations (COP22), on why they should be given direct access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
Among other demands such as recognition of and respect for their rights, the indigenous groups said that access to the climate finance will enable them to play a significant role in management of natural resources and mitigation and adaptation of climate change.
Grace Balawang of Tebtebba, an indigenous peoples’ organization based in Philippines said “indigenous people have been in direct contact with forests for a long time, have built indigenous knowledge system over the period and should therefore be supported to continue applying indigenous knowledge to protect the forests.”
Tarcila Rivera Zea of CHIRAPAQ, Peru added that despite the indigenous peoples’ wealth of knowledge, they have been hard hit by the impacts of climate change.
“We are the ones that suffer the consequences of climate change when droughts, floods, landslides and typhoons occur.” Ms. Tarcila said. Through slides, she showed images of indigenous communities hit by drought and landslides.
“Some medicinal plant resources useful to the indigenous communities have been lost and there have been limited efforts to recover them.” She continued.
Ms. Tarcila believes that if indigenous people get the necessary support, they will use their indigenous knowledge to create crops that are resistant to droughts, recover species that are facing extinction especially medicinal plant species important in their culture, improve and produce more environmentally friendly technology like the energy saving stoves that emit less smoke that has been part of their culture for a while.
However, the challenge standing between the communities and the necessary climate action is lack of financial muscle.
Stanley Ole Kimaren, Executive Director of Indigenous Livelihoods Partnerships, Kenya (ILEPA), said that though pastoralist groups like the Maasai have proven that there is an indigenous science behind the enhanced livelihood systems, there has not been sufficient support towards their initiatives.
“What we need is funding and capacity building support to engage more robustly in climate action and livelihood enhancement.” He said.
One of the funding sources eyed by the indigenous communities is the Green Climate Fund. However, a number of hurdles hinder their access to the fund meant for adaptation and building of climate resilience among vulnerable communities.
“The GCF instruments at the moment do not recognize indigenous people who are often most affected by climate change as a special constituency. We have also been excluded and marginalized from the decision making processes.” Mr. Kimaren said.
“The Green Climate Fund should recognize the rights of indigenous people and address the issue of direct access or a dedicated financial arrangement for the indigenous people,” He continued.
The Global Climate Fund was established in 2010 by 194 countries party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to assist developing countries to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
“We ask the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) to provide a direct observer seat to the indigenous people to participate in the GCF discussions.”
There are approximately 370 million indigenous people in the world, belonging to 5,000 different groups, in 90 countries worldwide. They are often seen as the primary stewards of the planet’s natural resources. Their ways of life have contributed to the protection of the natural environment on which they depend on.
Article by Jonathan Odongo
Founder and Executive Director,
Kenya Environmental Education Network
Panelists: Indigenous Peoples and Green Climate Fund. Photo/COURTESY Jonathan Odongo