Indigenous Peoples Mentioned More Often in National Climate Pledges; Colonialism Still Overshadows

By Mathew Carr

Feb. 20, 2023 — Within the category of Indigenous Peoples as rights-holders, arguably the most crucial, the number of references not only increased between the first and second round of Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submissions, but mentions of the rights “has become more substantial”, according to the report below, published by the UNFCCC.

NDCs are national climate “pledges” under the Paris climate deal. The following report was by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), a non-governmental human rights organisation promoting, protecting and defending the rights of Indigenous Peoples for more than 50 years. It supports Indigenous Peoples’ advocacy at the international climate negotiations at the UNFCCC.

Key snips of the report, selected and emphasised, not edited:

…”For instance, NDCs making overall reference to Indigenous Peoples’ rights have nearly doubled from 16 to 28.

‘Within the second round of submissions, the NDCs
that make reference to Indigenous
Peoples’ rights increased to 14% of the
total number of submitted NDCs [almost 200]. In particular,

we can observe that 8 NDCs expressly mention that they
recognise Indigenous Peoples’ rights and 11 refer to
specific international or domestic rights frameworks,
compared to 5 and 3 NDCs in the first round. There
are 4 NDCs that refer to both issues, such as
Aotearoa-New Zealand, which states that it respects the
interests and rights of Indigenous Peoples and that
it will take into consideration the Treaty of Waitangi.
There are only 5 NDCs that mention consultation or
FPIC: Nepal and El Salvador reference FPIC (2); Costa
Rica and Panama refer to consultation (2); and Canada
refers to self-determination (1).’

The exercise of Indigenous Peoples’ rights is possible only as long as their land rights and governance
systems are recognised. The recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ jurisdiction and governance systems
remains marginal.

This gap opens up many questions regarding the application of measures to be
implemented in Indigenous territories – which are also increasing. Thus far, the dynamics of colonialism
have not only pushed Indigenous Peoples into scenarios of increased vulnerability associated with the biophysical impacts of climate change but have also subjected them to climate policies – and especially mitigation policies – that intervene in their territories and even violate their rights. The demarcation of Indigenous Peoples’ territories is an unresolved issue in many of the countries that mention Indigenous Peoples in their NDCs. Until this crucial issue is integrated into climate policy, NDCs will likely continue to reproduce the practices that produce climate vulnerability.

3.1. Recommendations
Serving as input to the current Global Stocktake of
the Paris Agreement, the following recommendations can be taken from the above conclusions:

  1. Rights: NDCs must respect, promote and consider their respective obligations with regard
    to human rights and the rights of Indigenous
    Peoples. NDCs should be consistent with the
    minimum standards established by UNDRIP,
    including the right to self-determination. In particular, NDCs must consider how activities and
    decisions may affect Indigenous Peoples’ rights,
    knowledge systems, practices and ways of life.
    All activities that directly affect Indigenous Peoples must specify how the Parties will ensure that
    their rights are respected, as well as identify and
    promote good practices for the engagement of
    Indigenous Peoples. All plans and means of implementation must be decided and implemented
    based on free, prior and informed consent.
  2. Jurisdiction: NDCs should explicitly state how
    their implementation considers Indigenous Peoples’ land and water rights and respects Indigenous governance systems. Furthermore, NDCs
    must clarify how Indigenous jurisdiction is integrated into climate policy.
  3. Knowledge: NDCs must promote processes of
    co-production of knowledge through respectful, ethical, and equitable collaboration and
    partnership with Indigenous Peoples and their
    knowledge holders. This collaboration calls for
    strengthening Indigenous-led research – including permanent mechanisms for knowledge
    co-production and direct funding to Indigenous
    Peoples. NDCs should clarify how collaboration
    takes place and how it incorporates this into
    the planning and implementation of its commitments. Furthermore, relationships should be
    developed at local and national levels, upholding
    the principles of free, prior and informed consent
    and considering all components of Indigenous
    knowledge systems, including values, worldviews, protocols and customary laws.
  4. Engagement: NDCs must build capacity and secure financial support to increase the effective,
    respectful, equitable, consistent and ongoing
    engagement of Indigenous Peoples at the national and local levels. Parties should ensure
    that Indigenous Peoples are equal partners in all
    phases of the NDCs, including their preparation, implementation, monitoring and verification.
  5. NDCs should provide information on how this collaboration took place and how their outputs were integrated into the document. Furthermore, NDCs should work with Indigenous Peoples to design permanent mechanisms that allow for partnership with Indigenous Peoples, respecting their right to self-determination and the will of the communities involved.

  6. Colonialism:
    In addition to recognising the climate vulnerability of Indigenous Peoples, NDCs need to look further into its causes and propose measures to reverse it.
    It is crucial that NDCs delve deeper into the underlying factors that have caused this problem, including the ongoing, structural legacy of colonialism and capitalism. NDCs must ensure that the measures they commit to do not reproduce these factors but rather provide mechanisms to overcome them.
    It is fundamental that all committed measures are decided with the engagement of Indigenous Peoples, that they strengthen the capabilities of
    Indigenous Peoples, and that they are aligned with Indigenous knowledge systems and cultural practices. In addition, NDCs must provide financial and technical support for Indigenous-led
    projects, respecting the right of self-determination.

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