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Indigenous Peoples Are Vital Actors In Climate Solutions: IPRI

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As in Manipur’s case, there are two fronts where this debate has some relevance. First, the protests by traditional fishers in the Loktak commons as impacted by government policies and projects, and secondly, the forest dependent tribes in the uplands whose traditional land rights and access to forest resource use are now threatened by government policy on extension of protected areas.

By Salam Rajesh

There are myriad stories and reports of rights violation committed upon marginalized sections of societies across the globe, some confirmed and many unconfirmed, more particularly upon Indigenous peoples and local communities who usually come under tremendous pressures from external players seeking access into their territories for extractive industries and businesses.

Indigenous peoples across the several continents have since been at the receiving end of forces that intrude into their ‘territories of life’ uprooting their traditional lifestyles and displacing them from their traditional lands – all in the name of fueling the progress of ‘development’. These actions directly impact on the lives of the marginalized peoples while having negative implications on the campaign for climate actions to halt the ever increasing global temperature rise.

Climate actions call for the urgent restoration of ecosystems – across lands, forests and water bodies – within the target year 2050 so as to save planet Earth from climate catastrophe in the very near future unless corrective measures are taken up now – which many scientists have been predicting since the past many years, based on rising evidences of impacts from climate change processes.

The Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI) and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s recent report, ‘Protector Not Prisoner: Indigenous peoples face rights violation & criminalization in climate actions’ (2022) has heaps to tell on the rights violation faced by Indigenous peoples across the globe.

The report opens up the debate with the statement that, “Climate crisis is one of the most critical and complex issues our planet and its people face. Indigenous peoples are at the forefront of environmental protection and addressing this crisis, managing over 20% of the Earth’s land surface and 80% of its biodiversity. Drawing upon thousands of years of expertise in environmental stewardship, Indigenous peoples are vital leaders in the fight to protect our planet. They are also among the first groups to experience the direct consequences of climate change, despite having contributed very little to its causes”.

Joan Carling, IPRI’s Global Director, has this to add in, “Indigenous peoples are vital actors in climate solutions. Responses to the climate crisis should be based on partnership with Indigenous peoples as stewards of nature and protectors of our biodiversity. We must stop the criminalization of Indigenous peoples and respect their collective and individual rights”.

Re-emphasizing on this point, IPRI commits that “For real progress to be made toward meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement in a way that respects Indigenous peoples’ rights and realizes a just and sustainable future for all”, the following objectives need to be respected and fulfilled by the Governments across ideologies and political boundaries:

‘States must ensure that all climate plans and actions, including on biodiversity conservation, are in full alignment with human rights obligations and commitments.

States must adopt and implement legislation recognizing the vital role and risks human rights defenders (including Indigenous peoples’ communities) face in promoting human rights, sustainable development and a healthy environment, with a commitment to zero tolerance for attacks.

States must establish effective mechanisms and processes for the meaningful, effective and safe participation of Indigenous peoples at the local and national levels in climate policies and actions, including full respect for their right to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC).

States must enact gender responsive, mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation that includes a duty for companies to engage safely and meaningfully with rights holders.

Support Indigenous-led climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives. Support an equitable energy transition by ensuring that renewable energy development results in equal access to clean, reliable, and affordable energy, including for Indigenous peoples.

Provide access to justice to victims of human rights violations in climate actions, including on biodiversity conservation, and establish effective grievance and accountability mechanisms accessible to Indigenous peoples’.

Human rights violation with particular reference to intrusion into nature reserves is often linked to land grabbing, forced evictions, intimidation by governments and companies, even rape and massacre of innocent lives, and importantly the dilution of environmental laws that seek to protect nature reserves.

There are hundreds of cases, both reported and not reported, where locals have come out with stories of government forces sweeping down to clear them from their traditional lands, or where private companies have literally taken over their lands in the name of extended so-said ‘development’ activities.

Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Canada Arctic Circle, North East India, Manipur – the stories are the same but varying in the degree of rights violation. From massive clearing of vital tropical rainforests for commercial plantations to taking over of grasslands for renewable energy projects to clearing of biomass for taking up tourism projects, Indigenous peoples have been subjected to many forms of rights abuse.

The contribution of the United Nations in bringing to the fore the role of Indigenous peoples in biodiversity and natural landscape conservation has been well highlighted and this has brought a new perception on how to make Indigenous peoples partners in the management and conservation of nature reserves in achieving the UN’s goals of ecosystem restoration with climate actions in focus.

As in Manipur’s case, there are two fronts where this debate has some relevance. First, the protests by traditional fishers in the Loktak commons as impacted by government policies and projects, and secondly, the forest dependent tribes in the uplands whose traditional land rights and access to forest resource use are now threatened by government policy on extension of protected areas.

The respect of human rights come in close relevance with the objective of establishing a system where forest and wetland ecosystems are protected and conserved meaningfully in meeting climate mitigation and adaptation targets, in partnership with the local communities.

The IPRI report is critical when it puts it plainly that, “Disregarding the rights of Indigenous peoples in the race to a decarbonized economy by 2050 will result in numerous human rights violations and will continue to fuel opposition, conflict, and result in delays to projects and achieving our global climate and SDG targets”.

(The writer looks at environmental stories through the journalistic lens. He can be reached at sala[email protected]ail.com)

 

 

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