UNPO Statement On Climate Change


December 8, 2009: The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) calls upon international experts and politicians from around the world participating in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to include indigenous voices in their discussions emphasizing that indigenous peoples should not be considered as passive victims but as empowered and as active agents to address the ill-effects of climate change. 

UNPO Statement on Climate Change

This year marks another momentous event for all the peoples of the world as the United Nations hold a summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen [7th to 18th December 2009]. The Dalai Lama welcomes this summit as an encouraging act to make climate change a priority. The Dalai Lama also called on the young people among others to work on these issues and reminded everyone that “taking care of the environment should be part of our daily life.”

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) have for many years underlined the pertinence of global warming and climate change. Not only do these problems effect the environment for future generations, they are widespread, impacting the entire globe. A clean global environment would benefit everybody, but will only come about if all parties collaborate to develop the solution. This cooperation includes sub-state actors, typically marginalized communities who have overwhelmingly felt the impact of climate change but do not possess the tools or opportunities to participate in the solution. Resources found in regions where these communities live but do not fully control, are often used not for the benefit of the resident people, but for the ruling elite of the controlling state. Consequently, these indigenous peoples and minorities experience the devastating impacts of climate change, but are incapable of implementing initiatives to mitigate the consequences.

Traditionally marginalized and unrepresented populations are experiencing the brunt of the consequences of global climate change, as they both lack the capacity to minimize or reverse the damages and they are not included in the international dialogue concerned with finding the solution. Consequently, the resulting agreements fail once again to represent the needs or concerns of these communities. In response to this growing problem, UNPO recommends the following:

• UNPO calls for greater representation in climate change meetings of indigenous peoples and minority communities who have been marginalized. Though they are greatly affected by the consequences of global climate change, these communities are not included in the solution and have no say over the lands on which they live. In order to form a more cohesive and practical climate change mitigation regime, the international community must recognize indigenous people and minorities as an invaluable part of the process. Furthermore, unrepresented communities, ethnic minorities, and indigenous peoples must participate in higher level international meetings on climate change.

• UNPO encourages the inclusion of international NGOs and International Organizations, and other UN instruments, mechanisms, platforms and processes of concern to unrepresented people in climate change meetings. These parties must advocate for the inclusion of “indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities’ role in climate change mitigation” as a regular item on the agenda of all climate change and environmental meetings at every level, and an important point for consideration in policy making negotiations. Mechanisms resulting from these meetings must incorporate the needs and concerns of these marginalized groups.

• UNPO recommends that marginalized peoples, such as indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, be included in existing capacity building initiatives and propose that special capacity building be undertaken for indigenous peoples. This includes participation in the implementation of mechanisms for climate change policies developed during international climate change conferences, in order to accomplish the objectives of lowering greenhouse gas emissions and achieving sustainable development in developed and developing countries. Such capacity building would strengthen the ability of indigenous peoples and other minority communities to exercise the right to fully participate in climate change negotiations.

UNPO stresses the need to protect the human rights of all nations and peoples, including the right to survive and to thrive as a community. It is equally important to ensure careful attention is paid to the preservation of human rights under the stress of demographic changes resulting from migration due to climate change. As agricultural patterns shift, the resulting urbanization caused by mass migration will create new minority populations. When the people are no longer able to work and live off the land they inhabit, many leave for better places or become dependent on outside assistance. This in combination with the forced population policies implemented by several states has an enormous impact on the social structures of societies. By protecting and developing the natural environment for the benefit of both the people and nature, this scenario can be avoided.
The growing impact of climate change has led to the loss of lives and has forced indigenous peoples to leave their lands. All of which are violation of the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination and an entire range of other fundamental rights. As marginalized communities especially indigenous peoples see the negative impacts of climate change on their land, forest and marine resources as a matter of life and death, it is high time that states prioritize climate change rather than “national interest, national economic interest and then global warming” just as the Dalai Lama asserted.

UNPO calls upon international experts and politicians from around the world participating in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to include indigenous voices in their discussions emphasizing that indigenous peoples should not be considered as passive victims but as empowered and as active agents to address the ill-effects of climate change. UNPO believes that indigenous peoples must be included in policymaking in order for their knowledge to be incorporated into any adaptive strategies.
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