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International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) Opening statement at COP11


International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) at Convention on Biological Diversity
11th Conference of the Parties, Hyderabad, India
8th-19th October 2012
Opening Statement
Mr. Chairperson,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to present this statement on behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB).

We also extend our since thanks to the Government of India and the city of Hyderabad for hosting this COP-11 and for the warm welcome our team has received since our arrival for this COP. The preparations for this conference by the government of India have been quite excellent.

We are indeed grateful for the governments of Sweden, Norway, the Christensen Fund and CBD Voluntary Fund for their generous donations and support which has enabled the participation of over a hundred Indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ delegates in this conference.  

Mr. Chairperson, members of the IIFB have been meeting in the past two days to take a critical look at the various initiatives and decisions undertaken for the implementation of the Convention in the last two years after COP 10. Whilst the forum had noticed improvements in some areas and processes, we regret to say that much work still needs to be done in some critical areas especially as we have noticed that the current emphasis on economic growth in the wake of the global economic and climate change crisis as well as government responses had affected Indigenous peoples in far greater and disproportionate dimensions. 

Having one of the largest populations in the world including over 100 million Indigenous peoples known by different names, we acknowledge the Adivasis and other tribal peoples in India as Indigenous Peoples and stand in solidarity with them in their peculiar struggles against displacement from their ancestral lands in lieu of development in India.

We express our deep concern about the negotiation process on our Mother Earth, who is a living and sacred Mother from the view of indigenous peoples that cannot be given a monetary value.
We believe that our physical, cultural and spiritual continuity as indigenous peoples depends on our lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources.
We recognize the vital role that indigenous peoples and local communities play, particularly women, in the transmission of traditional knowledge, customary use and management of biodiversity, as well as the recovery and continuity of our cultures.
In recognition of the above, Mr. Chairperson, the IIFB will in the coming two weeks present specific recommendations to the Parties in the various working groups, but we offer these general comments.

MAINSTREAMING OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RIGHTS IN BIODIVERSITY DECISIONS
Five years ago, the United Nations General Assembly passed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which sets the minimum benchmarks for the recognition of Indigenous peoples and their effective participation in decision making processes. We note with regret that most states in the implementation of decisions under the Convention on Biological Diversity have failed to mainstream the rights inherent in the declaration in their decisions relating to biodiversity in respect of conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use and equitable access and benefit sharing arrangements.

LACK OF PARTICIPATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN KEY DECISION MAKING PROCESSES AND ACTIVITIES
The issue of  the full and  effective participation of Indigenous peoples is recognized as essential in the attainment of the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity particularly in relation to conservation, sustainable use  and the equitable access and benefit sharing processes. This fact had been reiterated  in  various COP decisions  particularly COP 10 Decision X /18 paras 1 and 5, COP 10 Decision X/37 paras 3 and 4, COP 10 Decision X/42 paras 27-29 etc.

We are deeply concerned that most of these COP decisions on ensuring the full and effective participation or involvement of Indigenous peoples have not been dutifully followed by state parties. We urge parties to implement these decisions in good faith to ensure greater conservation of biodiversity.

PROTECTED AREAS
Whilst we note the process for the development of PoWPA for protected areas, we are concerned about the increasing expansion of protected areas cutting us away from the harmonious relationship we had with nature. We call for increased recognition of Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCA) and biocultural protocols.

We also call on parties to address the lingering issue of the  restitution of our lands and territories taken for protected areas without our free, prior and  informed consent so that Indigenous Peoples can re-establish control  their our lands and  territories.

BIODIVERSITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Climate change is threatening our way of life, our food security and sovereignty and drawing us further into deeper poverty and hopelessness in spite of the fact that we have contributed very little to its causes.

In addition to the above, Mr. Chairperson, is the disturbing realization that even the mitigation and adaptation approaches  being developed and implemented to address climate change by state parties to the convention are causing more Indigenous  rights  violations than it has even envisaged.

We note with regret that the REDD Safeguards being proposed in response to REDD is not sufficient enough to guarantee our rights because it is does not have a strong compliance mechanism. 

We call for the conference of parties to examine these safeguards further to ensure that it guarantees effective protection of Indigenous peoples. We also call for more enhanced partnership between the CBD and other Rio conventions particularly the UNFCCC to address the issue of biodiversity and climate change.

NAGOYA PROTOCOL ON ACCESS AND BENEFIT SHARING
Indigenous peoples reaffirm their rights over genetic resources and its associated traditional knowledge.  We call on state parties to recognize these rights and facilitate the effective participation of Indigenous peoples as they take steps to develop necessary frameworks for the operationalisation of the protocol such as the involvement of Indigenous peoples in capacity-building/capacity-development initiatives as well as awareness-raising activities relating to the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol; as well as the ABS Clearing-house Mechanism.

Whilst we appreciate the setting up of the Nagoya Protocol Implementation Fund, we regret that the Fund have no mechanism for access by Indigenous peoples nor does indigenous peoples have any fund establish for such purpose as the NPIF. As holders of traditional knowledge and keepers of genetic resources, we urge the GEF and state parties to facilitate the access of Indigenous Peoples to this fund.

We also urge state parties that have not ratified the protocol to do so immediately to enable the protocol to enter into force.

NEW WORKPLAN ON ARTICLE 10c
We note with appreciation the development of a new work plan on Article 10c, which will assist Parties to take more effective measures to support and promote our customary sustainable use of biodiversity. We hope that the bracketed targets in the indicative list that deal with recognition of land and resource and tenure rights and customary laws and traditional institutions – which are crucial issues- can be resolved by this COP and we look forward to providing out continued input and suggestions on this matter.

FINANCIAL MECHANISMS
We  note with deep concern that the proposed elements for the four-year (2014-2018) framework  for programme priorities related to utilization of resources for the  biodiversity  focal area of  GEF  is being developed  without adequate  participation of indigenous peoples. The implications of this are quite enormous and we urge the parties to reverse the trend.

FOREST AND AGRICULTURAL BIODIVERSITY
The importance of Forest and Agricultural Biodiversity to the survival of Indigenous peoples cannot be over emphasized.  Our food security, food sovereignty, health and economic wellbeing have a direct relationship with our forest and agricultural biodiversity.

In line with the position of the late Mahatma Gandhi, we agree that small is beautiful and urge state parties  to support  and encourage Indigenous Peoples and small farmers’ food systems, which has been providing food for our peoples for millennia.

COMMUNICATIONS, EDUCATION, AND PUBLIC AWARENESS
We welcome COP 10 Decision X/18, para 1   which calls for the full and effective participation of amongst others indigenous peoples in all activities and processes relating to CEPA.

Mr. Chairperson, Indigenous media  continue to play a critical  role in the promotion and awareness of the importance of cultural and biological diversity, and help highlight the pivotal role traditional knowledge and language play in the daily lives of all people. The CBD Programme of Work on Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) aims to inform and to increase public awareness, using simple and clear language, on the importance of biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge. The establishment of Indigenous community radios is crucial to the attainment of this objective and we urge state parties to facilitate its establishment by Indigenous peoples.

On a final note, whilst appreciating the various contributions to the Voluntary Fund, we appeal to state parties to make more contributions to the CBD Voluntary Fund to enable it fulfil its mandate of supporting Indigenous peoples participation in CBD processes. We also call for consideration of indigenous peoples from developed countries that are presently being excluded from access to resources for increased funding to also enable their effective participation in CBD processes.

Mr. Chairperson, as we gather here today to look at how far we have fared since COP 10, we reiterate our passionate appeal to state parties to set aside politics and ensure that COP 11 makes the difference for which we have all toiled and worked in the last two years. 

Thank you.
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