Monday, December 15, 2008

Survival International, Climate Change, and Indigenous Peoples

Representatives from indigenous tribes and nations at the recent United Nations conference on climate change in Poznan, Poland, have declared the proceedings as non-conforming to U.N. regulations. In excluding indigenous peoples voices, UN representatives have refused to recognize indigenous peoples’ rights to the environments they live in, subsist upon, and steward.

According to Survival International the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada acted together to delete all reference to tribal peoples’ rights in a draft agreement prepared for the conference. These are the same four countries that have refused to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as all having failed to ratify the International Law for Tribal Peoples, known as ILO 169.
Indigenous Peoples Protest Climate Talks, Poznan
The Poznan draft agreement sets out how an international scheme to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) could be implemented. It had initially referred to ‘noting the rights and importance of engaging indigenous peoples’, but rights are not mentioned in the amended version.

The REDD scheme, where rich industrialized countries pay less industrialized countries to keep their forests intact, is rapidly becoming a centerpiece for global action on climate change, and is expected to form a large part of whatever agreements replace the Kyoto Protocol when it runs out in 2012.

Survival International is the only international organization supporting indigenous peoples worldwide. They were founded in 1969 after an article by Norman Lewis in the UK's Sunday Times highlighted the massacres, land thefts and genocide taking place in Brazilian Amazonia.

Today, as we near the 40th anniversary of Survival International’s founding, they have supporters in 82 countries. Working for indigenous peoples' rights in three complementary ways - education, advocacy and campaigns - Survival International is a leading organization working to make sure such draft agreements as REDD do not pass public opinion.
Survival International
As I believe, and as Survival International states, public opinion is the most effective force for change. Its power will make it harder, and eventually impossible, for governments and companies to continue to oppress indigenous peoples and exclude them from such talks.

Survival International provides a platform for indigenous representatives to talk directly to the companies which are invading their land. They also disseminate information to indigenous peoples, using both community radio and writing which informs them about how other indigenous peoples are faring, as well as warning them about the threats posed by various corporations.

Survival International also runs worldwide campaigns to fight for indigenous peoples. They were the first to use mass letter-writing, and have orchestrated campaigns from Siberia to Sarawak, Canada to Kenya. Today they are leading the fight in making sure indigenous peoples voices are heard at such forums as the UN. Although Poznan is over, because of organizations such as Survival International there is still hope for indigenous peoples.

Since the ending of the 20th Century, the “developed” world’s attitude to indigenous peoples has dramatically changed. Then, it was assumed that they would either die out or be assimilated; now, at least in some places, their experience and values are considered important. For the past 40 years Survival International has pushed indigenous issues into the political and cultural mainstream, and it is important that they continue to do so for the next 40 years.

Please visit Survival International to learn more and to help.

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