Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April 15-21, 2009: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues for the Week of April 15-21, 2009

Alaska: Indigenous Peoples Demand Greater Role in Climate Debate

While indigenous peoples from around the world are meeting in this Alaskan city to seek a greater role in global climate negotiations, the rapidly warming Arctic is forcing some Inuit villages to be relocated.

"We have centuries of experience in adapting to the climate and our traditional lifestyles have very low carbon footprints," Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an indigenous leader from the Philippines and chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, told Tierramérica.

Carbon-based gases are the principal cause of the greenhouse effect, which leads to climate change. The excessive release of these gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, comes from human activities: the combustion of fossil fuels in industry and transportation, and emissions from livestock production and deforestation.

Some 400 indigenous people, including Bolivian President Evo Morales and observers from 80 nations, are gathered in Anchorage, Alaska for the Apr. 20-24 U.N.-affiliated Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change.

They will discuss and synthesise ways that traditional knowledge can be used to both mitigate and adapt to climate change.

"Indigenous peoples have contributed the least to the global problem of climate change, but will almost certainly bear the greatest brunt of its impact," said Patricia Cochran, chair of both the Inuit Circumpolar Council and the April Summit. Read more about the Summit here....

International: Report Blames Social Factors For Indigenous Health Gap

A world-first study comparing child health across Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US has found similar discrepancies between the health of the countries' indigenous and non-indigenous youth.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made "closing the gap" between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people a cornerstone of his national apology.

The report's authors say it proves that poor indigenous health is caused by social rather than biological factors.

Indigenous Australian children are twice as likely to go to hospital for chronic conditions than non-indigenous children, and are much more likely to die before they are 20.

The Canadian Health Department-funded study looks at the health of indigenous children across Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

The section on Australia was written by Associate Professor Jane Freemantle, from the Onemda VicHealth Koori Health Unit at the University of Melbourne. Read more about the report here....

Cameroon: National Parks Developed - Indigenous People Complain

The development of the Campo - Ma'an National Park, a touristic site in the South Region has left indigenous people frustrated.

The Pigmies, known to be custodians of the forest, who are predominant in the area now complain that their rights have been infringed.

The development of the National Park has destroyed the natural habitats. These indigenous people say they have not benefited from royalties from the management of the forest.

The government of Cameroon and the World Wild Fund for Nature, WWF, faced with the situation, did organise a training workshop.

The workshop which grouped stake holders of the project and representatives of the various indigenous people examined the rights of the complainants and also spelt out the modalities of protecting these indigenous groups.

The workshop that took place in Yaounde also forged ahead an integrated management system for the sites.

An integrated management board with representatives from the government, the civil society and the WWF was set up to make concrete the resolutions.

Colombia: Indigenous People in Colombia "Have Become a Strong Force"

There is a heavy turnover of social movement leaders in Colombia, given the frequency with which they are killed, displaced or forced into exile. And because of the dangers, those who step up to the plate can be considered veritable heroes – one of whom is indigenous leader Aída Quilcué.

"Resistance" is a term frequently used by the 36-year-old Nasa Indian, who is chief counselor of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), and whose activism made her the target of an attack that cost the life of her husband, Edwin Legarda, in December.

Thanks to the visibility she gained in her leadership role in the "Minga" (a Quechua term for collective work for the common good) of Indigenous and Popular Resistance, which mobilised more than 30,000 demonstrators in marches along roads in Colombia in October and November, she stands a chance of being elected senator in the 2010 elections.

Two seats are reserved for indigenous representatives in the Senate, and two in the lower house of Congress.

In this interview with IPS, Quilcué talks about her life and the difficulties and suffering faced by indigenous people in this country that has been in the grip of civil war since 1964. Read the entire interview here....

Australia: Divisions Run Deep In Qld Wild Rivers Debate

Anna Bligh's Queensland Government gazetted the Lockhart, Stewart and Archer rivers on Cape York under its Wild Rivers legislation on April 3, 2009.

The move brought to nine the number of Wild Rivers declarations that have been made in Queensland since the Act was introduced in 2005.

Stark divisions have emerged between environmental and Indigenous groups. At the heart of the issue is conflict between two competing ideas.

On one side many Indigenous people want to be able to build businesses and enterprises on their traditional land, lifting more of their population into the real economy and out of welfare.

On the other side many environmental and Indigenous groups say the Wild Rivers legislation allows only the sort of sustainable activities that are suitable for the fragile ecosystems in far-north Queensland.

Welfare reformer Noel Pearson has resigned from his position with the Cape York Institute so he can take on the Queensland Government over the issue. Read more on the Wild Rivers debate here....

International: REDD And The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples

One of the most contentious issues under discussion in current climate change debates is how to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) by ensuring protection of the world's rainforests. Mrinalini Rai of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change argues that this initiative, heavily backed by the World Bank among others, raises questions about how to ensure fair compensation to those developing countries that undertake a commitment to such reductions.

REDD turned into a key area of interest in the climate change debate in early 2007, with the publication of the UK government's Stern review on the economics of climate change. In his report, the ex-World Bank economist Sir Nicholas Stern recommended that 'avoided deforestation' measures should be included in the post-2012 commitment period under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

It was at the 13th conference of the parties (COP) of the UNFCCC, that took place in December 2007 in Bali, that a coalition of countries headed by Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea (the so-called coalition of rainforest nations) formally proposed that REDD and forests be included in the official negotiation agenda for a post-2010 regime, whose key elements would be negotiated under the so-called Bali roadmap.

It goes without saying that the inclusion of forests in the climate change discussion, has generated substantial interest and concern by Indigenous Peoples organisations, since the climate change debate directly and indirectly relates to them and their livelihoods and rights. Read more about REDD and indigenous peoples here....

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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