IPs prime victims of climate change


BAGUIO CITY — Indigenous peoples (IPs) zoom in the problem of climate change as one major issue endangering their very existence.


Christian Erni. Photo by Myko Franco Chiong/NORDIS

This was emphasized in the press conference of the recently concluded Asia Workshop for the Promotion of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) here Tuesday.

According to Joan Carling, a member of the advisory council of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), indigenous peoples have nothing to do with the worsening conditions of global warming but they are in the front line as victims of this phenomenon and as victims of the governments’ mitigation measures.

“Because of the distortion of the agricultural cycle brought about by the climate change, farmers cannot recognize anymore when the wet or dry season would be and this greatly affects the farming cycle leading to food insecurity,” said Carling.

One cited factor was the government’s aggressive promotion of bio-fuel production like jathropa, as an alternative to fossil fuels that causes massive conversion of agricultural lands.

According to the panelists, lands originally used for food production now massively converted for bio-fuel production is one of the main reasons for food scarcity, soaring food prices and widespread hunger across the globe.

“The impact of the issue of bio-fuel production is that our lands are being taken away from us,” said Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) Secretary-general Jannie Lasimbang. She added that they anticipate massive land grabbing these plantations.


Photo by Myko Franco Chiong/NORDIS

Dams also considered as an alternative source of energy was also cited as contributor to widespread ethnocide. It destroys the social cohesion of indigenous peoples through dislocation and the destruction of their traditional resources.

Carling said the indigenous peoples have actually been practicing sustainable resource management systems that have preserved the environment.

“As the original environmentalists and conservationists, the indigenous peoples have ways to preserve the environment and prevent the damaging effects of environmental degradation that has not only been recognized,” said Carling.

The centuries-old Banaue rice terraces was cited as one good example of such indigenous practices. The terracing prevents the erosion of land and manages the irrigation from forest watersheds.

Lasimbang lamented, however, that these indigenous ways of managing the resources are neither acknowledged nor recognized by “modern” agricultural systems today.

Promotion of IP rights

According to Christian Erni the Asian coordinator of the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), the UN declaration was a result of a 20-year struggle of different IP groups and their support groups.

“It was a result of a global IP movement which is considered as one of the most successful movements in the world,” said Erni.

Since the adoption of the UNDRIP in September of last year, different IP groups, lobby and advocate groups are now campaigning for its promotion and implementation by the different governments.

“The battle was already won with the UN adoption of the declaration but the war is not yet over,” said Erni adding that their group would still closely monitor its implementation by the different states.

The Asia workshop attended by 80 participants representing 40 organizations from 10 Asian countries, was the first regional occasion where the UNDRIP promotion was discussed.

“It is a historic event especially that the discussions were at various levels and the participants came from different backgrounds,” said Chandra Roy, regional IP program coordinator of the UN Development Program (UNDP).

The action plan of the Asian workshop includes themes on IP women, identification and recognition of IPs as distinct peoples, partnership with UN agencies and advocacy groups, local struggles, networking, issues on health, human rights, self-determination and self-governance.

According to Carling there are about 300 million IPs worldwide and two-thirds of this population are in Asia, “thus the declaration would be implemented largely in Asia.” # Cye Reyes(NorthernDispatch)

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