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A Place at the Table

Published: November 24, 2008, Author: MHirch

After the First Session of the new round of talks on Climate Change ended last year in Bali, Indonesia a press reporter lamented the absence of the voice of indigenous people at the table.  Noting that indigenous peoples around the world suffer directly from the adverse affects of industrial carbon emissions and other global warming gases the reporter said the absence of the important voice of indigenous people was a serious error.

Now it is more than fourteen months since the Bali meeting sponsored by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change came to a dramatic end with the United States of America being shamed by the delegate from Papua New Guinea into agreeing to participate in the unfolding agenda. Four agenda-setting meetings and expert meetings have been conducted in places like Bangkok, Accra and Berlin and still delegates from indigenous nations have not been invited to sit at the table.

A Conference of Parties meeting number 14 (COP14) is about to convene in Poznan, Poland beginning December 1. In advance of that meeting the Minority Rights Group in London released a call for the Poznan meeting to include indigenous peoples.  Well, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference will go to that meeting and sit as an observer. It is possible that a few indigenous nations will decided to send observers even though there is not place at the table for them to actively and formally participate in the talks.  The Poznan meeting will literally set the terms of reference for what will be an agreement on Climate Change to be tabled in November 2009 at what will be called the Conference of Parties 15 (COP15) meeting in Copenhagen.  Denmark has noted quietly that no indigenous nation delegates are planned for participation in the COP15 negotiations. Importantly, Denmark and Sweden have begun commenting on the importance of indigenous nations participating in the COP15 meeting.

States’ governments have seriously faltered over the past decades when the question of indigenous nations’ participation in international meetings is concerned.  The most vociferous opponents of indigenous nations, oddly enough, has been the United States of America…and when it comes to Tibet and East Turkestan (Uygurs) and the millions of peoples China has categorized as “nationalities” the Peoples’ Republic of China has also been a major opponent.

If there was ever a time when indigenous nations should sit as equal parties at negotiations affecting the health of all humanity, the earth and all else that time is now.  Indigenous nations like Tibet, East Turkestan, Quinault, Kurdistan, Haudenosaunee, Zapotec, Igbo, Luo, Shan, Dene, Sami, Inuit and thousands of others must be official parties, equal to states’ governments, in negotiations establishing the next round of climate change protocols. No longer observers, indigenous nations must be active, recognized participants with a vote in the outcome.

Indigenous nations possess knowledge about nature, climate and the cosmos that states’ government scientist and philosophers simply lack. The voice of indigenous nations must be heard and in many instances heeded for everyone’s sake.

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