Now that the United Nation’s Copenhagen Climate Change Treaty Conference is over it is time to consider the best path for indigenous peoples to take to secure their future. While many want to suggest that “Copenhagen was a failure” I agree with former undersecretary of state for global affairs Fank Loy and Council on Foreign Relations fellow for energy and environment Michael Levi. “…change will not come from the present process. The Copenhagen Accord lays a valuable foundation for future action. But, if we are to succeed, that action must primarily happen elsewhere.” In other words, applying this thinking to the situation of indigenous peoples, we must form a grand coalition of indigenous nations to define the predicates for securing the principles for indigenous peoples adaptation locally, at the state level and internationally. Indigenous peoples must establish a global political bloc that speaks “from the ground up” as a single voice to blocs of states’ governments–G-20 for example. The “Grand Adaptaton Coalition” of indigenous peoples must be formed from key indigenous peoples’ governments with the technical support and capabilities of skilled indigenous technicians from non-governmental indigenous organizations and communities. The primary focus of the coalition must be on measures to achieve effective adaption protocols inside each nation and constructive rules in states’ governments that do not undermine the rights and interests of each nation. Such a coalition now will provide an effective spearhead internationally that can stimulate the formation of new international mechanisms for indigenous nations/international states negotiation of an Indigenous Nation’s Adaptation Accord built on the foundation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Alaska Declaration and the work of the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change have established the basic principles on which the work of a Grand Adaptation Coalition will rest. Specific proposals for new international mechanisms have been placed on the table by the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change and the Quinault Indian Nation. These principles and proposals must now be considered for further development.
Indigenous nations in the United States, Canada and Mexico have a major role to play in the formation of the “Grand Adaption Coalition.” Until now they have played only a minor role in the climate change debate. Recognizing the immensely important contributions of the Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education also known as Tebtebba (…a word used by the indigenous Kankana-ey Igorots of Northern Philippines, refers to a process of collectively discussing issues and presenting diverse views with the aim of reaching agreements, common positions, and concerted actions.) in the Philippines; and its leader Vicky Tauli-Corpuz indigenous leaders of indigenous governments now must step forward a commit themselves and their nations to a vigorous local, state level and international level effort to drive an indigenous agenda on climate change. Failure to add their voices to those coming from indigenous non-governmental organizations will doom indigenous peoples to the whims of states’ government authorities.
My organization, the Center for World Indigenous Studies (CWIS), stands ready to help facilitate formation of a Grand Adaptation Coalition of indigenous nations and indigenous non-governmental organizations. Constructive collaboration and the application of financial resources is now needed to be combined with effective political leadership and skilled technical support. Indigenous peoples can no longer rely on the states’ governments goodwill for there is none to be had. We have a hard nosed race for survival that can only be won if indigenous nations lead their own way. Indigenous political leaders who represent their governments with the power to regulate and set laws must step forward now.
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