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Climate Talks Resume, Bolivia, China and Indigenous Peoples

Published: April 5, 2011, Author: Rÿser Rudolph C.

The second day of the sixteenth session of the AWG-KP (AWG-KP 16) and the fourteenth session of the AWG-LCA (AWG-LCA 14), taking place from Sunday, 3 April through Friday, 8 April at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), in Bangkok, Thailand revealed that much of what had been unresolved in Cancun, Mexico remains unresolved in Bangkok. Two notable actions as far as indigenous peoples are concerned involve public positions taken by the state of Bolivia and China’s support for that position, and the release of the American Indian Treaty Council’s analysis of language on the table concerning indigenous peoples’ rights. Both are the topics of this CWIS CC Monitor.

Here are the main points made by the American Indian Treaty Council to the Indigenous Caucus today – 5 April 2011:

1.  Language providing Safeguards for Indigenous Peoples Resulting from the Cancun Session

Alberto Saldamando, Counsel for the International Indian Treaty Council delivered his 28 February 2011 analysis of language offering safeguards for indigenous peoples in the Cancun text.  He presented his paper to the Indigenous Caucus meeting in Bangkok.

Key points made in the Saldamando document include:

a.  Language concerning REDD safeguards in Annex I “must be guaranteed” or should be “recognized and protected.”

(Saldamando comments: “Although relevant international obligations are “respected” the “international obligations” has been interpreted as including only the obligations which the State is committed and has ratified. This means for example, ILO Convention 169 as a safeguard only apply to states that have ratified it. And the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the UN is not binding as a duty but a non-binding moral character, aspiration.)

b.  Reaffirms the three principles proposed in Bonn and Copenhagen:

** Recognize and respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, particularly their rights to lands, territories, and all its resources, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international instruments and obligations human rights;

** Ensure the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities, according to the right to free, prior and informed and
** recognize the fundamental role and contribution of traditional knowledge, innovations and traditional practices indigenous peoples.

[CWIS: It should be noted that this language has not be incorporated in any of the draft treaty texts except in oblique references.  Safeguards such as they are apply only to REDD (Annex I) and not to the full body of the treaty.]

c. Urge that the paragraph 4 of the preamble should read:

“Recognizing that the adverse impacts of climate change have a scope of direct and indirect implications the effective enjoyment of human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. O: “Recognizing that the adverse impacts of climate change have a scope of direct and indirect implications for the effective enjoyment of human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples and the consequences of climate change will be witnessed by more extreme segments people who are already vulnerable because of geography, gender, age, minority status and disability, and indigenous peoples.”

(Saldamando comments: “Part I, Section 8 emphasizes that the parties must “fully respect” human rights in any activities on climate change. Comment: The European Union, particularly the UK, just as the United States and Canada have taken the strong position in the Human Rights Council that the collective rights of indigenous peoples are not human rights. During the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, to take account of a recent example, these states were opposed to the “s” in “peoples”, saying that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are not human rights. Forced a change in name and content of the resolution renewing the mandate to “The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.” Recognize that indigenous peoples’ rights are rights, however, but not human rights.)

[CWIS: This is a serious problem the promises to obstruct any efforts to secure language in the treaty text favorable to the rights of indigenous peoples.  Much of what indigenous peoples have argued involves assertions of self-determination, economic rights, cultural rights and political rights.  These are all classed as “human rights.”  Oddly, the EU, UK, US and Canada want now to argue that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples containing specific language regarding “collective rights” should not be considered a “human rights.”  The UN Declaration is itself classified as a Human Rights document.]

d.  Propose language for Article 8 to read: “The parties should fully respect human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples in any activities on climate change.”

[CWIS: Much of Alberto Saldamando’s analysis repeats what has been placed on the table numerous times over the last four years.  While the Indigenous Caucus is likely to embrace the proposals and recommendations, the states governments are going to continue to resist.  This is largely due to the reality that indigenous peoples are essentially arguing that they ought to share in power–share in the sovereign pie regulating mitigation and adaptation actions responding to the adverse affects of climate change. Absent any real political leverage — other than moral — the indigenous caucus positions appear to meet with continue obstruction from the key states of US, UK, Canada and the EU.]

2.  Bolivia joined by G77, and China calling for negotiation transparency.

Ambassador Pablo Solón issued a statement supported by the “third world bloc” of G77 countries and China noting that two decisions were adopted during the Cancun session “despite the formal and explicit objections made by a Member State.”  Noting that the climate talks commencing are moving toward the next global session in Durban, South Africa in December 2011 the statement asserted, “the path should be to ensure a multilateral process that is transparent, open, and driven by the Member States, and also brings us toward consensus.”  The motivation for this statement grew out of the recognized practice in the negotiations and the UN system that a “consensus” decision must be concluded and if one state objects, then there must be further discussions in the open assembly. In the case of two decisions, this precedent was not observed and Bolivia, joined by China want now to insist that the process of transparency and consensus remain fully respected.

The significance of this move is that with China backing the G77 and Bolivian statement, negotiations leading up to and including the December session the EU, US, Canadian and UK bloc (that seems to have continued to operate) will meet with a strong wall of opposition if efforts are launched to push through language without “transparency and consensus.”

The climate talks now show Bolivia and China to be on one side of the isle, the indigenous peoples sitting in the middle of the isle and the United States, United Kingdom, the European Union, and Canada sitting on the other side of the isle.  The contention is between the seated parties on the two sides of the isle while the indigenous peoples continue to call on all of the parties to notice that they have positions that should be included in the negotiations.

The problem remains, as it has for indigenous peoples over the frustrating last several years, is that indigenous peoples do not impose any leverage except “moral leverage.”  Indigenous peoples must invoke their own political and jurisdictional authority by denying the states access to their territories.  Access to 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity is no small bit of leverage.  Without such leverage indigenous peoples will remain standing in the isle while others sit an haggle.

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