Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

  • 18 November 2016

A call for an end to the marginalisation of Indigenous Peoples at international climate negotiations

Photo by Claudia Comberti showing Indigenous participants at an event at COP20, Lima, Peru

Photo by Claudia Comberti showing Indigenous participants at an event at COP20, Lima, Peru.

A newly released working paper has identified three tiers of marginalisation that Indigenous Peoples face at International climate negotiations. The report is based on months of research including interviews with Indigenous Peoples and representatives, and observations at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) annual meetings.

The report identifies three tiers of marginalisation that exist at UNFCCC COP events, including COP22 taking place in Marrakesh this week:

  • Political: Indigenous Peoples are not allowed to self-represent; they are simply ‘observers’ to the negotiations. The nation states speaking on their behalf are responsible for their historical and current political marginalisation.

  • Geographical: the space offered to Indigenous Peoples is outside the main negotiating space of the conference.

  • Economical: Indigenous Peoples attendance is restricted by lack of finances. Developed nations and wealthy lobbyists thus dominate the space; Indigenous Peoples often cannot afford translators.

One Indigenous representative interviewed as part of the research said, “We actually have some legitimate solutions. … They might not come out the way that scientists talk, but … It’s hidden in the stories, and the history.”

Lead author, Claudia Comberti , has put together a policy brief based on her research and comments that, “if the leading international climate body continues to marginalise Indigenous knowledge and adaptations, attempts to solve the climate crisis will be in vain... As our research shows, the marginalisation faced at annual UNFCCC COP events inhibits [progress]. Further, the situation goes against international commitments to human rights, including the right to self-determination. We’re calling on the UNFCCC to address its current marginalisation of Indigenous Peoples, so that the solutions to climate change coming out of the process can be equitable.”

The policy brief proposes four actions that can be taken to radically improve the situation:

    1) Grant Indigenous Peoples full member status at the UNFCCC, so they can self-represent.

    2) Appoint Indigenous Peoples as experts in negotiations around Adaptation and Loss & Damage

    3) Direct and restructure financial streams to increasing autonomy and voice of Indigenous Peoples – including the Green Climate Fund, and finance for translators and travel

    4) Commit to respecting Indigenous Rights and International human rights – an international agreement that the current situation undermines.

"We are the ones already providing solutions to climate change and we are completely being ignored."

An Indigenous Representative and interviewee