Sri Lanka: Climate Change and indigenous groups

As the United Nations readies for a key climate change meeting in Poland next month, a London-based human rights group warns that any new deal on global warming would be seriously compromised if the most vulnerable groups, specifically indigenous peoples, are shut out of the negotiations.

“The entire U.N. process will be flawed if communities that have firsthand experience of dealing with climate change are not allowed to participate,” says Minority Rights Group (MRG).

Mark Lattimer, MRG’s executive director, says “because we naturally think of climate change as affecting us all the whole planet there is a tendency to resist considering the effect on particular groups.”

Human rights advocates, he said, have also arrived late to a debate that has been long dominated by environmentalists.

“Yet indigenous peoples living in fragile environments are not only more likely to be affected adversely by climate change, they are already being affected, sometimes in devastating ways,” Lattimer told IPS.

The upcoming U.N. meeting in Poznan, Poland scheduled to take place Dec.

1-12 is expected to agree on a programme of work in advance of a major U.N. conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Both conferences will be working towards a comprehensive climate change regime to be established after 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol, which requires developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, runs out.

Asked if the international community is to be blamed for the continued marginalisation of indigenous peoples, Lattimer said inter-governmental negotiations frequently marginalise civil society, which has taken decades to find an effective voice in U.N. human rights and development processes.

In the climate change negotiations, which are much more recent, they are still largely excluded, often deliberately, he added.

“Governments think of indigenous communities, who may face displacement or even the eradication of their homelands, as being part of the problem, when in reality they should be seen as part of the solution,” he added.

Speaking at a U.N. seminar last year, Daniel Salau Rogei of the Simba Maasai Outreach Organisation, and a member of Maasai tribe in Kenya, said his community was nomadic and largely made of farmers dependent on their traditional lands and affected by changing weather patterns.

The Maasai considered themselves to be part of nature and, indeed, more than 75 percent of Kenyan wildlife species were found in Maasai territory.

But the territory was under threat from climate change, as well as from encroachment and predation by logging companies and other international business concerns that were actively wiping out natural resources and biological species, he added.

The MRG study says the impact of climate change hits indigenous and minority communities the hardest because they live in ecologically diverse areas and their livelihoods are dependent on the environment.

Read on here.

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