UNESCO will sponsor an international conference on “Resilience in a Time of Uncertainty: Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change,” the organization recently announced. This conference will be held in Paris on 26-27 November, ahead of the COP21, the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Nations will gather at COP21 with the goal of achieving a legally binding and universal agreement to keep global warming under 2°C. UNESCO’s conference has a related goal: ensuring that the COP includes the voices of indigenous people.
The conference grows out of the recognition that indigenous peoples worldwide are among the first to experience to climate change and have the longest direct contact with environments impacted by climate change. They are also among the first to adapt and respond to the impacts of climate change, whether in high mountain regions where glacier retreat alters water resources and exacerbates natural hazards, in low-lying islands affected by sea-level rise, Arctic communities facing unprecedented warming and coastal erosion, or many other settings around the world. The observations and knowledge of environmental management of indigenous peoples are critical components for the assessment of climate change impacts and the development of response. As Douglas Nakashima, head of UNESCO’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme said in a recent email message, “We hope that this event will serve to create an opportunity for strengthened dialogue among indigenous peoples, climate scientists and decision-makers.”
Indigenous, local and traditional knowledge systems and practices, including indigenous peoples’ holistic view of community and environment, are a major resource for adapting to climate change, but these have not been used consistently in existing adaptation efforts. Integrating such forms of knowledge with existing practices increases the effectiveness of adaptation.
In the Speaker Application form, the organizers invite potential speakers to contribute “papers and testimonies of concrete case studies on the indigenous peoples’ initiatives and challenges in the face of climate change.” The website opens for submissions on 5 September and will continue to accept applications through 25 September. The call for applications mentions several categories of participants, including members of indigenous/local communities, scientists, and representatives of governments working on relevant policies and programs.
Specific topics to be addressed in the conference include
- Observing and understanding the impacts of climate change
- Adapting traditional livelihoods in the face of uncertainty
- Indigenous peoples and climate change mitigation
- Strengthening adaptation by recognizing culture and cultural diversity
- Understanding and responding to extreme events and disasters
- Co-production of knowledge
This event will build on several earlier events held by UNESCO on this topic. Sponsors include UNESCO’s Climate Frontlines, the French National Museum of Natural History, Tebtebba (International Indigenous Peoples’ Centre for Policy Research and Education) and COP21 itself. The scientific committee is comprised of Douglas Nakashima, Olivier Fontan Deputy Head, Division for Climate and Environment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, France, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, the Coordinator, Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT), Marie Roué of the National Scientific Research Centre, France (CNRS), Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and myself.
GlacierHub encourages community members, researchers and government staff from high mountain regions and from around the world to visit the conference website and to submit applications. We also hope to spread word widely about this important event.