21 Apr 2010, 11:03 AM
Indigenous Peoples from North and South America and their allies from around the world gathered at the invitation of Bolivian President Evo Morales in Cochabamba yesterday for the kick-off of an historic conference on climate change and the "rights of Mother Earth." Morales called this conference in the wake of failed climate talks in Copenhagen last year. Over 15,000 delegates from 126 countries heard President Morales speak at the soccer stadium in the village of Tiquipaya today.
The delegates will be meeting in working group sessions this week to develop strategies and make policy proposals on issues such as forests, water, climate debt, and finance, which President Morales pledges to bring to the international negotiations of the COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico later this year.
The convocation included a multi-cultural blessing ceremony by Indigenous Peoples from across the Americas, and speeches by representatives of social movements from five continents on the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for bold action that protects both human rights and the environment.
"Indigenous rights and knowledge are crucial to addressing climate change, but the United States and Canada have not signed on to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP), and are pushing corporate climate policy agendas that threaten our homelands and livelihoods," said Jihan Gearon of the Navajo Nation (AZ), Native Energy Organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network. "We have traveled to Bolivia because President Morales has committed to bring our voices to the global stage at the next round of talks in Cancun."
"President Morales has asked our recommendations on issues such as REDDs (Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation)," said Alberto Saldamando, legal counsel for the International Indian Treaty Council. "REDD is branded as a friendly forest conservation program, yet it is backed by big polluters. REDD is a dangerous distraction from the root issue of fossil fuel pollution, and could mean disaster for forest-dependent Indigenous Peoples the world over."
"We are here from the far north to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the South" said Faith Gemmill, Executive Director of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), who spoke from the stage at the invitation of President Morales. "We have a choice as human kind - a path of life, or a path of destruction. The people who can change the world are here!"
The Indigenous Environmental Network is made up of Indigenous Peoples empowering Indigenous Nations and communities towards sustainable livelihoods, demanding environmental justice and maintaining the Sacred Fire of our traditions. www.ienearth.org