The 16th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNFPII) was held at the UN Headquarters in New York from 25 April to 5 May 2017. Its main theme was to commemorate the 10th year of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and assess its progress. More than 1,000 indigenous peoples’ representatives joined member states, UN agencies and civil society to discuss the measures taken to implement the Declaration. Other critical discussions included the follow-up to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (2014), Implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the situation of indigenous human rights defenders and the empowerment of indigenous women and youth.
In support of the Forum’s theme, SGP organized a side event on 2 May to share the progress of its work in the ground. Ms. Yoko Watanabe, SGP Global Manager, opened the session with an overview on SGP’s strategic initiatives with indigenous peoples (IP), namely, the SGP IP Fellowship and the Global Support Initiative to Indigenous Peoples and Community-Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCA-GSI).
Panel members of the SGP IP Fellowship, Ms. Yolanda Teran from the GEF Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group and Ms. Winnie Degawan from Conservation International, highlighted that despite the recognition of IPs’ important role in conservation in the global arena such as the Nagoya Protocol, IPs still face marginalization, with no access to funds nor capacity-building opportunities. In 2016, the SGP IP Fellowship launched its global component to enhance the higher level capacity of IP representatives and enable them to take leadership roles in critical management and advocacy work on global environmental and sustainable development concerns. Out of 400 applicants, four emerging IP leaders were selected on the basis of their proven leadership, action and management work at the country level. Subsequently, Ms. Edith Bastidas (Colombia), one of the four SGP IP Global Fellows, presented her work plan in identifying key indigenous leaders, alliances and organizations and building their capacities in biodiversity conservation, with a focus on women empowerment initiatives. Her action plans included the development of reports capturing contributions from the indigenous community and the synergies with the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and its Working Group on Article 8j, the UNFPII and other related international and national events. Ms. Bastidas also actively participated as a panel member in Conservation International's side event on the progress of UNDRIP.
Mr. Terence Hay-Edie, ICCA-GSI Project Manager and SGP Biodiversity Advisor presented ICCA-GSI’s work on broadening the range and quality of diverse governance types in recognizing ICCAs and its’ alignment to achieving Aichi targets 11, 14 and 18. Pragmatic examples in Malaysia, one of the 26 ICCA-GSI participating countries, were then provided by Mr. Atama Katama from PACOS Trust. Mr. Katama explained that while IP’s rights and lands are recognized in the country, the constitution bestows upon the federal government the power to carry out acquisitions of land for public purposes. As such, there is no security in land tenure for Native Customary Right (NCR) and their forests, water catchments, mangroves and correlating livelihood sources continue to be destructed by the private sector. Moreover, there is a significant overlap between ICCAs and government-recognized protected areas, and to their detriment, customary laws and traditional knowledge are undermined by mainstream systems (legal, political, economic, educational, religious, etc). As such, the ICCA-GSI projects in Malaysia are aimed at improving the understanding of the national ICCA situation and promote appropriate policy and legal recognition of ICCAs.
Consecutively, Ms. Angelica Shamerina, SGP Climate Change Advisor, participated as a co-panel member in the side event organized by UNDP's Community-Based REDD+ (CBR+). Ms. Shamerina shared examples of CBR+ in Panama and Paraguay where community projects reinforced traditional conservation methods through reforestation, promoted agroforestry and organic farming as an alternative to migratory agriculture and provided environmental educational with a special focus on youth and community leaders. The results of these projects include improved livelihoods, NGO support system in commercialization efforts and government support in addressing community poverty and deforestation from large-scale agriculture.