RIO +20: Final draft "recognizes" the importance of the UNDRIP

The current paradigm to perpetuate economic growth, which has always been criticized by indigenous peoples, is sadly still the underlying principle of the Rio+20 document. Culture, as the underpinning foundation of Sustainable Development, has not been recognized, despite some reference to the importance of culture in sustainable development.

Despite the disappointing overall lack of vision and very limited willingness of governments to really deal with the challenging threats that the current economic model puts on the environment and not least on local livelihoods and the rights of indigenous peoples, the following achievements are recognized: The document is the first international document that “recognizes” the importance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Until today, international agreements, such as under the UNFCCC, CBD, and others, only “note” the UN Declaration. Paragraph 52 of the current document recognizes local livelihoods as important contributions to sustainable development, referring to small-scale farmers, fishers, pastoralists, and foresters. This is the first time that pastoralism is recognized in a UN document. Hunters and gatherers who often constitute the most marginalized and weakest indigenous peoples, are however not mentioned. The term “green economy” has been changed to “green economy policies”. This is not going very far, considering that there was a strong call from indigenous peoples and civil society organizations for the recognition of the importance of using the term “economies” in order to recognize diverse local economies. But it moves away from the notion that there is only one economy. Furthermore, in paragraph 58j, the section recognizes indigenous peoples’ contribution to sustainable development by stating “enhance the welfare of indigenous peoples and their communities, other local and traditional communities, and ethnic minorities, recognize and supporting their identity, culture and interests and avoid endangering their cultural heritage, practices and traditional knowledge, preserving and respecting non-market approaches that contribute to the eradication of poverty”. Unfortunately, there has not been any progress in the chapters where we noted deficiencies and gaps earlier, such as in the sections on forests, mining and biodiversity. It is in fact surprising that a document on sustainable development should include a whole section on mining – we might want to ask governments what mining has to do with sustainable development. Finally, and in order to stress it once again, the importance of indigenous peoples’ rights in REDD+, which has been officially recognized by the UNFCCC, is not reflected in the outcome text of Rio+20 at this point. Tomorrow the official Rio+20 conference will start. As government representatives sit down to the negotiation table, we urge them to recall the commitments they made to indigenous peoples when they endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Tags: Climate action


IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

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