Historic Partnership for Indigenous Peoples Takes Important Step

Brazilian members of the Governors’ Climate and Forests (GCF) Task Force took another step toward inclusive policy development by bringing together state and federal government with indigenous leaders and NGOs for a day long workshop in Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil. The workshop, organized by the GCF Taskforce, Earth Innovation Institute, IPAM, Forest Trends, and Idesam created a space for indigenous leaders to interact directly with state and federal government officials. The workshop focused on the critical role indigenous peoples have played in protecting forests and the need to facilitate an active role for indigenous communities in designing and implementing effective state and federal policy. "We have learned from indigenous peoples that climate change, be it mitigation or adaptation, has to be treated at the territorial level, identifying and respecting the unique needs of each community," said Nathali Germano, coordinator of environmental policies of the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI). Participants discussed lessons learned from state and national efforts to integrate indigenous peoples into climate change mitigation policy and worked to create joint recommendations to improve dialogue and ensure the continuity of policies that consider indigenous peoples’ needs and aspirations, bring more benefits to communities, and conserve forests. "It is also up to the states to listen to the demands of indigenous peoples, understanding and respecting these peoples. Indigenous leaders understand what is happening on the ground and must be allowed to bring this knowledge to all levels of politics," said Wellington Gavião, coordinator of Rondônia state’s Coordination of Indigenous Peoples (COPIR). The Brazilian workshop is part of a greater effort across the GCF Task Force to formalize principles of collaboration between governmental and indigenous leaders to protect tropical forests and achieve zero deforestation in member states by 2020. All members of the GCF Task Force have committed to partnering and sharing benefits with indigenous peoples by signing the 2014 Rio Branco Declaration. Thus far, Acre, Brazil has been leading the way for other members. In Acre, indigenous peoples have been involved in the construction and implementation of environmental public policies since 1999, contributing to the establishment of Acre’s Environmental Services Incentive System (SISA), which enables the state to receive compensation for the reduction of its CO2 emissions and forest conservation initiatives. The state’s Indigenous Peoples Working Group is a unique platform through which indigenous peoples directly inform public policies around climate change mitigation and the design of benefit sharing mechanisms. During the workshop GCF Task Force members discussed replicating Acre’s indigenous peoples working group model in other Amazonian states. “We already know what we want, but we need more room for dialogue with governments. Acre has already done this, our struggle now is for other states and the federal government to follow their example," emphasized Francisca Oliveira Lima Costa, coordinator of the Organization of Indigenous Teachers of Acre (OPIAC).
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