Call to COP26: Secure human rights in the fight against climate change

The rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) should be at the center of the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow. IPLCs are key contributors to the protection of forests and the mitigation of climate change. Their safety and territories are under continuous threat, necessitating the integration of their rights into all climate action. In a policy briefing, we explain how countries attending the COP26 can ensure this.

Header photo: Forest in Charagua, Bolivia. Screenshot from video produced by Ruud Bisseling

In the lead up to the COP26 UN climate summit, taking place in Glasgow from 31 October, civil society is calling world leaders to end global deforestation and put forests at the top of the climate agenda.

Key role in forest protection

Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) play a key role in the protection of forests and the mitigation of climate change. However, IPLCs also face the worst impacts of climate change as well as violence and land-grabs on their territories.

Violation of rights

The Paris Agreement explicitly recognises the rights of IPLCs in the context of climate action, but reports of continued violations of these rights around the world show that more action is needed. Only a small fraction of the land that IPLCs inhabit is formally recognised under national laws or designated for them, limiting their access to livelihoods and their ability to protect forests.

Lack of funding

The funding for IPLCs to receive tenure rights and manage forests for climate and biodiversity protection is low. Only a small portion of this funding directly reaches Indigenous Peoples organisations and local communities.

Large impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic had a disproportionate impact on IPLCs. With their rights and livelihoods already under pressure before the onset of COVID-19, indigenous peoples’ health and food security got worse during the pandemic (OHCHR, 2020).

A recent study by IUCN NL shows that the food security of indigenous communities in Charagua, Bolivia was impacted by the pandemic. The communities’ income sources and access to food were cut off during lockdowns. Charagua’s system of community-based land tenure, however, allowed communities to increase their production of food on their own land, showing that they were able to adapt to the crisis.

Key recommendations

To protect forests justly and effectively, parties to the UNFCCC should put the rights of IPLCs at the center of negotiations at COP26. Our policy briefing provides a number of recommendations on how this can be achieved:

  • Scale up just and effective climate measures, such as recognition of land rights for IPLCs to justly and effectively protect the world’s forests.
  • Ensure that all climate mitigation and adaptation measures that are decided on are in line with human rights (e.g. UNDRIP), especially with the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent and the right to self-determination.
  • Ensure that grants and funding for climate directly reach IPLCS so they can secure their livelihoods and build resilience. Only when financial resources are redirected to the local level can IPLCs continue to play their pivotal role in protecting the world’s forests and mitigating climate change.

This video shows the work that our partners Natura Bolivia and Nativa do in Charagua to protect forests and livelihoods for and with indigenous communities:

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Mariel Cabero

Expert Environmental Justice