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Indigenous peoples are recognised by the world's biggest climate fund

March 25, 2018.- International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (WGIA) and Denmark have long pushed for the adoption of a “GCF Indigenous Peoples Policy” in the Green Climate Fund, that every year allocates billions of dollars to climate projects. Just recently this policy was finally approved. “This is an important step towards recognizing indigenous peoples’ rights in climate actions” says Senior Advisor Kathrin Wessendorf from IWGIA.

In 2020, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) aims to approve more than 100 billion dollars for climate projects in developing countries, but even though many of these projects take place on indigenous peoples’ lands and territories, they often have limited – if any – influence on the projects. Last week, the GCF board unanimously adopted the “GCF Indigenous Peoples Policy” that assists the GCF in ensuring that GCF decisions do not adversely impacts indigenous peoples, respect their rights and promote indigenous peoples’ access to the benefits of the GCF.

“This is a sign of willingness from the GCF to recognise, respect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples in climate actions,” said Tunga Bhadra Rai, who comes from Nepal’s indigenous Rai community, and is working together with IWGIA.

A continuous effort is rewarded

In 2010, 197 countries decided to create the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries to mitigate and adapt to the consequences of climate change by financing climate initiatives in developing countries. But only recently has the financing from developed countries been in place and at the 19th board meeting, more than one billion dollars were allocated to 23 different climate projects.

The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) has observer status in the GCF and has since 2016 worked together with indigenous representatives and with the support of the the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark toward getting indigenous peoples recognized and included in GCF’s decision processes. With the approval of “GCF Indigenous Peoples Policy” this finally succeeded to great joy for all involved. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs celebrated it by tweeting;

Congratulations to GCF with its first ambitious Policy on Indigenous Peoples, ensuring that climate activities are paying due attention #IndigenousPeoples . Thank you to @IWGIA for excellent cooperation leading to the adoption of the policy. #GreenClimateFund

Opening up spaces for indigenous voices

With the adoption of the policy, a number of principles regarding indigenous peoples’ rights have been approved. These include their rights to free, prior and informed consent in projects appraisal phase and that all projects must respect indigenous peoples’ rights to land, territories and natural resources.

“The adoption of the “GCF indigenous Peoples Policy” is an important step towards recognising indigenous peoples’ rights in climate actions, but now implementation work begin”, says Kathrin Wessendorf, Senior Advisor on climate in IWGIA, who participated in the board meeting.

The first step is to establish an official mechanism in the Green Climate Fund which ensures indigenous peoples’ inclusion in the projects. Four representatives will be elected by indigenous people from Asia, Pacific, Africa, and South America through a self-selection process and will serve as the indigenous peoples’ advisory group to the GCF for the implementation of the policy.

“Indigenous peoples often live in very fragile ecosystems and are vulnerable to climate changes. By recognizing their rights and their contributions to climate actions, they will become an important part of the solution to these challenges that the whole world is facing” ends Kathrin Wessendorf.

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