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‘We will all die if we continue like this’: Indigenous peoples press UN for climate justice

As the United Nations General Assembly opens this week in New York, indigenous peoples are taking to the streets and waters of New York to protest for climate justice and call on world leaders to recognize indigenous rights. As of Saturday, activists have protested in front of consulates, projected images of deforestation on buildings in the city center, sailed down the Hudson and East riversand held a in the against the New York Stock Exchange.

“Every day we see an increase in violence, the murder of Indigenous Peoples and the destruction of our territories at an accelerated pace,” said Dinaman Tuxá, Executive Coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), a national organization that unites indigenous communities in support of their rights. “We demand the immediate demarcation of our lands and the full protection of our rights and lives, as it is the only way we can continue to contribute to the fight against the climate crisis.”

APIB members turned their attention to President Jair Bolsonaro, who is in New York to address the General Assembly and has pushed for the development of the Amazon at the expense of indigenous peoples. From 2019, when Bolsonaro took office, until 2021, Brazil lost more than 13,000 square miles of Amazon rainforest. In the first six months of this year alone, 1,500 square miles of forest were destroyed, the most ever recorded in that period. Bolsonaro’s policies have also led to an increase in violence against indigenous land defenders, at least in the past year. 27 people they were killed protecting their territories. “Allowing further deforestation endangers biodiversity, the lives of indigenous peoples and traditional communities, and the global climate,” said Carol Pasquali, executive director of Greenpeace Brazil, which helped organize the protest. “World leaders must be responsible and put people and the planet first at all times.”

Filipino groups, including the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, gathered in front of the Philippine Consulate to protest against President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. before his speech at the UN. indigenous leaders are concerned that the government of Marcos Jr. will continue the national history of leading violence towards indigenous people. The protest also marked the 50th anniversary of Marcos Sr. declaring martial law and beginning a years-long campaign during which more 3,000 people were killed, 70,000 imprisoned and 34,000 tortured.

Indigenous activists are also using this week to lobby world leaders for concrete climate action. Directed by the Pacific Island students fighting climate change (PISFCC), boatloads of activists sailed down the Hudson and East rivers in New York to ask world leaders to support their calls for climate justice.

Pacific Island indigenous peoples are often the hardest hit by sea level rise and other climate impacts despite minimal contributions to the crisis, but have limited influence internationally. “Our traditional knowledge is intertwined with our lands and this climate change threatens to take it away from us, but we in Vanuatu will not be passive victims,” said Arnold Kiel Loughman, Attorney General of the Republic of Vanuatu, an island nation in the south. Pacific Ocean. “We will do everything possible to defend the human rights of our people.”

Vanuatu and PISFCC are requesting that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issue an advisory opinion on climate change: non-binding legal advice provided to the United Nations that carries significant weight internationally. As of 2017, only 28 advisory opinions have been requested, on topics ranging from the use of nuclear weapons to United Nations spending. To date, the International Court has never heard a case on climate change.

Advocates say issuing an opinion would put pressure on member states to review their policies and commitments, including strengthening the Paris Agreement by clarifying state obligations towards climate goals and affirming indigenous rights in the fight against climate change. climate. For that to happen, the General Assembly must vote to send the case to the ICJ, which organizers believe is likely. Vanuatu and PSIFCC are calling for such a vote and rallying support among countries through diplomatic channels and public campaigning.

“The [International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion] The campaign was born out of this sense of urgency,” said Vishal Prasad, an activist with PSIFCC. “We are campaigning for an advisory opinion that seeks to bring together human rights and the impacts of climate change on future generations.”

International funding for projects like oil pipelines and deforestation that damage the environment and violate indigenous rights are also targeted by activists this week. Indigenous groups, including the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, staged a death outside the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. “We kicked off the week on Wall Street to ask decision makers what kind of projects they are supporting. We do not want continued investment in the destruction of the Earth,” he said. Gustavo Sanchez, of Alliance Forests. “We will all die if we continue like this.”

A coalition of indigenous groups in Peru, including the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation, is calling on banks to divest companies destroying the Amazon, including Petroperu, a company they say is trying to build an oil pipeline on indigenous land. The coalition submitted a Risks evaluation to bank representatives showing the environmental, financial and moral cost of continuing with these investments.

“We all know that significant global action has been lacking,” said Vishal Prasad. “We are not only fighting for the rights of people now, but also for those who will come after us.”



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