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UNPFII, IEN & REDD: Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples & U.N. credibility

May 23, 2009

UNPFII, IEN & REDD: Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples & U.N. credibility

Watch a Democracy Now interview with Indigenous Environmental Network executive director Tom Goldtooth about climate change. The interview is from May 22nd, at the end of the first week of the 8th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) taking place at UN headquarters in New York City, May 18-29, 2009.

Last year, the theme of the UNPFII was climate change. Despite vocal opposition from the vast majority of the participating indigenous delegates, a document produced by the Permanent Forum chairs included support for a World Bank market-oriented carbon-trading initiative called REDD - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. When their voices of opposition and protest were not going to be immediately permitted to be heard, the indigenous caucus and in particular a vocal contingent from the Americas began a loud chorus: "!La palabra! !La palabra!..." ['We want to speak!']

The "May Revolt" occurred on May 2, 2008, on the very last day of the 7th session of the UNPFII. An excellent video of the "revolt" and interviews with Tom Goldtooth, Art Manuel and others was produced by activist Rebecca Sommer for Earth Peoples and can be found on youtube.

"I guess the honeymoon is over in terms of indigenous people feeling that their comments that they come here to make will be included in the statement by the Permanent Forum," explains Art Manuel in an interview included in the video. "Credibility was a question here, you know? And that's what the, I think that's what the people who were stating their position were - or they're stating their objections - were saying that the credibility of the Permanent Forum is in question."

During the first week of this year's 8th session, the allotted time ran out for indigenous delegates to read their 3-minute statements regarding human rights. It seems unlikely that further time will be granted so that the many delegates who were further down on the list will have the chance to formally and vocally register their concerns. However, last year's "revolt" has clearly not be forgotten.

- Sandra Cuffe

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