Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Paris Agreement: An “Incremental Advance” for International Recognition of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Some members of the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus at COP21 in Paris

Paris, France – The 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC-COP21) officially adopted the Paris Agreement on Saturday, December 12, 2015. The Agreement, with the legal force of a UN Treaty, was agreed to by all the 195 States (countries) present. Once ratified by at least 55 States, it will go into legal force in 2020. It commits all countries, for the first time ever, to cut their carbon emissions while also recognizing the special circumstances of developing countries. The States also adopted the “Paris Decision” which is not legally binding, but commits States to immediately begin the process of reducing greenhouse emissions that cause climate change. 

Some commentators are denouncing the Paris Agreement as a failure while others are hailing it as an historic triumph. But for Indigenous Peoples, the Paris Agreement can be seen as another step forward for the recognition of their rights in international law. 

The International Indigenous Peoples Forum of Climate Change (IIPFCC) and the Indigenous Peoples Caucus representing over 200 indigenous delegates attending this session from around the world, was invited to make a formal statement at the COP21 closing plenary. The IIPFCC closing statement, presented by elder Frank Ettawageshik (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians), highlighted the three key messages advocated by Indigenous Peoples during the two-week session. These included a call for the rights of Indigenous Peoples [to] be recognized, protected, and respected within a broad human rights framework in both the preamble and the operative sections of the Agreement; a temperature goal of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius increase over pre-industrial levels; and recognition, respect for and use of Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge, with their free, prior, and informed consent, in measures for adaption to climate change. The IIPFCC statement, while expressing that Indigenous Peoples were “keenly disappointed” at the shortfalls in meeting these calls, noted that all three Indigenous Peoples messages were “addressed to some degree” in the final Agreement.

In particular, the inclusion of “the rights of Indigenous Peoples” in the preamble paragraph of the Agreement, achieved despite the consistent opposition of some States throughout the process, is a significant and unprecedented step forward. This is the first time this phrase has appeared unqualified in a legally binding UN Treaty, environmental or otherwise. The same phrase was included the preamble of the Paris Decision, although both say that States “should consider”, while Indigenous Peoples and human rights advocates called for the use of the stronger word “shall”. 

As noted by hereditary Chief Damon Corrie, Lokono Arawak of Barbados, “strong support by a group of States including Philippines, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Chile, Tuvalu, Indonesia, Canada and others, standing in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples throughout the negotiations, was required to achieve these inclusions in the final Agreement. 

Despite disappointment that the phrase ‘rights of Indigenous Peoples’ and Human Rights in general did not also appear in the Agreement’s operative section, International Chief, attorney and member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) Wilton Littlechild, Ermineskin Cree Nation, clarified that “the preamble of a Treaty provides the context and framework for interpreting and implementing the entire document.” The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties supports his assessment. On this basis, Chief Littlechild called the Paris Agreement an “incremental advancement for recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples in international law.”

The Paris Agreement also calls on State parties (countries) to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” The 1.5 temperature goal was a core position not only of Indigenous Peoples, but the Small Island Developing States. 

Article 7 of the Agreement addressing Adaptation affirms the need for a participatory, transparent, gender-sensitive approach based on science and “as appropriate, traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems”. UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli Corpuz noted that Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge, innovations and practices are recognized in both the Agreement and the Decision, and stated that moving forward “the challenge is how to operationalize this decision.” 

The inclusion of Indigenous Peoples’ core positions both in the Paris Agreement and Decision was the result of the monumental, coordinated and unified efforts by the Indigenous Peoples Caucus throughout COP21. Despite the shortfalls, the inclusion of “the rights of Indigenous Peoples” in both preambles provides a basis for future advocacy to ensure that all programs addressing Climate Change are carried out with respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples as affirmed in the UN Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including land and resource rights, free prior and informed consent, traditional knowledge and Treaty rights. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Indigenous Leaders from Around the World Meet at COP21 in Paris

Kayapo Chief Raoni Metuktire of Brazil and Kasike Roberto Mukaro Borrero,
President of the United Confederation of Taino People meet in Paris.
Paris, France (UCTP Taino News) - About 250 indigenous leaders who engaged in a series of unprecedented consultations in the Arctic, North America, Asia, Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Russia and Eastern Europe, and Africa finalized their proposals to COP21 on Monday. The delegates are now actively lobbying governments to include the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the COP21 agreement. The indigenous leaders are also calling on countries to adopt a goal of keeping the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming with the view of further lowering it to one degree Celsius. According to experts, the disastrous and possibly irreversible tipping point of climate change is 2°C. Among this historic and diverse gathering of indigenous leadership are Chief Damon Corrie of the Caribbean Amerindian Development Organization (CADO) and Kasike Roberto Mukaro Agueibana Borrero, President of the United Confederation of Taino People. 

UCTPTN 11.30.2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Say No to Racism in Puerto Rico!

Recently, the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Law filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights citing the violation of human rights in Puerto Rico.A news article entitled "Human Rights in Puerto Rico; Are they making racism invisible?" published on March 12th at “El Post Antillano”, responded to the complaint critiquing the absence of the subject of Racism against Black communities, afro-descendants, and Indigenous Peoples in Puerto Rico. 

Providing an example of current climate of racism against Indigenous Peoples in Puerto Rico,a group of radical pro-Spain Puerto Ricans, “Autonomía para Puerto Rico”, led by its president, Iván Arrache, recently launched a campaign seeking to remove references to the Indigenous Taino Peoples from school books used on the Island. The pro-Spain group also seeks to present a more "positive" image of Spanish Conquistadors in school curriculum. This group’s core political position is that Puerto Rico should be re-annexed to Spain and Puerto Ricans should again be subjects of the Spanish Crown. They claim thousands of followers on the island including former political figures and members of the Puerto Rican Board of Education. 

In response to these racists positions against Indigenous Peoples and the People of Puerto Rico, a respected community member and representative of the United Confederation of Taino People, Tai Pellicier (Tai Pelli) posted a professional, well-documented response to these statements; she was subsequently slandered by members of the racist group in question; her personal Face Book page was hacked and rendered inaccessible. The President of the radical group, Ivan Arrache, has claimed responsibility for this cyber-attack taking place during Women’s History Month, March 2015. 

The United Confederation of Taino People is calling on all people of good conscience to join us in expressing solidarity for our sister Tai Pellicier (Tai Pelli) and to denounce the racist attempt to remove the Taino from school text books and the intent to present the conquistador in a more "positive manner". In addition, we condemn violations against the basic human right of self-determination and all forms of racism, especially against those who proudly affirm indigenous Taino heritage, as well as institutionalized racism against Black communities and Afro-Descendants in Puerto Rico.

Sign the Petition: Say No to Racism in Puerto Rico!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

World Conference on Indigenous Peoples Follow-up: Deadline April 6

Indigenous Peoples around the world are invited to provide their valuable input in responding a questionnaire on the follow up to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples 2014 by 6 April 2015 at:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Change from Carib to Kalinago now official

A name change from the Carib Reserve to Kalinago Territory has received approval from Parliament.
The Carib Territory Amendment Act which was brought to Parliament by Kalinago Affairs Minister, Casius Darroux, was passed with the support of The United Workers Party parliamentary opposition.
Speaking at the First Meeting of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament on Friday,Darroux said the name change will represent the image of the Kalinago people in a more affirmative way, “ to reflect a better indigenous identity, to dispel the historic negative connotations linked with the word Carib…”
“It is a new day for us, it is a new day in the history of the Kalinago people as the first inhabitants of the country. This bill that has been passed through Parliament to be amended. It is going to bring a lot of thought provoking ideas that we are going to develop for the betterment of the Kalinago people,” the first time parliamentarian and cabinet minister stated.
According to Darroux, since the arrival of Columbus, the Kalinago people have been “littered” with degrading connotations, “one of oppression which is a reminder that history has failed to recognize the sacrifices of my people and the appreciation of us as the first settlers of the land,” adding, “this does not foster any sense of ethnic pride among the indigenous people.”
Darroux describes Kalinago as the true reflection of a dynamic symbol of resistance to colonization and more so, “a symbol of unity, survival and strength which has the power to unify diverse people.”
The minister’s plans for development of the Kalinago Territory include new accommodations for the Kalinago Village Council, the commissioning of a resource centre which, according to him, “is going to be completed very soon and we will be having the opening for that” and resurfacing of the Kalinago Territory road networks.