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Indigenous Covid-19

Samela Satere-Mawe, 23, gets ready to start working on making face protection masks at the Association of the Satere-Mawe Indigenous Women (AMISM) in the West Zone of Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, Brazil, on July 23, 2020. (Photo: International Monetary Fund/Flickr/cc)

Global Indigenous Coalition Echoes Call to Postpone UN Climate Talks

"No equitable or just climate solutions can emerge from such an unjust process."

Brett Wilkins

Citing the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on native communities and persistent vaccine inequities, a coalition of three leading Indigenous advocacy organizations on Wednesday joined over 1,500 global civil society groups in calling for the postponement of the upcoming United Nations climate summit.

"The United Kingdom's actions have been deeply inadequate to assure just and effective participation of our frontline communities."
—Indigenous groups

"As the world continues to confront the spread of Covid-19, there are serious concerns that many of our Indigenous relatives from the Global South will not be able to adequately participate in the COP due to the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on their communities," the Indigenous Environmental Network, Indigenous Climate Action, and Native Movement said in a joint statement referring to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland—also called COP 26.

"It is reprehensible that their voices will not be heard due to [the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] and the United Kingdom's unwillingness to take into account the global inequities of the Covid-19 vaccine distribution," the statement asserted. The U.K. is hosting this year's summit—which is scheduled to start on October 31—in partnership with Italy.

"Indigenous communities are often sacrifice zones bearing the brunt of extractive development and the effects of destructive weather events," the groups said. "Our communities have long been disproportionately impacted not just by climate change, but the forces that are responsible for creating it."

The statement continued:

The representatives of the U.K. as the host of the UNFCCC COP 26 have previously stated they would create mechanisms to ensure the safety and participation of Indigenous peoples, as well as local and civil society from developing countries. However, the United Kingdom's actions have been deeply inadequate to assure just and effective participation of our frontline communities.

With strategic guidance given by our Indigenous Global South partners, should the U.K. and UNFCCC decide against postponing the COP, our organizations will still commit to attending the conference, offer interventions in support and solidarity with those who cannot attend, and elevate our frontline community demands. However, it must be reiterated; this is not a preferred arrangement.

"The exclusion of Indigenous peoples from the Global South would effectively silence them—by failing to enhance accommodations and, those who will be most impacted by the agenda items of the COP, such as Article 6 of the Paris agreement, will be denied their guaranteed right to participation," the groups added. "No equitable or just climate solutions can emerge from such an unjust process."

The Indigenous groups join more than 1,500 other organizations around the world in arguing that COP 26 should be postponed due to continuing disparities in coronavirus vaccine distribution. Less than 2% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to Our World in Data. Many of those nations have been hard-hit by the highly contagious Delta variant.

Tasneem Essop, executive director of Climate Action Network, said earlier this month that "looking at the current timeline for COP 26 and the logistical challenges, it is difficult to imagine fair participation from the Global South under safe conditions and it should therefore be postponed."

"The climate talks are important," Essop added, "but against the current context of 'vaccine apartheid,' they simply cannot proceed by locking out the voices of those who especially need to be heard at this time."


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