woman-leaning-on-rocks-atop-a-hill

Recognising Indigenous Visions

We're supporting Indigenous communities to present their visions for just and sustainable futures in the face of climate change.

CHALLENGE

Indigenous knowledge, particularly values about nature and systems for co-existing, can inspire innovations which positively impact national and international targets for climate mitigation, adaptation, and sustainable development. 

However, this knowledge is often overlooked in national and international policy making, with Indigenous Peoples provided few opportunities to influence decision-making and many facing inappropriate policies that discriminate against their ways of life.

Collaboration

Through the INDIS Project, Indigenous communities from 3 countries have been reflecting on their own way of life and turbulent experiences with environmental, economic and social policies.

  • Bolivia: In the Amazonian lowlands in Lomerio, commercial agriculture and climate change have brought severe forest fires. Our team has been working with the Monkoxi, who manage an Indigenous territory of 256,000 hectares, are mobilizing Indigenous researchers to recover ancestral knowledge about the use of fire and have established burning protocols. They are also developing an intercultural education plan to ensure traditional medicinal and environmental knowledge and language is integrated in formal education. 

  • Papa New Guinea: The vast island of New Guinea holds the 3rd largest tropical rainforest in the world, hosts more than 10% of all terrestrial species and is widely populated by Indigenous Peoples, with over 1000 languages. Yet extractive developments like the Ok Tedi gold mine in the Star Mountains are displacing Indigenous knowledge and foregoing crucial stewardship of these biodiverse and carbon-rich ecosystems. The Min people are collectively voicing their customs and culture to try to restore control over and nature within their territories. 

  • Uganda: Karamoja, in the northeast, is home to c.1 million Indigenous pastoralists, plus groups such as the Ik and Tepeth who sustain forests on the striking volcanic mountains. Increasing drought, locust invasions and interethnic conflict have impacted livelihoods, while >50% of the land has been granted to companies under mining licenses. Despite a strong presence of development agencies focused on climate and food security, Indigenous knowledge systems are neglected. So we are working with the Indigenous Tepeth around Mount Moroto to revitalize their language and assert their cultural identity to prevent further misrecognition of their rights and way of life.

Insight

The INDIS team took several key messages from the project to the UN Climate Conference COP26 in Glasgow:

  1. Adaptation and a just transition to lower emissions. Reducing dependence on extractive industries requires respect and accountability for the rights of Indigenous and local communities. Indigenous relations with nature and customary governance can also inform more sustainable stewardship. 

  2. Climate justice/loss and damage. Recognition of historic treatment of Indigenous Peoples, their territories and formalising responsibility for climate change can harness support to Indigenous peoples to address environmental and cultural harms and restore ecosystems. To date, the safeguards and principles in policies that are supposed to protect Indigenous Peoples have failed to provide adequate recognition. 

  3. Reinforcing Indigenous rights for effective climate change mitigation. Evidence has shown that Indigenous values, practices and institutions are central to effective carbon sequestration and avoided deforestation. Such recognition is essential for climate programs to empower stewardship rather than alienating communities and creating conflicts. 

  4. Indigenous knowledge holders must play a central role. It is crucial therefore that Indigenous knowledge holders play a central role not only during local implementation, but in national policy and in international climate, biodiversity and sustainable development processes. 

PROFESSOR HEIKE SCHROEDER

A Professor of Environmental Governance at UEA’s School of International Development, Prof Heike Schroeder is Principal Investigator of the Indigenous-International Interactions for Sustainable Development (INDIS) project.

Her work focuses on global environmental politics, forest governance and REDD+, the international climate negotiations, non-state actors, urban climate governance, indigenous peoples/knowledge and sustainable development, transformative learning, trust and sustainable food governance. 

Prof Schroeder is also a member of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and a lead faculty member of the Earth System Governance project. In 2019, she was also a senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam. 

This project seeks to highlight the knowledge and practices of Indigenous Peoples that have developed over long timescales in response to changing environmental conditions, to maintain both human wellbeing and the ecosystems to which it is deeply connected. Indigenous knowledge can thus inspire innovative policies and practices in response to the pressing problems of our time, including climate change and COVID-19.
- Prof Heike Schroeder


Discover more