2015 Global Landscapes Forum: Abdon Nababan – Closing Keynote

Mon December 2015

Secretary General for the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), Abdon Nababan, speaks at the high-level closing plenary session from the second day of the Global Landscapes Forum 2015, in Paris, France alongside COP21.

The closing ceremony takes a closer look at some of the initiatives that emerged through the Forum and offers a space for tracking progress as well as outlining next steps.

Abdon Nababan asks the world to recognize Indigenous Peoples as guardians of the forests. In recognition of this, the rights of Indigenous Peoples must be part of any agreement to climate change.

Sunday, 6 December 2015
Global Landscapes Forum, Paris, France
#GLFCOP21 #ThinkLandscape


Good afternoon everyone, excellences, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. We are now in a defining moment – a moment when what is at stake is the very survival of our earth. And our economies are also suffering, and the lives of billions of people threatened. This is the climate change moment.

These are the words I spoke at the global meeting at the World Bank headquarters in September 2008. What progress we’ve made in the past seven years! In preparation of the closing of this prestigious event, the speakers have been provided guiding questions by the organizer. One of these statements reads: the questions of how land is used are directly linked to the question of who uses the land. The questions of how land is used are directly linked to the question of who uses the land.

This is a very important statement. There is a beauty in its simplicity. Here, today, we presented a scientific analysis that reveals that much of the world’s carbon is found within indigenous people’s territory – today, in this building. This comes as no surprise to those familiar with how most local communities manage their territories and landscapes.

We have the greatest motivations to maintain ecosystem integrity and we have the traditional knowledge to do so. Questions of how the land is used are directly linked to the question of who uses that land. But it’s regrettable that not all indigenous land is currently used by indigenous people. Millions of hectares have been grabbed and millions more are traded by industrial agriculture, forestry, and mining.

The conversion of biologically diverse, carbon-rich landscape and the destruction of life-sustaining watersheds has brought suffering to our people and to the local and global environment. In the past two months, forest and peatland fires in Indonesia have released huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Several million Indonesians have suffered severe health effects. And we indigenous people believe we have a great responsibility, as we must play a central role in global efforts to avert a climate disaster.

But how can we do this unless our collective rights are recognized and our efforts to manage our lands and our forests are supported? Ladies and gentlemen, we are all here at COP21 with the same objective – to slow climate change and the emissions that are fueling it. The world has never had such strong evidence of the role of indigenous peoples in conserving the forests that represent the one existing solution to climate change.

Worldwide, at least 20 per cent of the carbon in tropical forests is on indigenous land. Yet we lack the rights to most of those territories. For those who don’t see the link between indigenous territorial and land rights, and climate change, you should know that we are the best guardians of the forests. But to continue to do this job we need for the world to recognize our right as a part of any agreement on climate change. And our national government must make this happen if they are serious about reducing emissions.

Without us, the forests will disappear. Without the forests, we will disappear, along with our food, our water, our lives, and the essence of what makes us human. Without the forests and the people who protect them, we will fail in our goal to save the planet from a rapidly evolving climate that puts humanity itself at risk.

Given that the scientific gathering serves to inform the negotiating process, I want to take the opportunity to insist that the main text of the agreement fully incorporates human rights, particularly those of indigenous peoples, as an operational strategy for combating climate change. You cannot protect the forests from Paris, Oslo, New York, London. Only those of us who are protecting it already can continue to do so.

At this, the 11th hour, from now, we must take action to protect the indigenous people who protect the forests. This is not about our lives alone. It is about all our lives, and those of all other species with which we sail this planet. In recognition of our common humanity and our common battle to save our planet, I ask you all to take a few moments of silence, breathe deeply. Can you hear the earth cry?

Thank you very much.




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