UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: Progress towards protecting indigenous territories slow, say experts

Though the Indigenous Peoples have a crucial role in protecting land, they receive less than 1% of climate finance

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Monday 15 April 2024
Photo for representation: iStock

As the 23rd session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues begins in New York, United States on April 15, participants pointed out that though recognition of indigenous territories is increasing, it is not happening at the pace the planet needs.

Failure to protect land means the world might not be able to meet the targets set under the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Target 3 of this Framework proposes that 30 per cent of land and water on the earth is protected by 2030. 

Indigenous territories (IT) are among the most biodiverse areas on the earth and it makes sense to protect these on an urgent basis. 

Inclusion of ITs in the global debate on protected areas is a recent development. So far, only “protected areas” (PA) and “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECM) were used for conservation, even though Indigenous territories are pre-existing and have maintained key ecosystems on the planet through millennia.

Around 22 per cent of land surface on the earth are ITs and these areas are home to 80 per cent of the remaining biodiversity on the planet. 500 million people, representing 6.2 per cent of the global population, live in these areas.  

In 2023, Brazil had proposed that 80 per cent of the Amazon should be protected by 2025 (80 x 2025) to avert a tipping point. This means that over 100 million hectares of Indigenous Peoples’ territories in the Amazon needs to be declared, recognised and titled. The UN Forum supports both these initiatives.

However, progress has been slow. Between 2021-2023, only around 7 million hectares of ITs were recognised, according to a report, Amazonia Against the Clock, by Amazonia for Life: Protect 80% by 2025. Of these, 76 per cent correspond to already-recognised ITs that were expanded. Only 25 per cent are newly-recognised ITs. The increase barely represents 1 per cent of all Amazonia. 

In a letter to the president of the forum, Fanny Kuiru, co-coordinator of the Amazonia for Life: Protect 80% by 2025 initiative, pointed out that at a time when the region is going through the worst drought in its history and forest fires have deprived hundreds of Indigenous communities from access to water and food, a minimum advance is not enough for us as a planet.

The group urged the Forum to integrate the urgency of protecting 80 per cent of the Amazonia by 2025 in its formal position in 2024 and launch a Global Pact for the protection of the Amazonia.

The nine Amazonian states will inform the Permanent Forum at its 23rd session on the progress towards these goals.

Though the Indigenous Peoples have a crucial role in protecting land, they receive less than 1 per cent of climate finance. This is because climate change and conservation policies do not recognise the role of Indigenous Peoples and their territories in protecting the earth. Finances would also be discussed during the current session. 

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