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Indigenous communities and international development cooperation at COP23

15 November 2017

Cecilia Calvo and Pedro Landa

Placing dialogue, planning, and meaningful consultation with communities about proposals affecting their land and natural resources at the center.

Placing dialogue, planning, and meaningful consultation with communities about proposals affecting their land and natural resources at the center

In the opening days of the COP23-Fiji in Bonn, we listened to many challenges facing our common home and contributing to climate change, including the destructive impacts of an economy of exclusion.  The destruction of the Amazon which Pope Francis has called the ‘richly biodiverse lungs of our planet,’ the extraction and privatization of natural resources, the displacement of local and indigenous populations and the contamination of their water and lands, and the criminalization of environmental and human rights defenders are all part of this throwaway culture that prioritizes profit over the common good and is contributing to climate change.Among many concerns raised by participants at COP23, special attention surfaced over insufficient responses to address climate change coming from international development cooperation in a 9 November forum Forest Conservation through Community Rights and the Role of German Financial Involvement.  The forum is one of 40 side events of the Interconnections Zone, a transdisciplinary space for dialogue on sustainable development and climate action hosted by the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE).

The gathering aimed to “highlight the key role played by indigenous peoples and forest communities in conserving forests and meeting multiple climate and development goals, and the role of German financial support in these efforts.”  The speakers were from the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests), Programa Regional de Investigación sobre Desarrollo y Medio Ambiente, University of Kiel, and Watch Indonesia e.V.

In response to these challenges, international development agencies and indigenous and community leaders put forward proposals that work towards effective climate policies supporting ecological conservation efforts, that reduce deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, and that recognize the central role of local and indigenous communities as the best guardians of the forest, their lands and water.

This includes respecting the self-determination and guaranteeing the land rights of local and indigenous communities, and placing dialogue, planning, and meaningful consultation with communities about proposals affecting their land and natural resources at the center.

Pedro and Cecilia at the Bonn Zone.

Pedro and Cecilia at the Bonn Zone.

Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ makes clear that care for creation is not an optional part of our Catholic faith but a requirement and a responsibility of every person living on the planet.  He declares that we can not ignore ‘the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’ in light of the environmental and social crisis facing humanity today.  The magnitude of this crisis demands a multifaceted and integral response.

As representatives of the Society of Jesus on ecology, we have come together as Ecojesuit in Bonn at the COP23 climate change conference to contribute to the dialogue on the urgency of addressing this global challenge confronting the human family and implementing the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in light of Pope Francis´ vision for integral ecology.  Our Ecojesuit delegation brings perspectives on ecology from the Jesuit network in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and North America.

As a Jesuit network, we at Ecojesuit are convinced that we face a historic moment in history where we have the opportunity to turn away from our current throwaway culture and model of consumption.  And as Ecojesuit Coordinator Pedro Walpole shared in a meeting with students at Aloisiuskolleg, a Jesuit school in Bonn, we need to “take down the carbon wall and instead build a culture of solidarity.”

This is a moment of ecological conversion.  We can redirect our steps and choose a sustainable path forward rooted in gratitude, generosity, and the protection of our common home and destiny.

Cecilia Calvo is the Senior Advisor on Environmental Justice at the Office of Justice and Ecology of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the US. Pedro Landa is from Honduras and a member of the Jesuit Justice and Mining Network, Coordinating Member of the Latin American network Iglesias y Minería, Coordinator of the Jesuit Network for Human Rights and Justice, and the environmental and human rights campaigns coordinator at Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación.

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