It was one of the most attended side events with the room nearly filled up by a variety of more than 90 delegates attending the COP17/UNFCCC from civil society organizations, Parties and UN agencies. It was one of the side events on 1 December 2011, the 4th day of COP 17 in Durban, South Africa that was meant to include the voices of rural and indigenous women to the negotiations being in the rightful position to demand from the principal polluters and plunderers of the Earth to unconditionally fulfil their obligations as articulated in the UNFCCC. It was equally meant to impress upon the climate leaders and dealers as well as the civil society how rural and indigenous women are responding to climate change despite the fact that they have contributed the least to climate change.
The event was organized by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) along with Gender CC, two international women’s organizations who are working actively to enable the women’s perspective in the climate change discourse with 5 women presenters from grassroots organizations, one of them this writer to speak on indigenous women’s responsiveness to climate change. From the APWLD team was Roshanti Fernando of NAFSO, a national organization of fisherfolks in Sri Lanka whose livelihood, health and safety are adversely affected by rising sea level. Fernando and I were partners in the panel on Gender and climate change with Elizabeth Letlhaku of South Africa, Uriano Aretaake and Ulamila Wragg from the Pacific.
Emphasized on the greater food insecurity of indigenous communities in the Cordillera who stand to be adversely affected by climate change as shown in the research findings in Lenneng of Abra Province and in Pasdong and Naguey of Benguet Province. Community potentials and initiatives of indigenous peasant women on subsistence agriculture cultivating limited and steep slopes of mountains into rice paddies, swidden farm and gardens and done in a synchronized manner, community pooling of labour, effective indigenous practices of pest control and soil fertility maintenance, local fishing and forest management practices are truly significant in enabling continued survival of indigenous women farmers and their communities in the light of the climate crisis. These potentials and initiatives give more reasons for government to deliver its duties and responsibilities to support the adaptive and survival capacity of indigenous women and their communities.
The women presenters confirmed that awareness raising, information sharing and capacity building with regards to policies related to climate change and women’s human rights are the areas which urgently need to be strengthened. Access to financial resources by rural women’s groups and community organisations was equally identified as one of the key areas that rural and indigenous women need to strategise. Pointing out that while rural and indigenous women have always adapted in their own ways, their initiatives in reducing non-carbon dioxide gases through traditional practices of crop, livestock and agro-forestry management, enhanced soil carbon sequestration in agricultural soils via reduced tillage and soil biomass restoration, hardly get support from government. The APWLD presenters urged that experiences of rural and indigenous women should be resonated in climate negotiations and global movements to claim justice for environmental plunder particularly from governments of developed or capitalist countries especially the US and their corporations.
A lot of the climate activists agree that Durban will be the burial ground of the Kyoto Protocol, the legally binding document for Parties to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The world’s greatest polluter and plunderer, the US, from the start is making no commitment at all in reducing its green house gas emissions and to the Green Climate Fund. Other industrialized countries are expecting bigger contributions from the private sector than the public sector, which would allow “more business than usual” for corporations. The strong presence of well oiled delegations of corporations camouflaged as NGOs (business NGOs) and the World Bank in the negotiation meetings is a clear indication that any negotiation must amass more profit for them and they will remain scot-free from being the world’s worst climate criminals. A huge mural of Anglo-American mining corporation welcomed the delegates of COP17 at Johannesburg’s airport.
In another side event organized by the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty to discuss on the intersection of agriculture and climate change, Mariam Mayet of the African Center for Biosafety exclaimed that corporations do not even have to come to Durban as everything is already in place for them.
While there is not much to expect from the official talks in the COP17 particularly on the sensitive issue of climate financing, the APWLD women presenters are demanding that every option―financial and technological including research and development― should be provided to developing countries free from any conditionality. These options or measures should trickle as direct support to local initiatives of indigenous and peasant women and their communities as a step in achieving environmental and economic justice. Government programs to address and mitigate climate change should uphold sustainable practices of natural resources utilization, and adopt appropriate technologies as determined by the actual development needs of indigenous and peasant women and their communities. Extractive and pollutive industries like mining, energy and commercial agriculture should already be stopped much more if these are resisted by local communities. # nordis.net
This was contributed by Vernie Yocogan-Diano, Executive Director of Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC)