Crucial question at climate change summit: is it people or peoples?

December 12th, 2008 - 12:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Poznan (Poland), Dec 12 (IANS) Traditional forest rights of indigenous peoples from around the world have been ignored in the draft text to reduce deforestation at the ongoing climate change summit here - they have been kept out by removing the ’s’ from the ‘peoples’ in the draft text.The removal was through a method understandable only to those who negotiate interminable United Nations documents, poring over every word and punctuation mark.

When the draft text came out Thursday, the pnultimate day of the 12-day meeting, it did mention the rights of the indigenous people - without the ’s’. But the UN has many treaties to safeguard the rights of indigenous peoples - with the ’s’.

So, if this text does not have the plural marker, it means nothing, it has no legal standing, because it does not match the definition in other UN treaties.

When the draft came up for approval, even the chairman of the group finalising it thought it was a typing error, according to delegates who attended the session.

He was about to get it corrected, when the delegate from the US government said he objected to the ’s’ because in the US all people were one.

So the ’s’ was dropped, enraging indigenous peoples’ representatives here.

Paula Moreira, from the Amazon Institute of Environmental Research in Brazil, said: “We all know that reducing (greenhouse gas) emissions being caused by deforestation is fundamental to avoid dangerous climate change.

“Indigenous peoples are those who preserve the forests. In the Amazon basin, in the areas where they live, deforestation was 1.1 percent in 2005, far less than in areas protected by the state.”

Moerira said: “We were shocked to see the final version of the draft conclusions. This document removed any references to rights of indigenous peoples.

“Where are the contents of climate change mitigation, equity and justice in this decision?”

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at joydeep.g@ians.in)

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