UNGA 77: Indigenous-led solutions informed by solidarity, sustainability and diverse knowledge systems

Anita Tzec, IUCN and Kristen Walker Painemilla, CI

As the 77th UN General Assembly (UNGA 77) opens in New York, the world is facing the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss and struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the world figures out how to live with a rapidly changing climate and how to halt the loss of biodiversity, Indigenous-led solutions can help us understand how things are transforming and lead the way towards an inclusive world that values solidarity, sustainability and science as embodied by nature’s best stewards: Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs).

The Meso-American subproject led by Sotz’il
Photo credits: Anita Tzec

As highlighted by Ambassador Csaba Kőrösi – President of UNGA 77 – in his vision speech, “peace, economic development, environmental sustainability and social inclusion are inseparable aspects of our safe and sustainable existence on this planet”. Fully mirroring this vision, the subprojects working with the CI- and IUCN-implemented GEF-7 Inclusive Conservation Initiative (ICI) embody the values of solidarity, sustainability and knowledge by recognizing the importance supporting Indigenous leadership, understanding that development must be sustainable, and acknowledging the fundamental role played by incorporating diverse knowledge systems in tackling the most pressing global challenges. This coupled with the importance of deploying critical financial resources into the hands to those closest to nature


From the east African drylands to the Andean Cordillera, the ICI subprojects recognize that social inclusion and legal recognition are key for an inclusive world. This is why they are advocating for the legal recognition of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) in their territories and why they have developed social inclusion plans to fully integrate the views and contributions of all social groups, with a special focus on women, elders, and youth. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Alliance Nationale d’Appui et de Promotion des Aires et territoires conservés par les the Peuples Autochtones et Communautés locales en République Démocratique du Congo (ANAPAC) aims to use ICI to identify and document the presence of IPLCs in the three major bio-cultural landscapes of the DRC in order to enhance the capacity building of their institutions in natural resource governance and management. Similarly, the Indigenous Movement for Peace Advancement and Conflict Transformation (IMPACT) will document the IPLC presence in the Upper Ewaso Territory River Basin in Kenya and foster intergenerational and gender dialogues in order to enable IPLCs to develop unique leadership systems and institutions that inform ecological functions. Social inclusion is also key for the Meso-American subprojects. In the Madre de Dios River Basin in Peru, the Federation of Madre de Dios River and Tributaries (FENAMAD) plans to strengthen the capacity of Indigenous leaders of all genders and their participation in international conservation and human rights fora. Similarly, in Guatemala and Panama, the consortium led by Sotz’il will work with ICI to boost the capacities of Indigenous women and youth in the use, management and conservation of natural resources and ensure gender balance among the project’s beneficiaries.


Photo credits: UCRT

As sustainable development practices help adapt to the challenges posed by climate change, which in turn helps to protect important natural resources for the current and the future generations, sustainability is also a primary focus of the ICI subprojects. In Nepal, the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) will promote nature-and culture-based solutions to build IPLC’s and ecosystems’ climate resilience by generating mitigation co-benefits and building on local, traditional and Indigenous knowledge in the Annapurna Conservation Area. A similar effort will be conducted by the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT) in Tanzania, which will develop sustainable natural resource-based income generating activities such as beekeeping, traditional medicine, and livestock fattening in order for their communal village lands and natural resources to be sustainably generating natural resource-based benefits for Indigenous communities and support long-term conservation outcomes.

Diverse Knowledge Systems

Photo credits: IMPECT

In order for these goals to be met, the work of the ICI subprojects is guided by diverse knowledge systems that promote and uphold the value of traditional and practitioners’ knowledge, cultural values, and incorporates western science. In Thailand, the Indigenous Peoples’ Foundation for Education and Environment (IPF) will be working on mitigating the impacts of climate change by conducting research on the management of fires and forest fires by local communities based on traditional knowledge and innovation and by investigating the effects of global warming and ways and plans of adaptation to it at the community level to enable communities to better adapt to the impacts of climate change in at least ten watersheds. Similarly, in the Pacific Ocean, the Bose Vanua o Lau and the House of Ariki aim to strengthen climate change resilience through delivery and revitalization of traditional farming skills and knowledge. In the Cooks Islands, ICI will enable the House of Ariki to engage in and contribute to the planning for the Marae Moana Marine Park and will support the House of Ariki to integrate cultural considerations within the design of the aforementioned park. In Argentina and Chile, the Futa Mawiza Initiative aims to strengthen the safeguard and governance of the Futa Mawiza Biocultural Territory through a process of self-strengthening based on the Mapuche cosmovision, knowledge and traditional practices. The consortium will work with ICI to create a school for the transmission of traditional knowledge that will operate at least during the entire project execution period and train at least one person per community in project management and financial resource management in order for the organizations involved to be better prepared to manage and administer their own projects.

Futa Mawiza Sub-Project-Argentina
Photo credits: Luis Barquin

As we approach the halfway mark between the adoption and finish line of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Inclusive Conservation Initiative stands ready to help turn the goal of the seventy-seventh session of the UN General Assembly into a reality and contribute to ensuring that the ambitious goal of protecting biodiversity is turned into action, not only by safeguarding our planet but also by ensuring that its best stewards are equipped with the technical tools and direct access to the financial resources they need that support their leadership as stewards of nature.

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