World Bank excludes indigenous peoples from climate change discussions

Date of publication: 
22 September 2008

Amazonian civil society organizations demand that the World Bank adhere to international standards by increasing the participation of indigenous peoples in meetings on forests and climate change.
Indigenous leaders have petitioned the World Bank to “stop excluding them from climate change discussions” according to a press release issued by Amazon Alliance, an international network of indigenous organizations and NGOs that aim to safeguard the environment of the Amazon.
The discontent from indigenous leaders comes as the World Bank hosted its “Global Forest Leaders Forum on Forests and Climate Change” on September 16-17 and follows the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) meeting on climate change and the Amazonian rainforest in early August 2008 in Quito, Ecuador.
While complimenting the World Bank for acknowledging the important role tropical forests play in mitigating the effects of climate change, Amazon Alliance criticized the Bank for excluding representative indigenous leaders from important international meetings and failing to engage indigenous organizations at the regional level. Arguing that because indigenous people stand to feel the greatest impact from climate change in Amazonia, they should be fully involved in any decisions affecting the future of their forests. In a letter to World Bank President Robert Zoellick, Amazon Alliance argued that international law, specifically the recent United Nations (UN) Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People as well as World Bank policy, required that indigenous people give their “free prior informed consent to any plans” that would affect their land. The UN Declaration also ensured the rights of indigenous people to control access and management of natural resources.
According to the press release, Amazonian indigenous leaders are demanding that the World Bank “produce a public report detailing exactly how it will comply with international standards and ensure independent monitoring of its activities; guarantee that it will finance the full participation of the legitimate indigenous leaders of the world in the design and implementation of its climate change and forest management efforts; create a mechanism to ensure that indigenous peoples’ organizations can be effectively involved in policy-making and planning at every stage and level; and fully renegotiate all World Bank policies on indigenous peoples to meet international standards.”