by Rucha Chitnis
“As Indigenous Peoples and members of local communities from the Amazon, Mesoamerica, Indonesia and Brazil, we are the ancestral protectors of the largest tropical forests in the world,” noted members of Guardians of Forests, an alliance of Indigenous forest leaders and groups in Asia and Central and South America.
Guardians of Forests declared that they were a solution to the climate change crisis as stewards of the lungs of the Earth, who were on the frontlines fighting deforestation, while also facing increasing attacks from ranchers, governments and mining and extractive industries.
Robinson Lopez Descanse, Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), said it was important to debunk the myth that Indigenous Peoples don’t have the capacity to manage funds. “The knowledge of Indigenous Peoples is key for mitigating climate change and protecting forests. We are demanding that climate finance reaches local communities,” said Descanse. “Why is there a perception that we can’t manage climate finance? We are already managing our territories, rivers and forests,” said Valéria Paye Pereira, an Indigenous leader of the Tiriyó and Kaxuyana people in Brazil.
Pereira shared that they were creating a fund that was led and managed by Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon.
“Resources are there, but they don’t reach Indigenous Peoples. Through our own fund, we can show that we are capable of managing financial resources,” she said.
Mina Setra, Deputy General of Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Indonesian Archipelago, shared about the Dedicated Grant Mechanism to Fund Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities that is implemented through the World Bank. The Fund hopes to mobilize $80 million directly to forest communities to mitigate climate change. “We agreed that if the fund is to truly benefit Indigenous Peoples then we have to fight to ensure that all the decision-making processes of the fund should be given to Indigenous Peoples,” she said.
Setra said there were numerous consultation processes held with local communities and Indigenous groups in Asia, Africa and Latin America to design the funding mechanism processes.
Dinaman Tuxá, an Indigenous leader of the Tuxá peoples in Brazil, talked about the dangers facing forest communities from attacks and criminalization of dissent.
“More than 300 Indigenous leaders were killed last year. Nobody has been indicted…If the government can’t protect our lands, we will have to,” he said.
Following the assassination of Berta Cáceres, International Funders for Indigenous Peoples, along with its conference delegates in Lima, wrote a call to action to the philanthropic community to mobilize resources to Indigenous defenders for their security and wellbeing. This call to action urged funders to consider giving “flexible, long-term and responsive support for legal defense, communications technology, security measures, transportation” to Indigenous-led groups and movements. “It is important for donors to realize that they also have obligations. Build your programs with us,” said Setra.
“The parallel sessions at the Global Climate Action Summit also raised the critical question on equity on climate funding. Funders were reminded that Indigenous Peoples are not just partners to NGOs; they should also receive funding from resources pouring into protection of their territories from donors and climate finance mechanisms,” said Lourdes Inga, Executive Director of International Funders for Indigenous Peoples.
At this event, we learned about four indigenous-led funds, who underscored that Indigenous Peoples were ready and capable of receiving direct funding from philanthropy.
“If there is a perceived barrier on funding due to capacity building, it is then the donor’s obligation to support capacity building,” said one of the speakers.