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Nov 17, 2022

Indigenous Peoples & Climate Change – Survival of a Way of Life

Like the youth, there is also an indigenous people’s pavilion at COP27. They believe that as traditional stewards of the earth, they should have a seat at the negotiation table, as their practices may possibly be part of the solution to the climate crisis. Indigenous people from across the world, some whose lives are under constant threat in their home country, made their way to Egypt to ensure that their voices are recognized and respected. Belize’s very own Pablo Mis and Cristina Coc are attending this year’s COP. On Wednesday, Coc made a high-level statement in the sessions. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

They were easily identifiable at the COP proceedings in headdresses and traditional cultural attire through the corridors and meeting halls at the International Convention Center. Indigenous peoples believe that they deserve a principal seat at the negotiating table. They were, after all, the first to sound the alarm that the climate was changing.


Cristina Coc

Cristina Coc, Spokesperson, Maya Leaders Alliance, Belize

“Indigenous peoples have long been sounding the alarm on climate change because quite frankly, it directly affects their livelihoods, it affects their lands, their territories, their distinct ways of life. Indigenous peoples are stewards of natural spaces, natural forests, natural worlds and so obviously we are the ones that would be the first to pay attention when something is changing.”


While there have been inroads made and a space created for their voices to be heard, are indigenous peoples being respected enough? Is their traditional knowledge which can be linked to climate science being disregarded?


Cristina Coc

“It has been falling on deaf ear. Even as we stand right now, indigenous peoples are operating on the periphery. They are always marginalized; there is always a sense of discrimination against the important voices of indigenous people, yet there is a lot of rhetoric. Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge are important to climate change solutions, no one should be left behind and still indigenous voices are not being front and center while we are on the frontlines of the climate change struggle. And so, we have to really wake up cause we don’t have any more time left.”


…but Cristina Coc, of the Maya Leaders Alliance, says that the solution to climate change will not happen without acknowledging and accepting indigenous peoples as allies – because their survival, too, depends on it.


Cristina Coc

“There will not be a climate change solution without indigenous peoples and so, it is important to really include indigenous peoples from the design of climate change adaptation change, include indigenous peoples’ leadership meaningfully. Their participation should be meaningful; it shouldn’t be just a box that we tick off. It is important that our traditional knowledge and practices are incorporated in all adaptation solutions. It is important that when we think about mitigation that we also think about it from a human rights framework, from an indigenous peoples’ framework because we do have international laws that protect our rights as indigenous peoples. So, that has to be the basis upon which world leaders, governments, the Government of Belize has to really think about its climate change approach.”


The Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus from the seven regions of the world, brought the largest delegation to COP27. While their contexts are diverse, as well as their realities and relationships with land and territories, there are common agendas and interests, including areas of challenges and threats. Kantuta Conte is a youth from the Aymara indigenous people of Bolivia in South America.

Kantuta Conte Choque

Kantuta Conte Choque, Network of Indigenous Youth, Latin America & the Caribbean

“I am from Bolivia, I am from La Paz, I am from the Aymara community in Timucin Tamacun; my parents are from there. Particularly for indigenous people since 2019, since the Coute de Ta in Bolivia, we have seen that there is many internalized racism and discrimination for indigenous peoples and for our culture and our identity, our language and our costume. It is really amazing to have this opportunity to interchange ideas, experiences and especially proposals from different indigenous youth and indigenous members of our countries and from our regions.”



Protestor [File: November 14th, 2022]

“Where I come from in my community, people are dying because of flooding. In other communities in neighboring areas, there is a lot of droughts. Every day we sleep being scared of how we wake up. So many times, we have waken up under water and water is washing away our homes and our everything. We are losing our lives, children are dying, our futures are being destroyed every day of our lives. We can’t sleep under this stress anymore.”


Cristina Coc

“They are here not because they have two years three years, or they can wait for COP30 to see some results. They are here because they are feeling the brunt of climate change right now. And so, we join our voices.”


The intrinsic relationship between the land and indigenous peoples has Coc calling on the Government of Belize to continue to respect the rights of the Maya and Garifuna peoples.


Cristina Coc

“Continue to respect and recognize the rights of Maya people to their lands and resources; to listen to the other indigenous groups, the Garifuna people, who are also making claims on their ancestral seas, their lands, their territories. It is in the best interest of all Belizeans to learn from indigenous traditional knowledge, to learn from the way we relate to our lands, the way we protect our lands. We are not trying to fight for land rights because we want a real estate property. We are fighting for our land tenure system because that is what provides our way or life, that is what provides our identity; that’s what helps in the struggle against climate change and so it is important to make this connection.”


…that connection includes the preservation of a particular way of life for a more sustainable and just future. Reporting from COP27 in Sharm El- Sheikh, Egypt. Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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