Indigenous communities, biodiversity in focus at Global Landscapes Forum

Gabrielle Lipton
20 December 2017

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — “We must act now,” said Robert Nasi, director general of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), kicking off the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) conference in Bonn, Germany on Tuesday.

GLF Bonn 2017 is not only the seventh installation of the world’s largest multi-sectoral platform focused on landscapes, which first launched in Warsaw in 2013; but it also marks the start of a new chapter for the forum, following the recent boost of an 11 million euros ($13 million) injection by the German government. GLF is now shoring up activities in anticipation of five more years of addressing landscape issues around the world, conducted in partnership with the World Bank, CIFOR, the U.N. Environment program, and the German government.

This new phase of the movement has ensured the activity can extend beyond the two-days of intense activity at the World Conference Center venue in Bonn on Dec. 19 and 20 in a concerted effort to address and combat landscape and climate change issues.

Also in its new phase, GLF aims to engage more than 1 billion people worldwide. The conference was attended on Tuesday in Bonn by more than 1,000 participants ranging from President of Mauritius Ammenah Gurib Fakim and Former President of Mexico Felipe Calderon to yogi-environmentalist and spiritual guide Sadhguru, as well as scientists, start-up entrepreneurs, leaders from non-governmental organizations, actors in the public and private sectors, and a number of students and youth. Thousands of people around the world tuned in online to watch live-stream videos of various discussions, plenaries, “TED Talk” style Landscape Talks, press conferences, and capacity-building Launchpad sessions.

The myriad items on the day’s agenda revolved around the forum’s stated five themes: landscape restoration, financing sustainable landscapes, rights and equitable development, food and livelihoods, and measuring progress toward climate change and development goals.

Stefan Schmitz, deputy director-general and commissioner of the “One World – No Hunger” Initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), stated in the opening plenary, more than 70 percent of those suffering from poverty and hunger live in rural areas, and environmental degradation is largely confined to their home fronts.

“The Global Landscapes Forum creates space for innovative ideas that can then be implemented on the ground,” said Barbara Hendricks, the Federal Minister of German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). “The overarching goal is to learn from one another and take action together.”

NATIVE KNOWLEDGE

Following on the heels of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bonn in November, and French President Emmanuel Macron’s “One Planet” summit earlier this month, GLF has distinguished itself by including indigenous and marginalized communities in the discussion. Ideally, GLF will offer an opportunity for more space and attention in dialogues and decision-making processes to be applied on the local, regional and global levels.

Indigenous communities play a key role in finding holistic solutions to land degradation, reforestation, food security and the future of clean water sources.

“I think that’s one of the biggest contributions that indigenous organizers and young professionals are making, in every field addressing climate change and unsustainable development—that they look at everything as its complete picture,” said Janene Yazzie, co-founder and chief executive of Sixth World Solutions and member of the U.S.’s Navajo Tribal Nation. “We look at what’s affecting our air, our father sky, our mother earth.”

The forum has quickly made evident the importance of investing in indigenous communities—both financially and culturally, as the two are inextricably linked.

Roberto Borerro, programs and communications coordinator of the International Indian Treaty Council, said that indigenous groups should be viewed as partners in a unique position to offer solutions on environmental issues.

“We’re not looking for saviors,” he said. “We can save ourselves if we’re given the right tools and the opportunity to save ourselves.”

AFRICA IN SPOTLIGHT

“As we modernize, we must support traditional knowledge systems, which are those linked to sustainable agriculture,” Fakim said.

In a keynote speech, Fakim reiterated the crucial role of indigenous communities in tackling landscape issues. However, she contextualized this specifically in terms of Africa where threats to biodiversity are graver than on any other continent. In Mauritius alone, almost 100 species have become extinct since the 17th century, she said.

Throughout African countries, as temperatures rise, so do costs for tackling ensuing changes to the continent’s ecosystems and landscapes. As such, changes to the landscape are a crucial focus for the conservation community.

Fakim made a call for increased investment in research. She said that basing policies and government agendas on fact-based information is paramount to positive change, not just in Mauritius but everywhere.

Karin Kemper, senior director for the environment and natural resources , global practice at the World Bank, advanced this notion, saying that in order for the World Bank to achieve its twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity, a combination of information, innovation and incentives is needed.

Research, technology, and finance mechanisms must be advanced in tandem, and policymaking should be incentivized to be progressive and forward thinking.

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