by Polina Kovaleva

More than 150 countries are expected to meet today at the UN Headquarters in New York to sign the climate agreement adopted last December in Paris at a signing ceremony hosted by Ban Ki-moon.

This day becomes especially important in anticipation of the 15th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues taking place on 9-20 of May in New York reminding us how little attention was paid in the agreement to the role of indigenous knowledge and practices in mitigating climate change.

As it was correctly said by UNPFII Chair Megan Davis, “Sadly, the agreement asks States to merely consider their (indigenous) human rights obligations, rather than comply with them.” Once again, rights of indigenous are going to be considered, not complied with. Rights of indigenous peoples who, along with being one of the populations most vulnerable to climate change, have been the Earth’s strongest protectors for years!

However, being oppressed and pushed down for generations, indigenous peoples developed an incredible strength and resistance to be able to protect their rights and our planet without any support of global leaders. Youth using digital technology play a special role in indigenous empowerment.

Take Surui youth living in Amazon rain forest helping Google putting together an online map documenting nearly 300 cultural and natural sites, as well as highlighting their ancestral lands and documenting invasions by illegal loggers. Or, interactive game Mi Parcela designed to put in practice ancestral knowledge and self-sustainable production alternatives for the Amazonian populations.

It is important to listen to indigenous, but they often hide their origin. Habitat Pro Association that supports indigenous, particularly women and youth in Peru, created a movement I 4 Indigenous that aims to support educational programs for indigenous youth and, most importantly, to inspire them to be proud of their heritage. By taking selfie representing of what indigenous means to him/her, everyone can support the world’s most sustainable communities. Same goal has a short film This Is Who I Am focusing on the importance of language, culture and traditions for indigenous youth.

All these examples show some individual actions of indigenous and non-indigenous people to confront ignorance of world leaders and continue fighting for the protection of their land and Mother Earth. Thais why it is particularly important to come to the UN for the Forum in May.

Habitat Pro Association together with SMPLCT Lab, a design lab that creates sustainable products and experiences, plan a big event during UNPFII. Our event “WISH: Wisdom of Indigenous & Human Survival 2016” will bring together government agencies, businesses, local communities, indigenous peoples’ organizations, private investors, educators, adults and youth who all have a common interest in learning together and educate each other about the challenges of 21st century. We will discuss the protection of indigenous peoples’ lands, traditions, languages and ceremonial practices; how youth are becoming peacebuilders and social change activists to strengthen the voices of vulnerable societies and what type of technologies are bridging cultures and creating cross-culture collaboration between communities worldwide.

I know that today many people will celebrate a great progress in climate change agreement that is expected to get a record number of world leaders’ signatures. The importance of this historical agreement cannot be underestimated. However, separately I celebrate the Earth Day and the incredible work of many indigenous communities who are united for the same cause – protecting our planet and sustainable living.

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