Secure Indigenous Peoples’ Land Rights to Combat Climate Change


Chiang Mai, Thailand-We, indigenous peoples, are the custodians of the world’s remaining forests as well as oceans and seas. Our lands comprise 80% of the planet’s biodiversity[i]. Our historical stewardship of natural resources, practice of low carbon life style and above all, relentless actions to defend our homes have been contributing to the conservation, enhancement and sustainability of world’s biodiversity and ecosystems. Despite this, many states in Asia do not recognize our identities as indigenous peoples and have been denying our collective rights to our lands, territories and resources.

Climate change discussions are projecting our traditional livelihoods particularly shifting cultivation as drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. This negative and misleading perception of the states towards our traditional livelihood is clear from the fact that 10 countries in Asia have policies prohibiting or phasing shifting cultivation[ii]. Researches show that shifting cultivation sequesters more carbon dioxide than it emits[iii] and is key to food security, biodiversity enhancement, livelihoods and well beings of millions of indigenous peoples in Asia[iv]. Our peoples practicing shifting cultivation get arrested, detained and unjustly penalized. This should be stopped. States should recognize shifting cultivation as cultural heritage and establish partnership with us in addressing poverty, hunger and climate change.

The classification of dams as clean energy has engendered a global rush to build large dams, of which at least 200 are across Asia. The construction of large dams has already displaced at least 40 million people world wide, many of whom are indigenous peoples[v]. In India, indigenous peoples represent at least 40% of people displaced by development projects including large dams[vi]. Indigenous peoples in South East Asia and Mekong Regions are also facing similar threats. Furthermore, there are hydropower proposals submitted to the board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). For example, 216 MW Upper Trishuli-1 hydropower project in Nepal. GCF board must reject all hydropower project proposals to avoid significant environmental impacts and human rights violation of indigenous peoples[vii]. Any projects on our rivers and lands must undergo a consultation process based on our right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as stipulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Many of our peoples who are defending our homes are being threatened, harassed and even killed. We lack formal rights to our lands, territories and resources, which hinders us to defend our homes from outsiders. The security to our lands and forests rights and protection of indigenous peoples’ human rights defenders will help to sustain natural resource management based on our traditional knowledge cultivated through generations. This will not only reduce CO2 emissions and but also increase CO2 sequestrations ultimately helping to combat climate change. Guaranteeing our ownership over our forests is also an inexpensive and cost effective method to combat climate. The recent research[viii] has buttressed our perspectives highlighting the importance of land rights to combat climate change.

AIPP and its members along with #landrightsnow campaign supporters across Asia are celebrating 2017 Earth Day by organizing local, national and regional activities under the theme “Securing Indigenous Peoples’ #landrightsnow to Combat Climate Change” to highlight the importance of indigenous peoples’ collective land rights in combatting climate change.


[i] Sobrevila Claudia.2008. The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Biodiversity Conservation: The Natural but Often Forgotten Partners

[ii] AIPP. 2012. REDD+ Implementation in Asia and the Concerns of Indigenous Peoples

[iii] AIPP, IWGIA and NDF. 2012. Climate Change, Trees and Livelihoods: A Case Study on the Carbon Footprint of a Karen Community in Northern Thailand

[iv] FAO, IWGIA and AIPP. 2015. Shifting Cultivation, Livelihood and Food Security: New and Old Challenges for Indigenous Peoples in Asia

[v] IWGIA and TEBTEBBA. 2014. Post 2015 Development Process: Energy

[vi] A Survival International report. Serious Damage: Tribal peoples and large dams

[vii] Klemm Joshua. 2017. Large hydropower dams have no place in the Green Climate Fund

[viii] Stevens, C., R. Winterbottom, J. Springer, and K. Reytar. 2014. Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change: How Strengthening Community Forest Rights Mitigates Climate Change

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