Jan 11, 2022

Sustainable empowerment - Environment, climate change and self-determination

In the midst of a global environmental crisis, the UNPO presents a unique opportunity to build a bridge between inspired local and indigenous climate advocates, and an international community that is paving the way towards a healthier environment. The ‘Environment, climate change and self-determination’ campaign is the UNPO’s answer to the calls of our members, and the calls of the international community.

There is an international consensus that a sustainable future can only be created with a combination of local, indigenous, and scientific knowledge. However, there is a gulf between this understanding, and the ability to engage with inaccessible communities. The UNPO’s extraordinary network comprises some of the world’s most marginalised voices and will therefore be instrumental in ensuring an equitable future that supports vibrant cultures and ecosystems. The UNPO and its members are proud to join the international community in confronting global climate change, to mould a future for all. 

The need for local and indigenous knowledge

The environmental knowledge of indigenous communities cannot be overlooked, especially in the context of climate change. These communities, who live in close symbiosis with the environment, have had to enhance and utilise their unique knowledge to adapt to extreme climatic variation. As a result, they have become increasingly engaged with scientific and policy research to identify problems and construct innovative solutions. When engaging in dialogue that strives to protect the environment, there is no stakeholder more important than one with a vested interest and intimate knowledge. This knowledge can be incorporated into both national legislation and international policy.

The international community has recognised the need for diverse sources of knowledge to combat climate change. To fulfil SDG13’s climate action aims, local and indigenous knowledge must enter the dialogue. This was evidenced in COP26, where parties strongly recognised the significance of collaborating with indigenous scholars and local communities. The promotion of all voices equally is a prerequisite to the necessary shift towards inclusive and representative decision making.

However, at present, there is a gulf between the need to engage with indigenous and local knowledge, and the ability of the international community to do so.

Bridging the divide

The UNPO is an inherently unique organisation, providing a link between the international diplomatic community and marginalised voices. Since its’ inception in 1991, the UNPO has been a staunch environmental advocate, driven by a desire for an equal future characterised by sustainability. A healthy environment is undoubtedly linked with self-determination; a deterioration of the environment inhibits a group’s ability to sustain freedom of choice, human health and life, and culture and identity

The ‘Environment, climate change and self-determination’ campaign aims to pave a path between local environmental expertise and the international community. The UNPO is joining the communal effort to combat climate change. The members wish to use their knowledge and expertise to help form a healthy global environment, and request the international communities’ assistance in defending and cultivating their local environments. The UNPO wishes to promote dialogue between all global stakeholders to inspire a new generation of global activists, protect and uplift vulnerable groups, and foster effective and collaborative global environmental action.

Enriching international climate advocacy

The ‘Environment, climate change and self-determination’ campaign will utilise the UNPO’s global community and diplomatic advocacy expertise. It will magnify the voices of its members, both internationally and within nations, to promote the indispensable value of local and indigenous knowledge. Additionally, the campaign will focus on strengthening international environmental law, to reinforce environmental justice and ensure all ecosystems and communities are treated with fairness and compassion.

However, the ultimate responsibility for the protection of the environment remains at the national and local level. Therefore, we unanimously advocate for the adoption of bottom-up policies within nations. Through consulting the inhabitants of an area, there is an increased likelihood of development projects being mutually beneficial for all stakeholders.

The ‘Environment, climate change and self-determination’ campaign is driven by one fundamental value: the right of all global citizens to mould their collective future.