Indigenous Peoples at the People's Climate March on September 21 in New York City, on eve of World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

Theresa Braine

Indigenous Peoples at the People's Climate March on September 21 in New York City, on eve of World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

U.N. World Conference on Indigenous Peoples Kicks Off on Eve of Climate Summit

As the United Nations geared up for today’s World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, the new Special Rapporteur emphasized once again that these peoples must be heard, and consulted, on matters that pertain to them.

“The nearly universal disadvantageous social and economic conditions of Indigenous Peoples as compared to the economic and social conditions of the majority societies in which they live present a barrier to the full exercise of their human rights,” Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, told the U.N. Human Rights Commission on September 17. “Although there is, at both the international and domestic levels, a strong legal and policy foundation upon which to move forward with the implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights, there are still numerous obstacles preventing indigenous peoples from fully enjoying their human rights.”

Tauli-Corpuz replaced the outgoing James Anaya in April.

RELATED: Tauli-Corpuz Named UN Special Rapporteur, Replacing James Anaya

More than a thousand delegates, both indigenous and not, are expected to attend the two-day summit, which begins today. Besides discussing human rights and the implementation of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the conference is bound to incorporate aftereffects from the People’s Climate March, in which Natives from around the world were a front-running presence.

RELATED: Biggest Climate March in History a Watershed Moment for Indigenous Peoples

About 370 million people comprising more than 5,000 distinct groups in 90 countries—five percent or more of the global population—identify as indigenous, according to the U.N.

Besides the main meetings at the U.N., a number of side events are being held. Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change featured notable speakers from Turtle Island, including Crystal Lameman (Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Treaty 6, Canada; Sierra Club Canada), Patricia Gualinga (Kichwa leader; Sarayaku, Ecuador) and Casey Camp-Horinek (Ponca Nation, Actress, Indigenous Environmental Network). Another session, Building Indigenous Knowledge into Climate Change Assessment and Adaptation, dealt with ways in which traditional knowledge can both help in adapting to and mitigating some of the effects of the environmental changes sweeping our planet.

Indigenous People’s place on the frontlines of climate change’s effects was widely recognized, and they helped lead off the People’s Climate March on Sunday September 21.

RELATED: Indigenous Peoples Essential to Climate Movement, March Organizers Say

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U.N. World Conference on Indigenous Peoples Kicks Off on Eve of Climate Summit

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