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Right to self-determination prerequisite for indigenous people attaining climate justice

By Jiten Yumnam, Beverly Longid* 

Our right to self-determination is a tenet of our basic rights and fundamental freedoms as Indigenous Peoples. It reclaims the power to determine our future, self-govern, and manage our lands, waters, and resources. It includes deciding for and protecting our political, economic, social, and cultural life without foreign or outside imposition.
For two weeks the world’s most powerful men, world leaders have gathered at the UNFCCC COP28 to meet and discuss ways towards mitigating the effects of the global climate crisis. In the past negotiations of the previous years we have seen how grassroots organizations have been sidelined in the decision making. Even in spaces supposedly provided for civil-society, our calls and demands have been repressed with certain “regulations” that in reality attempt to kick our calls into the shadows. 
While continuously being sidelined, we assert in upholding our stand. We hold that our right to self-determination means recognizing and respecting autonomy to decide the pace of our own socio-economic progress that aligns with indigenous values of sustainability and is beneficial to the community in the long term. It means preserving indigenous knowledge systems and practices, language, and art to contribute to the goals of environmental protection. It means land and forest rights, resource management, and land stewardship to stop ecosystem destruction. This has been our assertion for centuries, dating back to the periods of colonization and present imperialist incursions.
But the global monopoly capitalist system fueled by the most powerful corporations and states outright violates our right to self-determination by erasing our representation and consent as they control the world’s resources and intrude on our territories through policies that serve profit motives to further accumulate capital and power.
We are witnessing the most brutal assault against us with the genocidal war against the Palestinians, continuing occupation and forced displacements, dictatorship, and state militarism that have inflamed human rights violations in Burma, Bangladesh, West Papua, India, Kenya, Philippines, and Latin America.
And these same wealthy governments, which have endangered our existence with tons of carbon emissions, irreversible destruction and plunder of the environment, and loss of biodiversity, are the same ones who dominate in and outside COP negotiations.
We once again see the failure to genuinely address these root problems that cause climate catastrophe. Like past COP negotiations, this year’s COP28 has been business as usual flooded by corporate and fossil fuel lobbyists, and has resulted in flimsy lip-service to address the climate crisis.
All the empty promises, indecisiveness, weak and stalled commitments, greenwashing, colonial conservation, and market-based climate solutions highly influenced by corporate agendas only expose how they continue to deny our enjoyment of our right to self-determination and climate justice.
We, as peoples, have intertwined our lives with our ancestors' lands, our homes, our environment, and our resources. Indigenous peoples’ prime contribution to attaining climate justice is to realize our right to self-determination. And the crisis at hand demands that we no longer ask but declare a commitment to fight and struggle in the name of our communities, our future generations, and our planet.
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*Co-Convenors, International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation

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