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Indigenous Women and Indigenous Rights are Central to Solutions of Interlocking Crises

Globally Indigenous women play a crucial role in climate action and biodiversity conservation. Stewarding 80% of biodiversity remaining on the planet, Indigenous peoples are on the frontlines of protecting and defending the very web of life, and therefore it is imperative to recognize and support Indigenous peoples' self-determination and rights, specifically the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) as outlined by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Within this context, Indigenous women are crucial backbones of their communities, knowledge keepers of the forest, leaders of resistance efforts to defend their lands and waters, and innovators of many critical community-led climate solutions, and their rights must be ensured as they act to safeguard the environment and advance impactful climate solutions. 

This year during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues' Twenty-Third Session, Indigenous nations, governments, and civil society are converging to focus on the theme of, “Enhancing Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Self-determination in the Context of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Emphasizing the Voices of Indigenous Youth.” The UNPFII is a vital international forum for Indigenous women facing various violations; threats to their very survival; violence against their bodies; the destruction of their territories; and the effects these egregious actions have on communities, water, forests, and the global climate. It is also an important platform to demonstrate the many solutions globally that Indigenous women are leading. The Permanent Forum is a key opportunity to have their voices, responses, calls to action, and solutions heard by the public, media, and government representatives. For this session, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) would like to highlight three important topics for the UNPFII to consider for their recommendations to the UN Member States. 

I. Indigenous Women: The Heart of Climate Solutions

Indigenous women play a pivotal role in biodiversity protection and climate solutions due to their unique knowledge, perspectives, and practices rooted in Indigenous cultures, science, and traditions. Their connection to the land, water, and biodiversity enables them to provide invaluable insights into ecological protections and resilience-building strategies and solutions. Indigenous women possess traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) passed down through generations, which offers holistic approaches to environmental stewardship and adaptation to changing climates.

Furthermore, Indigenous women often hold key positions within their communities, serving as decision-makers, educators, and caretakers of cultural heritage. Their leadership is integral to mobilizing communities towards sustainable practices and advocating for Indigenous rights in climate policy arenas. Supporting Indigenous women strengthens the resilience of Indigenous communities and enhances the effectiveness of climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives for the entire global community. 

We recommend that the UNPFII consider how Indigenous women, and gender diverse leaders, can be better represented and centered across all decision-making bodies of the UN, specifically how there can be assurances that Indigenous women leaders be directly included at decision-making tables at the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

II. Indigenous Rights and Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as Climate and Biodiversity Solutions

The recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights, including the principle of FPIC, are fundamental to climate and biodiversity solutions. Indigenous peoples' rights to self-determination and decision-making in their territories are enshrined in international agreements such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Upholding these rights not only respects Indigenous sovereignty but also fosters regenerative practices essential for climate resilience.

Following the UAE Consensus established at the UNFCCC COP28, which included a call for governments to transition away from fossil fuels, there is a need for a diverse array of visions, projects, reports, frameworks, and strategies to build a healthy and equitable world. However, governments continue to move forward with dangerous extractive projects for fossil fuels, which are violating Indigenous and human rights. 

Additionally, as UN Member States call for a Just Transition, there are serious concerns about the mining and processing of transition minerals, which can contribute to many adverse impacts including the violation of Indigenous rights and sovereignty and further harm to vital ecosystems.

FPIC can be a solution to stop environmental degradation and harms related to extractive activities, while also ensuring and protecting the sovereignty and rights of Indigenous peoples when it comes to extractive projects and activities. FPIC ensures that Indigenous communities have the right to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lands, territories, and resources. By respecting FPIC, governments and corporations can avoid harmful projects that degrade ecosystems, disrupt traditional livelihoods, and exacerbate climate change. Integrating and specifically implementing FPIC into climate and biodiversity policies promotes more equitable and inclusive approaches to conservation and development, enhancing social and environmental justice.

We recommend that the UNPFII uplift and work to enforce FPIC and the rights of Indigenous peoples through all UN bodies, with all Member States, and with affiliated institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. 

III. Protecting Women Land Defenders: Safeguarding Environmental and Human Rights

Women land defenders face disproportionate risks and violence as they defend their territories against extractive industries, deforestation, and land grabbing. These defenders play a vital role in safeguarding both environmental and human rights, often facing intimidation, harassment, and even assassination for their activism. 

Protecting women land defenders is essential for upholding Indigenous rights, environmental conservation, and gender equality. Governments must strengthen legal frameworks and law enforcement mechanisms to prevent violence against women land defenders and ensure justice for those who face threats. Furthermore, providing support networks, resources, and training for women land defenders enhances their capacity to advocate for Indigenous rights and sustainable land management practices.

We recommend that the UNPFII advocate for the protections of women land defenders at the Commission on the Status of Women, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and other relevant UN bodies that are central in protecting the rights of women and advancing gender-responsive policies. We recommend that there be systems of justice and accountability implemented to ensure these protections.


Indigenous women are indispensable leaders in climate solutions, embodying resilience, wisdom, and determination in the face of environmental challenges. By recognizing their central role, upholding Indigenous rights, including FPIC, and protecting women land defenders, policymakers can advance climate and biodiversity solutions that are equitable, just, and sustainable. Supporting Indigenous women is not only a matter of rights but a pathway to a more harmonious relationship between humanity and the natural world.



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