This April, the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network travelled to New York City to advocate at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) Twenty-second Session. As part of our advocacy efforts we participated in critical dialogues, met with partners, and hosted events highlighting the strategies and solutions of Indigenous women leaders.
Additionally, we are releasing a set of recommendations to the UNPFII and calls to action for governments, financial institutions, and corporations regarding respecting Indigenous rights and self-determination. Please continue down this page to read our recommendations in full and find recordings of WECAN events at the UNPFII.
Calls to Action from the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network to
the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 2023
From the frontlines of the climate and biodiversity crises to the halls of international forums, Indigenous women leaders are advancing Indigenous and human rights, protecting global biodiversity, and defending our global climate.
This year during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues twenty-second session, Indigenous nations, governments, and civil society converged to focus on the theme of “Indigenous Peoples, human health, planetary and territorial health and climate change: a rights-based approach”.
The most recent IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report has made clear that human-caused climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. The window for mitigating global warming to 1.5 degrees is closing swiftly, and a critical key to unlocking much needed climate solutions is ensuring the rights and leadership of Indigenous women and their communities.
Over 80% of remaining global biodiversity left on earth is under the stewardship and protection of Indigenous peoples, with several studies confirming that Indigenous rights and sovereignty are key to addressing the climate crisis.
Coupled with the effects of deforestation and the climate crisis, Indigenous peoples are often persecuted for speaking out in defense of their territories. In a report by Frontline Defenders , 401 human rights defenders were killed in 2022, 48% of which were killed for their work to defend the environment, land, and Indigenous Peoples’ rights.
Within this context, Indigenous women bear an even heavier burden from the impacts of climate change and extractive industries because of the historic and continuing impacts of colonialism, racism and patriarchy. Additionally, several studies have noted the connection between fossil fuel extraction and the epidemic of Missing Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit relatives, which brings violence to the land and communities.
Yet, Indigenous women are also often the 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.
The Traditional Ecological Knowledge of agriculture, seeds and biodiversity held by Indigenous women is indispensable for confronting climate change, even as Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately harmed by fossil fuel development, deforestation, extractive industries and climate impacts. In every step of the Just Transition, the rights of Indigenous Peoples must be upheld and the leadership of Indigenous Peoples respected.
The UNPFII is a vital international forum for Indigenous women facing various violations; threats to their very survival; 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 forum and parallel events are a key opportunity to have their voices, responses, calls to action, and solutions heard by the public, media, and government representatives.
During the UNPFII, we continue to call on governments, financial institutions, and corporations to:
Uphold all treaties with Indigenous Peoples and immediately halt the violation of treaty rights. Defend Indigenous Peoples’ rights to inhabit traditional lands undisturbed by industrial projects and extractive industries.
Respect and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent in all cases.
Prioritize Indigenous Peoples’ decision-making power at the national and international levels.
Learn from and follow Indigenous and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.
Invest in Indigenous People’s global leadership to protect and promote healthy relationships with life-sustaining ecosystems.
Additionally, it is imperative to center Indigenous rights and sovereignty as key to policies and practices within the Just Transition movement. Corporate greenwashing practices and mining for minerals are leading to violations of Indigenous rights and sovereignty, while corporate land grabs for false solutions continue to proliferate. Ensuring a rights-based approach and adhering to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a key step in stopping colonial practices that will only further harm Indigenous communities, destroy key biodiversity, and accelerate the climate crisis.
WECAN is as dedicated as ever to supporting frontline women at critical international events and advocacy opportunities, like the UNPFII, because we know that the leadership of Indigenous women is more essential now than ever as we face the need for rapid, transformative action and urgent implementation of policies and programs that support a healthy and equitable future.
Indigenous Women Upholding Indigenous Rights and Knowledge,
and Leading Climate Solutions
Wednesday, April 19
During this formal side event at the UNPFII we hosted two panels in which global Indigenous women leaders discussed the impacts of fossil fuels, deforestation, and the climate crisis in their communities and how they are implementing solutions, practicing traditional knowledge systems, upholding Indigenous rights, and advancing policies and practices of care and climate justice.
Panel ONE Speakers included:
Xiye Bastida (Otomi-Toltec) | Co-founder and Board, Re-earth Initiative, Turtle Island/USA
Yasso Kanti Bhattachan (Thakali) | Founding Member and the Vice Chair of the National Indigenous Women’s Forum (NIWF), Nepal
Ruth Łchav’aya K’isen Miller (Curyung Tribe of Dena’ina Athabaskan) | Indigenous Climate Activist, Turtle Island/USA
Claire Charlo (Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes) | Indigenous Feminisms Organizer, Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Turtle Island/USA
Panel moderation and comments by Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN Executive Director
Panel TWO Speakers included:
Josefina Tunki (Shuar) | First Woman President of the Shuar Arutam Organization (PSHA), Ecuador
President Whitney Gravelle (Bay Mills Indian Community)| President and Executive Council Bay Mills Indian Community, Chair of the Department of Interior’s Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee and Commissioner on the Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, Turtle Island/USA
Majo Andrade Cerda (Kichwa) | Young leader of the Kichwa People of Napo, Land is Life’s Latin America Program Assistant, Ecuador
Michelle Woodhouse (Métis Nation, manitou sakhahigan, Lac Ste. Anne) | Water Program Manager, Environmental Defence, Toronto, Turtle Island/Canada
Panel moderation and comments by Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN Executive Director
Uplifting Women Human Rights Defenders and Advancing the Escazú Agreement
Thursday, April 20
During this virtual event, women environmental and human rights defenders, policy makers, and feminist advocates will highlight the challenges women in all of their diversity face in securing human and Indigenous rights, gaining access to information, public participation, access to justice and protecting land, territories and communities in the context of implications and opportunities women have as part of the Escazú Agreement. Grassroots, regional and international organizations will share their calls to action for ensuring women and human rights, and the protection of biodiverse regions in Latin America and the Caribbean, while also advocating for the implementation of the Escazú Agreement for women. This event is a formal side event of the Escazu COP2.
Co-hosts include: Proyecto Regional de Transformación Social-Ecológica en América Latina de la Fundación Friederich-Ebert (FES), Reacción Climática, Women's Earth and climate Action Network (WECAN), Mujeres Amazónicas Defensoras de la Selva, Comunicación y educación ambiental e Iniciativa de Acceso México, CIEDUR, Women's major group of UNEP, LACEMOS.
Indigenous Women from North America Defending Biodiversity,
Human Rights, and our Global Climate
Thursday, April 20
During this virtual event held in parallel to the UNPFII, Indigenous women leaders addressed a variety of topics, highlighting how Indigenous women are leading efforts to uphold Indigenous rights and sovereignty, including the right of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) with the aim of advocating to global governments and financial institutions that respecting Indigenous knowledge, ways of life, and FPIC, and the right to say “no” to continued extraction, is paramount to addressing the global climate and environmental crises. Speakers also presented solutions grounded in Indigenous knowledge and expertise for protecting and defending communities and Mother Earth.
Eriel Tchekwie Deranger (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation) | Executive Director of Indigenous Climate Action, Canada
Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation) | Tribal Attorney and Founder of Giniw Collective, Line 3 pipeline Resistance Leader, Turtle Island, USA
Dr. Crystal A Cavalier, Ed.D, MPA (Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation) | Co-Founder, 7 Directions of Service, Turtle Island, USA
Monique Verdin (Houma Nation) | WECAN Food Sovereignty Program Coordinator in the Gulf South, Director of Land Memory Bank & Seed Exchange, Turtle Island, USA
Jannan J. Cornstalk (Citizen of Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians) | Director Water is Life Festival, Turtle Island, USA
Moderation and Comments by Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN Executive Director