Statement of the Indigenous People Major Group at the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly

Delivered by Ms. Edna Kaptoyo


Statement from the Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group, the Fourth UN Assembly on Environment

UNEP Headquarters, Nairobi Kenya March 11-15 ,2019.

Statement read by Edna Kaptoyo


Thank you chair.

I am making this statement on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group.

UNEA-4 is a significant opportunity for indigenous peoples and we welcome the focus thematic ‘Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production and we are keen on listening to government delegates on commitment to make contribution towards sustainable future.

We congratulate Ms Inger Andersen appointment as the new UNEP Executive Director and acknowledge our commitment to work together.

Indigenous peoples have always regarded our health and wellbeing as intrinsically linked to our natural environment. We have thereby nurtured our territories not only for our health and wellbeing but also for our culture, self determination, collective survival and that of the future generation. As Indigenous Peoples, our homes are found in 70 countries and our territories is about 18% of the world’s total land with Eighty percent (80%) of the world’s remaining forest biodiversity in indigenous peoples territories—which is not coincidental but rather linked to our conservation and sustainable resource management systems.  and we have developed profound traditional knowledge, practices and innovations in managing and conserving our resources. Having these and as custodians of biodiversity and protectors of our territories that does not only benefit our communities but society in general, indigenous peoples are strong allies in the needed tasks that lay ahead of us.

However, our lands and resources are being faced by the threat of deforestation, biodiversity loss, climate change and land grabbing due to concessions for mining and the extractive industries, large hydro-­­power dams, monocrop plantations, commercial agriculture that are dependent on toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, among others. Further, our traditional and indigenous knowledge are completely undermined, weakened and disregarded as critical elements in our sustainable resource management systems that is benefitting humanity, as we lose our lands , resources and our food systems. When we oppose these unsustainable systems and projects and assert our rights to our lands, territories and resources, we are subjected to different forms of human rights violations including arbitrary arrests and detention, and political killings. According to Global Witness, majority of those killed for defending the environment are from indigenous peoples. We didn’t ask for these, more so, have not been part in decision making which makes us victims of unjust development and systemic discrimination.

The Indigenous Peoples Major Group recommends the following to UNEA towards a sustainable future:

1. Recognize the indigenous peoples traditional knowledge, practice and innovations as equal to scientific knowledge and the land and resource tenure rights and sustainable resource management systems of indigenous peoples and integrate these as essential elements in addressing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, plastic, ocean noise and chemical pollution, loss of biodiversity and other environmental stressors and in achieving sustainable development for all ;

2. Strongly call for the inclusion of our traditional knowledge and indicators in the global assessments. Traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and indicators can be instrumental in monitoring and setting indicators to address unsustainable consumption and production issues from our perspective.

3. Take action to ensure the protection of environment defenders and the establishment of effective redress mechanisms and rights-based approach to guarantee the accountability of human rights violators including the private sector;

 4. Address the systemic causes of unsustainable way of production and consumption and its linkages to economic domination and the adverse social impacts, marginalization and dis-­­empowerment of the majority including indigenous peoples.

5. Governments need to create opportunities for Indigenous peoples to inform policy agendas and priorities, and finally;

5. We would like to recommend that the UN Environment consider making creation of a dedicated fund within UNEA system to make possible the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in the processes of UNEA.

We wish the assembly a fruitful deliberation.


Thank you.