Indigenous Communities and Green Economy

Indigenous delegates in the UN General Assembly Hall at the opening of the twelfth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous IssuesTo mark the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has drawn attention to the vital role played by indigenous communities – who represent 5 per cent of the global population – in achieving inclusive sustainable development.

“From traditional and low-impact ways of conserving food to sustainable management of wildlife areas, indigenous peoples play a vital role in the mosaic of cultures and communities at the cutting edge of sustainability and the world-wide efforts towards an inclusive Green Economy,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“UNEP is seeking to further amplify the voice of indigenous communities in environmental governance and to bring forward to world attention the centuries-old knowledge, cost-effective technologies and experience of working with rather than against nature that offers a treasure trove of inspiring principles and practical actions for the rest of humanity,” added Mr. Steiner.

Under the theme Indigenous Peoples building alliances: honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements, the 2013 International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples will highlight the need to integrate the role of indigenous peoples in policy-making, and to highlight the achievements of such communities in supporting sustainable development.

Environmental degradation and rapid socio-economic changes are posing major challenges to the traditional way of life of many indigenous peoples. In Ecuador’s Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, for example, the livelihoods and environment of the Tagaeri and Taromenane communities are being threatened by the impacts of extractive industries in the region.

Overall, indigenous communities form a disproportionate amount of the world’s poor.

Last year, UNEP released A Partnership in caring for the Environment – a guide for policymakers on how to promote and sustain continued dialogue with Indigenous Peoples, and to ensure their participation in development and environmental projects.

Since 2000, UNEP has organized a yearly Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF) in conjunction with its Governing Council / Global Ministerial Environment Forum. The event provides a platform for indigenous communities, youth, faith groups, and other civil society organizations to participate in environmental decision-making.

As part of this year’s World Environment Day, which was held under the theme Think.Eat.Save – Reduce Your Foodprint, UNEP highlighted traditional techniques used by indigenous communities across the world to reduce food waste.

From ‘borts’ eaten by Mongolia’s traditional herdsmen – which involves drying and shrinking beef into a fist-sized portion for slicing into soups – to the milk powder created by Kenya’s Turkana community by drying fermented milk on hot rocks, these centuries-old practices show unique ways of reducing the 1.3 billion tonnes of food currently lost or wasted around the world each year.

Notes to Editors

UNEP’s Major Groups and Stakeholders Branch:

UNEP’s Indigenous Peoples’ Policy Guidance:

The World Indigenous Television Broadcasting Conference: