Indigenous Peoples demands Rights in Paris Climate Accord and end to False Solutions


During the COP21 climate talks in Paris, Indigenous Peoples from the Arctic to the Amazon and their allies have continually gathered to demand genuine climate change solutions: which to be truly effective must include both the recognition and protection of Indigenous Rights in the operative, legally binding text of the draft Paris Accord, and the application of bottom-up initiatives originating in Indigenous knowledge, culture, and spirituality.

It seems, however, that these powerful objections/demonstrations have been totally ignored – as the first week of negotiations closed on Friday with the language concerning the traditional knowledge and rights of Indigenous Peoples being “annexed” (meaning they’re not completely in the draft agreement, nor are they fully excluded), rendering their future inclusion highly questionable.  On top of this, a proposal was tabled to have the language referencing ‘Human Rights’ removed from the legally binding text as well.

Indigenous delegates have found this appalling, especially as it has been led by the EU and Norway [1]: international parties who are usually at the forefront of human rights and combating climate change.  Should this decision become permanent and codified into law, it will drag Indigenous Peoples’ hard work back over 30 years – as the language that was annexed from the Paris Accord has already been agreed on and/or ratified by nearly every state involved in the COP21 negotiations via the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) [3], which is the absolute minimum standard for the survival, dignity and well-being of the world’s Indigenous Peoples.

What makes this decision even more incomprehensible is that in opposing the inclusion of Indigenous Rights language, the EU is going against their own recently adopted 2015-2019 Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, which includes a paragraph on strengthening “EU policy on Indigenous peoples in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples and the outcome document of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.”

This has led many to believe that this kind of double speak occurring at the negotiations arises from concerns about potential legal liability if climate change is judged to have violated those Indigenous and Human rights – particularly with regard to the international TTIP agreement, which would see companies given the authority to sue local governments/council if their blocking of industrial development permits results in ‘loss of profits’ – for example, with the blockage of fracking permits.

As we have seen in the UK and elsewhere around the EU, industrial development such as fracking, and agreements like TTIP pose a threat not just Indigenous Peoples, but humanity as a whole.

These events made the all-indigenous flotilla of kayaks action on Sunday afternoon all the more poignant and necessary where, following the stunning visuals of Indigenous art and the kayaks floating down the canals of Paris, a press conference was held featuring Indigenous leaders from the Americas offering real solutions to stave off the worst of climate change and protect Mother Earth – solutions these communities have long been the arbiters and innovators of, which take into account the impacts on the human rights of all.
And so, for this second week of negotiations in Paris, Indigenous delegates are calling on their allies to push the parties involved in direct negotiations to reverse the damaging decision to remove Indigenous and Human Rights from the Paris Accord, thereby taking steps to ensure the climate change movement goes forwards, not backward.


Co-written with Jennifer Huseman; Project Researcher at the Human Rights Consortium, and member of IAGS.

[1] Amongst others, such as the United States.

[2] This has meant Indigenous representatives have had to reach out to other states, such as Mexico and the Philippines for support.

[3] Additionally, Norway , Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands ratified ILO 69 (Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention) which has also been violated during the negotiations this week.

[4] See paragraph ‘12/C’ at:


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