Transforming our relation with nature – Indigenous Peoples’ role for a healthy and just planet
Rights and Resources Initiative
26 .07. 2022  
7 minutes read
Panellist (and interpreters) of the “Transforming our Relation with Land and Nature from an Intergenerational Perspective -Indigenous Peoples’ role for a healthy and just planet 2072” dialogue during the A day at Sida, Stockholm+50 associated event. Photo by Johan Blomborg /

On a global level, living in harmony with nature is gaining traction – be it as part of the principles within the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development or as the vision of global policy processes like the Convention on Biological Diversity. Yet, there is still a long way to go and hundreds of speakers at Stockholm+50 have called for real commitment to action. The planetary climate, biodiversity, and inequality crisis is underpinned by global political economic architecture that is built on exploitation, the privatization of gains, and the socialization of all the unsustainable costs and impacts that the system generates. On a local level, Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPs and LCs) have long established sustainable land use practices, and are widely considered as stewards of nature contributing to a healthy and just planet. 

This Stockholm+50-associated event aimed to highlight the role and importance of IPs and LCs in safeguarding the world’s forests, ecosystems, and biodiversity. The event was one of three collaborative events held on June 1st at Sida ahead of Stockholm+50, co-arranged by Sida, The Tenure Facility, SwedBio, Rights and Resource Initiative, and Focali – SIANI Dialogue Forum. 

The event was opened by Joan Carling, Global Director of the Indigenous Peoples Rights International and Solange Bandiaky-Badji, Coordinator and President of the Rights and Resources Initiative, highlighting the importance of rights, recognition, and access to justice for IPs and LC’s in their role as stewards of nature. 

It was emphasized that a human rights-based approach has the potential not only to safeguard environmental and human rights defenders on the frontlines but also the ecosystems, forests, and biodiversity they protect. This shows that nature protection and human rights are not mutually exclusive but are, in reality, inherently intertwined.

Joan Carling, Global Director, The Indigenous Peoples Rights International and the moderator Alain Frechette, Director Strategic Analysis and Global Engagement, Rights and Resources Initiative. Photo by Johan Blomborg /

This strong entry to the event was followed by a powerful panel discussion starring diverse Indigenous representatives from across the globe. What became evident was that IPs and LCs in the Ecuadorian Amazon, like Nemonte Nenquimo from the Waorani people, face similar land rights issues as the Sámi in Sweden. IPs’ and LCs’ rights violations are not just an issue in the so-called global South but also in the global North, leaving IPs and LCs affected worldwide. This common denominator was a striking point. As much as climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution are now global in scope and repercussions, so are the lack of rights and inadequate inclusion of IPs and LCs in land use decisions impairing global efforts to appropriately address these challenges. In addition to sharing the experiences of their communities in India, Peru, Ecuador, and Sweden, the panel of Indigenous leaders also shared what they and their communities are doing to fight back against the violence and discrimination that affect their rights and their ability to sustainably steward their lands, including what others can do about it.

Archana Soreng, Khadia Tribe, Member of UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group On Climate Change and Climate Activist from India. Photo by Johan Blomborg /

Archana Soreng, Member of the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change and climate activist from India reminded us about the healing process from past rights violations of IPs and LCs.

“When we talk about meaningful leadership, it is important to go back to acknowledge the injustice done on a local level. Only then can we have meaningful participation from Indigenous Peoples.”


It becomes evident that the past forms the present and that the present will shape the future. While youth are often portrayed as the future, we cannot forget to include IP and LC youth in the present. Sara-Elvira Kuhmunen, President for Sáminuorra, the Sámi national youth organization in the Swedish part of Sápmi, calls on governments to make this full and effective inclusion a reality. A reality where IPs and LCs are not only included in decision-making processes but also where their land and resource rights are fully recognized and given precedent at local, regional, and national levels.

“I want to tell the government that Indigenous rights are human rights. We want to be included in the decisions attached to our lands and resources. We want to give our faith to the youth for our future.


From left to right: Anoshka Violeta Irey Cameno, Member of the Harabukt peoples, from the native community of Masenawa in Peru and member of the board of Fenamad, Sara-Elvira Kuhmunen, President for Sáminuorra the Sámi national youth organization in the Swedish part of Sápmi and Nemonte Nenquimo, Co-Founder, Ceibo Alliance and Amazon Frontlines, Indigenous leader from the Waorani people, Ecuadorian Amazon. Photo by Johan Blomborg /

IPs and LCs have constructive and clear demands and concrete suggestions on collaborating  with governments to effectively implement strategies to halt the ongoing global climate and biodiversity crises. In relation to this, the IPCC’s Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report states that governance that prioritizes equity and justice in climate adaptation planning and implementation leads to more effective and sustainable adaptation outcomes. The panel even introduced inclusive examples on how to support IPs’ and LCs’ land rights and agency, and in doing so accelerate a global transformation towards a more just, resilient, and sustainable future. Based on her reality as a member of the Harabukt Peoples in Masenawa Peru, Anoshka Violeta Irey Cameno, member of the board of Fenamad, has concrete suggestions for governments:

“I would ask the government the following: First, I would ask for an Indigenous Peoples Ministry to be established. Second for a territory of security and for territorial integrity.”


What all panelists describe as essential is their ability to organize within their communities to advance transformative change, often under the threat of  violence, land grabs, and persistent  injustices. And yet they continue putting their lives on the line daily, both to protect nature and to make others realize that nature does not need to be protected, but respected. Nemonte Nenquimo, an Indigenous leader of the Waorani people of the Ecuadorian Amazon and co-founder of Ceibo Alliance and Amazon Frontlines, clearly articulates what’s at stake and the need for shared solidarity in the absence of strong political will:

“Policymakers will not save our territory. It is up to all of us, to all of you – we shouldn’t be the only ones sacrificing if we want our children to have a better future”


Nemonte Nenquimo, Co-Founder, Ceibo Alliance and Amazon Frontlines, Indigenous leader from the Waorani people, Ecuadorian Amazon. Photo by Johan Blomborg /

After the strong messages shared by the panel of rightsholders, two representatives of donors and duty-bearers joined the panel to answer what members of the international community can do as key allies in the advancement,  protection,  and fulfillment of IP and LC rights. Jenny Lopez, Land Governance Adviser Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (UK), on behalf of the IP and LC Forest Tenure Pledge donor group, and Emma Norrstad Tickner, Programme Manager Sida, Global Portfolio on Land Rights spoke to these issues.

From a donor perspective, they acknowledged that it is not the scaling up of funds that will have the most significant impact, but rather the direct and sensitive allocation of funds locally. COP26 was an example of a basic first step toward international recognition of the importance of IP and LC voices and rights, but more action is urgently needed. Jenny Lopez highlighted the donors’ responsibility to recognize that ​​funding is neither adequate nor effectively reaching IP and LC communities on the ground. She suggests donors work with pledges where they report back to communities on their annual progress. This way donors can contribute to creating a platform for transparency and accountability of donor activities.

Emma Norrstad Tickner also recalled the vision of Stockholm+50 and responded to the panelists’ shared call for action.

“The main title of Stockholm+50 is a healthy planet and prosperity for all and it is our true responsibility to listen to you in all decisions moving forward. It is our responsibility to amplify the messages you conveyed here. And it is our responsibility to support and protect you as environmental defenders.”


Emma Norrstad Tickner, Programme Manager Sida, Global Portfolio on Land Rights. Photo by Johan Blomborg /

To sum up the event, Nonette Royo, Executive Director of the Tenure Facility provided concluding remarks and highlighted the existing potential for collaboration and synergies.

We’ve heard what IPs and LCs, real stewards of nature have said. We know they mean it, they’ve been doing it for us – we must help them out there in the frontline, support with finances, with land rights.”


By the end of the event, diverse groups mingled and huddled up across the venue to connect and discuss the messages from the panel. The co-organizers of this event highly recommend re-watching this panel. This way one can witness the strong messages for our common future shared by Indigenous Peoples and Environmental Human Rights defenders, who live and walk the talk literally on the frontlines to safeguard vital ecosystems and biodiversity in their territories. 

Interested in receiving notifications about new blog posts? Subscribe to The Land Writes Blog now to get new posts delivered right to your inbox.

Subscribe to this blog
To receive new articles directly in your inbox
Subscribe Now!
Subscribe to the RRI mailing list
to receive new articles directly in your inbox
Subscribe Now!
Subscribe to the Gender Justice Digest
to receive new articles directly in your inbox
Subscribe Now!