Pursuing an Indigenous Platform: Exploring Opportunities and Constraints for Indigenous Participation in the UNFCCC

2019 February 5

Belfer, E., Ford, J.D., Maillet, M., Aaros, M. and Flynn, M. (2019). Pursuing and Indigenous Platform: Exploring Opportunities and Constraints for Indigenous Participation in the UNFCCCGlobal Environmental Politics, article online.

Despite growing consensus that Indigenous peoples, knowledge systems, rights and solutions should be meaningfully included in international climate change governance, substantive improvements in practice remain limited. An expanding body of scholarship examines the evolving discursive space in which issues facing Indigenous peoples are treated, with a predominant focus on decision outcomes of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). To understand the opportunities and constraints for meaningful participation of Indigenous peoples in international climate policy making, this article examines the experiences of Indigenous participants in the UNFCCC. We present findings from semistructured interviews with key informants, showing that material constraints and the designation of Indigenous peoples as nonstate observers continue to pose challenges for participants. Tokenism and a lack of meaningful recognition further constrain participation. Nevertheless, networks of resource sharing, coordination, and support organized among Indigenous delegates alleviate some of the impacts of constraints. Additionally, multistakeholder alliances and access to presidencies and high-level state delegates provide opportunities for international and national agenda-setting. The space available for Indigenous participation in the UNFCCC is larger than formal rules dictate but depends on personal relationships and political will. As the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform established by the Paris Agreement formalizes a distinct space for Indigenous participants in the UNFCCC, this article outlines existing opportunities and constraints and considers potential interactions between the evolving platform and existing mechanisms for participation.

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