DUBAI – Leaders of indigenous communities from Indonesia, the Amazon and Congo basins, and Mesoamerica are concerned that they are being excluded from COP28 negotiations in Dubai, as a new report from the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities (GATC), a political platform of indigenous peoples and local communities, shows that donors are struggling to deliver promised climate funds to them.

Speaking at a press conference in Dubai on 5 December, Levi Sucre Romero, a Bribri indigenous leader from Costa Rica and general coordinator of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), one of five organisations that make up the GATC, said: “[While there are] a lot of funds being set up for the protection of nature, […] [a] key issue of concern for us is whether that financing will reach indigenous peoples and local communities on the ground that are doing the work to protect forests and biodiversity in critical ecosystems.”

Romero cites “alarming figures” that reveal that indigenous peoples only received 2.1% of the 2022 funding from a pledge made at COP26 to deliver $1.7bn in financing to support indigenous tenure rights and nature protection efforts.

While UN negotiators debate how to channel trillions of dollars towards climate action during COP28 in Dubai, new research published by GATC shows that funding for communities restoring forests and preventing deforestation tends to “evaporate” before reaching reaching them. This is due to “inadequate, antiquated systems for documenting and delivering development assistance, often sending money for Indigenous Peoples and local communities through third parties”.

Romero said there are a number of topics under discussion at COP28 that he is “worried about”; “above all, the Global Stocktake, which is making invisible indigenous peoples and our narratives.”

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He notes that indigenous peoples are mentioned “very lightly” in the draft text of the Global Stocktake, and where they are mentioned so far, it is only in relation to adaptation. “This situation worries us,” he said.

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Also speaking at the press conference on Tuesday was Kleber Karipuna, an indigenous Karipuna from Brazil, and GATC co-chair and executive coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), a second organisation in the GATC. Karipuna said that while for many years, they have been fighting to become a part of the negotiations at events like COP28, progress on indigenous people’s participation has been “slow”.

Karipuna noted that “countries are making a lot of promises here at this COP”, including the creation of a Forests Forever Fund announced by Brazilian President Lula, which wants to raise funding from the private sector to contribute to the protection of forests.

However, the GATC is “worried that we will not advance in debates on this fund as negotiators, as stakeholders”. As such, on 5 December the GATC called on the delegation of Brazil to “ensure our voices are reflected in the creation of this fund”. Karipuna explained that this meant “recognising our land rights, supporting our efforts to protect nature with direct finance, valuing our ancestral knowledge, and including us in the design and implementation of projects to safeguard vulnerable ecosystems”.

Karipuna also took aim at the fact that oil and gas majors, who are “some of the main negotiators at this COP… are also the main contributors to climate change“.

Sara Omi, an Indigenous Emberá lawyer from Panama and president of the Territorial Women Leaders in the AMPB, also spoke at the COP28 event. She told the audience how her community was “forcibly displaced” by the development of hydroelectric dams, and called on leaders to stop promoting them.

“We need to find a way to repair Mother Earth,” said Omi. “We have to keep raising our voices – to make ourselves heard.”