Volunteer Jo Crouch writes up about her experience in Bonn:
Relaxing with members of the If Not Us Then Who team, Handcrafted filmmakers and Indigenous campaigners in Bonn, Germany after the first week of the UNFCCC climate negotiations is a great way to spend a Saturday evening.
The talks by global leaders at the World Conference Centre addressed all aspects of climate change and what action must be taken in the coming years. On the Sunday, ‘If Not Us Then Who’ held a side event to highlight how indigenous forest communities can contribute to climate solutions, building support for indigenous land rights to be recognised, not only as a human rights issue but as an important factor to combat climate change.
It was an opportunity for international delegates, students and invited guests to unwind and reflect on what we all are fighting for. Indigenous leaders from around the globe shared their stories on how they protect and manage their forests and unique ecosystems, which can often be a deadly battle on the frontline for survival.
The message was clear that we have to recognise these issues and begin to implement a change together, summed up beautifully by Victor Lopez Illescas of the Mesoamerican Alliance of People and Forests (AMPB):
“We do not fight alone; we have friends struggling in other countries. Brothers and sisters, I encourage you to be part of one single struggle for a better and fairer world.”
The event also showcased some of the films made by Handcrafted Films, including a preview of a new film: ‘Costa Rica – A sustainable solution’, that was launched this week. I could not help but feel emotional and a little teary eyed watching them on the big screen and I’m sure I was not the only one.
Something that particularly resonated with me and my own conservation work were the final words from UNFCCC coordinator Nick Nuttall;
“Indigenous peoples have contributed for years to the range of plants and animals we have on this planet by the non-intense management of those natural environments.”
It has been scientifically proven that when indigenous communities manage their own land there is a lower rate of deforestation.
Finally, the evening ended in spontaneous dancing as the international band Mighty Oaks played a surprise concert to finish of the night in high spirits.
After the success of the trip to Bonn, the team now look forward and onto the road to Paris and COP 21, where decision makers can now take into consideration the rights and importance of local communities when debating the future of our climate and forests.