Indigenous peoples bring solutions to global water conference

For the first time, a forum within a major United Nations water conference was dedicated to indigenous peoples on 6 June. The forum was part of the Second High-Level International Conference on the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development, 2018–2028, which took place in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, from 6 to 9 June. The conference had been convened to lay the groundwork for the mid-term review of the decade next year.

As part of this exercise, participants in the Forum of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities on the Water Action Decade initiated the development of a roadmap which will channel the concerns of indigenous peoples about the state of water resources, as well as their insights and wisdom with regard to the peaceful coexistence of nature and society, into the mid-term review of the decade.

UNDP, UNESCO, FAO and UNEP jointly hosted this half-day forum, which included participants from Siberia, Central Asia, South and South East Asia, Southern Africa, Latin America and beyond. Two indigenous women from Mexico facilitated the forum, Yolanda Lopez Maldonado and Tania Martinez Cruz, an Ayuuk woman from the Oaxaca region.

Participants emphasised that they were living with climate change and that everything was connected. When we speak about water policy, they said, it needs to be harmonised with other policies dealing with biodiversity, ecosystems, climate adaptation and mitigation, along with economic development, energy production and equality between men and women. Speakers highlighted the need to involve more indigenous peoples in the design, delivery and oversight of development programmes, in order to ensure that governance and programme implementation are not only effective but also culturally appropriate.