In the context of the UN Indigenous Forum and as part of the Leave No One Behind series, ATD Fourth World convened a dialogue to listen to the expertise and knowledge of indigenous peoples in relation to the sustainable development agenda.
With opening remarks offered by two indigenous leaders, Mr. Rune Fjellheim, Director General of the Sámi Parliament of Norway and Mr. Armindo Goes Melo, Secretary General of the Hutukara Yanomami Association of Brazil, the dialogue made very clear that participation of indigenous peoples in the fora where decisions that affect their communities are made is crucial: “without dialogue, there is a risk of leaving people behind”, said Mr Fjellheim. After a long struggle for political recognition that peaked with the opposition to the construction of a power plant, the Sámi Parliament was created in 1989.
While indigenous peoples are recognized in the Brazilian constitution – said Mr. Melo – they have to be recognized “in living words and in action.”
Participants agreed that mining, extractive industries, electric plants and waterways are among the most pressing problems they are facing.
Speakers were deeply concerned about the impact of climate change in their very fragile ecosystems: the Artic and the Amazonia. Indigenous peoples have contributed very little to the depletion of resources; yet, they are most affected by environmental degradation. They are also very aware of the inability and lack of preparation of most governments to deal with health problems and well-being issues that will arise as a consequence.
Indigenous groups from the Amazonia are working towards creative solutions but very often they are seen as criminals and have to fight against discrimination.
With their profound knowledge of nature and the understanding of the connection between lands, languages, cultures and all forms of well-being indigenous people have a lot to contribute to the 2030 Agenda.
The dialogue concluded with a chant led by Mr. Melo. Yanomami people use this chant when faced with a challenge.