Geneva, 26 July 2022 (TDI): The United Nations Office at Geneva spotlighted the importance of the rights of Indigenous people and recognized their role in protecting the planet by sharing the words of the member of the UN SG’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, Archana Soreng.

The office shared a video in which Soreng explains the need for the preservation of the rights of the indigenous communities and the important role they play in protecting the planet and natural resources.

Archana Soreng is an environmental activist who belongs to the indigenous Kharia Tribe in Odisha, India. She is also a Member of the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change.

Soreng stood for her indigenous people and said that the indigenous people should not be the victims of climate policies; they should be the leaders of climate actions.

She not only stood for herself and her individual role as an environmental activist but also the indigenous people and their positive role in protecting the environment.

Soreng’s remarks on the role of indigenous communities 

She said, “Over the years, generations of us indigenous communities have been told that we are underdeveloped, we are savage, we are backward because of our own traditions, because of identities, because of our cultures.”

“It is only now that over the years, we see that the rights of indigenous people, the perspective of indigenous people are being respected which is also incorporated in the IPCC reports,” she added.

She referred to the science-backed 2019 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that recognized the important role of indigenous communities in conserving ecosystems and forests for the first time.

Soreng further said, “It’s important to understand that the indigenous people who are contributing towards climate action to their traditional knowledge and practice to their way of living, who are least polluters, or who have least contributed towards the crisis, are being affected by climate crisis, which again, brings down to the question of justice – like the people who did not do it are being affected and people who are contributing are not supported.”

She added, “For my community, what I see is that because of extractive developmental projects, there has been immense land grabbing, there has been displacement, there has been loss of language and identity crisis of the communities. And in this entire discourse, when there is again, impacts of climate crisis happening, it has been led to a very, very vulnerable position. And I think that’s why it’s really, really important that we recognize the rights of indigenous people over the land, forest and territories and safeguard them so that they are able to contribute towards climate action.”

Concluding remarks

Lastly, concluding her remarks, she said, “For us, young people, it’s very important to embrace identity, to know our traditional knowledge and practices to preserve it, protect it, and advocate for the participation of indigenous people and local communities in the climate decision-making processes, because we are the ones who are most contributing to it (climate action), yet, we are the ones who are most affected by it (climate change).”

“We all can contribute towards climate action because we all are unique. Our voice matters,” she says.

“And you can contribute to climate action in the way you like, in the way you can.”