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A Call To Action: The Albuquerque Declaration, 1998

The indigenous peoples of North America sent some 180 delegates, including more than a dozen recognized elders, to share ideas on the impact of climate change to the "Circles of Wisdom. Native Peoples/Native Homelands Climate Change Workshops" sponsored by NASA. The following is a condensed version of their common statement, "The Albuquerque Declaration," which was later tabled at the Conference of the Parties Four at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 2-13, 1998.

As indigenous peoples, we are to begin each day with a prayer, bringing our minds together in thanks for every part of the natural world. We are grateful that each part of our natural world continues to fulfil the responsibilities set for it by our Creator, in an 'unbreakable relationship to each other. As the roles and responsibilities are fulfilled, we are allowed to live our lives in peace. We are grateful for the natural order put in place and regulated by natural laws.

Mother Earth, Father Sky, and all of Creation, from micro-organisms to human, plant, trees, fish, bird, and animal relatives are part of the natural order and regulated by natural laws. Each has a unique role and is a critical part of the whole that is Creation. Each is sacred, respected, and a unique living being with its own right to survive, and each plays an essential role in the survival and health of the natural world.

Because of our relationship with the lands and waters of our natural surroundings, which have sustained us since time immemorial, we carry knowledge and ideas that the world needs today. We know how to live with this land: we have done so for thousands of years.

We express profound concern for the well being of our sacred Mother Earth and Father Sky and the potential consequences of climate imbalance for our indigenous peoples and the significance of these consequences for our communities, our environment, our economies, our cultures and our relationships to the natural order and laws. A growing body of Western scientific evidence now suggests what indigenous peoples have expressed for a long time: life as we know it is in danger.

We can no longer afford to ignore the consequences of this evidence. In June 1997, more than 2,000 U.S. scientists, from over 150 countries, including Nobel Laureates, signed the Scientists Statement on Global Climate Disruption which reads, in part, the "accumulation of greenhouses gases commits the sacred Earth irreversibly to further global climate change and consequent ecological, economic, social and spiritual disruption" (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, December 1995). Climate imbalance will cause the greatest suffering to the indigenous peoples and most pristine ecosystems globally. According to this overwhelming consensus of international scientists, the burning of oil, gas, and coal (fossil fuels) is the primary source of human-induced climate change.

The increasing effects of the indiscriminate use of fossil fuels adds to other adverse impacts on natural forests. Natural forests are critical parts of the ecosystems that maintain global climate stability. The mining and drilling for coal, oil, and gas, as well as other mineral extractions, results in substantial local environmental consequences, including severe degradation of air, forests, rivers, oceans and farmlands. Fossil fuel extraction areas are home to some of Mother Earth's last and most vulnerable indigenous populations, resulting in accelerated losses of biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and ultimately in ethnocide and genocide.

For the future of all the children, for the future of Mother Earth and Father Sky, we call upon the leaders of the world, at all levels of governments, to accept responsibility for the welfare of future generations. Their decisions must reflect their consciousness of the responsibility and they must act on it.

We request that the potential consequences of climate imbalance for indigenous peoples and our environment, economies, culture, place and role in the natural order be addressed by:

  1. Establishing and funding an Inter-sessional Open-ended Working Group for indigenous peoples within the Conference of the parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  2. Provisions for case studies be established within the framework of that Working Group that would allow for assessing how climate change affect different regions of indigenous peoples and local communities, assessing climate changes on flora and fauna, freshwater and oceans, forestry, traditional agricultural practices, medicinal plants and other biodiversity that impact subsistence and land-based cultures of indigenous peoples, and other case studies that would provide a clearer understanding of all effects and impacts of climate change and warming upon indigenous peoples and local communities.
  3. Indigenous participation. Indigenous peoples of North America were invited by neither the United States nor Canada to participate in the negotiations of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. We demand a place at the table of this important international discussion.

Indigenous peoples have the right, responsibility and expertise to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making including needs assessments, case studies, within national and international policy-making activities concerning climate change impacts, causes and solutions. They need to help establish protocols that would actively promote international energy efficient and sustainable forms of development, including the widespread use of appropriately scaled solar energy and renewable energy technologies as well as sustainable agricultural and forestry practice models; exploration and development in the traditional territories of indigenous peoples of the world must be done with the full consent of indigenous peoples, respecting their right to decline a project that may adversely impact them. Where destruction has already occurred, there should be a legally binding obligation to restore all areas already affected by oil, gas, and coal exploration,. This restoration must be done such that indigenous peoples an continue traditional use of their lands.


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