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Afro-descendant groups demand land rights ahead of COP16 on biodiversity

By Faridat Salifu

Over 25 Afro-descendant organizations have emphasized the inevitable need to prioritize the land rights of communities essential to conservation efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean as the COP 16 UN Biodiversity Conference draws nearer.

The Coalition of Territorial and Environmental Rights for Afro-descendant Peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean, alongside partners such as Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) and Proceso De Comunidades Negras (PCN), released a declaration at a press briefing outlining their recommendations.

The declaration highlights the significant overlap between lands claimed by Afro-descendant communities and biodiversity hotspots, urging the inclusion of Afro-descendant Peoples in key international frameworks such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

According to the statement released, key demands from the coalition include recognition and Inclusion Afro-descendant Peoples must be explicitly included in the CBD and UNFCCC, as well as other international agreements and protocols.

Also, they demanded active participation ensure Afro-descendant communities’ full and objective participation in institutional arrangements for biodiversity programs and related provisions.

Other demand are, formation of a Caucu etablish a Caucus of Afro-descendant Peoples within the CBD to advocate for their specific needs and contributions, compliance with Durban Declaration Uphold the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which addresses racism, racial discrimination, and related intolerances globally.

The demand includes flexible Funding Mechanisms Develop funding mechanisms that directly support Afro-descendant communities in their conservation and environmental efforts, historical Reparations Recognize the need for reparations for the transatlantic slave trade and enslavement, framed within environmental and ethno-racial justice measures and others.

Draft Declarations Ensure these recommendations are included in draft declarations on the rights of Afro-descendant Peoples within the UN and Inter-American systems, promoting participation and prior consultation as per ILO Convention 169.

Francia Marquez, Colombia’s Vice President, underscored the absence of Afro-descendant peoples in major international instruments and called on Brazil to support Colombia in advocating for their inclusion at COP16.

José Luis Rengifo of PCN highlighted the lack of systematic data on Afro-descendant lands, which obscures their contributions to biodiversity protection and climate change mitigation.

Omaira Bolaños of RRI noted that a significant portion of protected areas overlaps with Afro-descendant territories, demonstrating their crucial role in conservation.

Ronaldo dos Santos from Brazil’s Ministry of Racial Equality emphasized that land titling must be accompanied by policies to reduce community vulnerabilities.

José Absalón Suarez of PCN and Barbara Reynolds from the UN Working Group on People of African Descent stressed the need for substantive actions and reparations beyond mere apologies.



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