Pacific Representatives unite to voice traditional knowledge discourse at First Peoples forum
First nation representatives from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea (PNG) as a lead up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 27, participated in the inaugural Oceania First People’s Forum hosted by the Girringun Aboriginal Corporation and supported by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).
As stewards of a vast biodiversity area, first nations representatives also used this opportunity to establish networks and learn how each apply nature-based solutions, traditional knowledge, and governance, to sustainably manage natural resources and enhance their ability to adapt and be more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
The overarching message clear, the voices of indigenous communities can help to rebalance the global climate system, but only if their voices are respected and integrated into the resilience discourse.
Mr. Seru Moce, of Mali, Macuata in Fiji, and co-chair of the Qoliqoli Cokovata Management Committee - who are traditional owners of the third largest barrier reef in the southern hemisphere, shared how his community uses traditional knowledge and daily observations and experiences, with scientific data from technical partners, to inform management rules of their marine and terrestrial resources.
“It’s been a great opportunity for us to share our experiences with the Girringun community in Australia, moving forward we have to unite and let our voices be heard for the benefit of indigenous communities all over the world in order to build a more resilient and sustainable planet”, said Moce.
According to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, owing to their dependence upon, and close relationship with the environment and its resources.
The importance of First Peoples leadership in conservation is being increasingly recognised. Indigenous people comprise less than 5 per cent of the world's population, but they protect 80 per cent of global biodiversity.
Mrs Rindah Melsen, President of the Nusatuva Women’s Savings Community Club in the Solomon Islands highlighted that coastal communities are also facing the effects of climate change especially when there is a storm or cyclone, sea level rises, flooding homes along the coast and in these conditions families try to relocate to the mainland.
“I am so proud to be here to share the voices and experiences of our women in this forum, the experiences we face during coastal flooding is frightening as we try to relocate some people to safer ground’’, said Melsen.
She added, “A challenge that these coastal communities face is when their communities go underwater, a part of their identity is lost.”
To support maximum participation at the event, seven participants from PNG and 89 participants from Fiji joined the meeting virtually.
“The spiritual and cultural relationship that indigenous communities have with nature underpins their governance and management rules, and it would be remiss of us not to tap into this wisdom and wealth of knowledge in our quest to address the climate and biodiversity crises”, said WWF-Pacific’s Senior Policy and Government Affairs Manager, Alfred Ralifo.
WWF will hold a side event at the COP27 meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh in November and draw on recommendations from the First People's Forum which was held in early September 2022.