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Podong Indigenous Peoples Initiative, co-designed and co-led by Indigenous Peoples and IUCN

Dubai, UAE, 5 December 2023 (IUCN) – Today the International Union for Conservation of Nature, International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB), and IUCN Indigenous Peoples Organisations (IPO) members launched the Podong Indigenous Peoples Initiative at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28).

Indigenous leaders presented the four priorities of this co-led, co-designed initiative, which will: Facilitate the Indigenous-led design of direct funding approaches; scale-up direct investment of Indigenous-led conservation and climate actions; strengthen and build the capacity of Indigenous organisations to access, manage, and govern these investments; and promote Indigenous rights and leadership, particularly that of women and youth, in global biodiversity and climate policy spaces. Each priority corresponds to one of the four cardinal points (North, South, East and West), the four colours of corn (red, black, white and yellow) and the four guardians (E’, K’ej, Noj and I’q) of Mother Earth as vested in the Mayan calendar.

“Indigenous Peoples receive less than 3% of international climate finance. This funding is inadequate, and usually inflexible and inefficient,” said Razan Al Mubarak, IUCN President and UN Climate Change High-level Champion for COP28. “The Podong Indigenous Peoples Initiative provides the chance for Indigenous peoples, who know best what works and does not work for them, to co-design and co-manage their own direct access financial mechanism.”

“IUCN has a long-standing partnership with Indigenous Peoples, and our IPO Members have an equal seat at the table,” said Dr Grethel Aguilar, IUCN Director General. “The Podong initiative's recognition of Indigenous knowledge highlights the power of inclusive, culturally sensitive approaches to conservation. Indigenous peoples are the custodians of a significant portion of the world’s biodiversity, and we are proud to work hand-in-hand with them towards effective conservation outcomes.”

Podong, meaning basket in the indigenous Marma language of Bangladesh, symbolises harvesting abundance and the role and contributions that Indigenous women play in conserving biodiversity and reducing the impacts of climate change in their communities. The Podong Indigenous Peoples Initiative will provide funding directly to Indigenous peoples, ensuring no less than 85% of funds reach Indigenous territories and communities.

“By radically changing the current climate and biodiversity architecture and how this finance is delivered, Podong will provide substantial investments to multiply local results through demonstration of large-scale impacts on the ground,” said Lucy Mulenkei, IIFB Co-Chair. “The initiative will catalyse the transformational changes needed to secure and enhance long-term support for Indigenous Peoples and local communities.”

Anita Tzec, Senior Programme Manager, Indigenous Peoples and Conservation at IUCN, highlighted that “Podong recognises the central role that Indigenous Peoples play in continuing stewarding the Earth", and presented the following specific high-impact targets of the initiative:

  • Mobilising biodiversity and climate finance: Mobilise up to US $200 million from 2023 to 2030 in Biodiversity and Climate finance, ensuring that no less than 85% of these funds reach Indigenous territories and local communities.

  • Increasing gender equality actions: Implement gender-responsive measures to ensure that Podong fully addresses the specific priorities and needs of indigenous women and young girls. This involves ensuring that they constitute at least 50% of the overall stakeholders.

  • Providing direct support to Indigenous-led initiatives on the ground: Support at least 100 Indigenous-led initiatives in Indigenous territories and local communities.

  • Delivering Global Environmental and Biodiversity Benefits: Contribute directly to improve management of approximately 50 million hectares of landscapes and seascapes in biodiversity hotspots and wilderness areas where IP and LCs hold customary or statutory tenure rights over areas of high biodiversity value.

  • Mitigating Climate Change: Mitigate at least 200 million tons of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, significantly contributing to global climate goals.

“The initiative brings together our wisdom, science and knowledge systems to strengthen the work our communities are currently doing to heal Mother Nature," said Ramiro Batzin, IUCN Vice-President and IPO focal point. "It will ensure that a minimum of 85% of all funds are delivered directly to Indigenous peoples, enhancing their means to safeguard their lands and territories, secure their rights, reduce the impacts of climate change, and contribute to global efforts to use, manage and conserve Mother Nature.”

The Podong Indigenous Peoples Initiative will support Indigenous-led initiatives to improve the management of landscapes and seascapes in biodiversity hotspots and wilderness areas where Indigenous peoples and local communities hold customary or statutory tenure rights.

Indigenous leaders of the Podong call on the world today to take collective actions to ensure that as the sacred Mayan book, the Popol Vuh, teaches us, we: Let everyone stand up and advance. Let no one be left behind. Let there be not one or two of us, but all of us moving forward together.

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