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The Global Indigenous Youth Caucus meets FAO

03/04/2017 - 

On the 5 – 8 of April, FAO hosted for the first time a meeting with the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus (GIYC), with fifteen participants across seven world regions visiting its headquarters in Rome to discuss partnerships between FAO and indigenous youth worldwide.

The event was aimed at reviewing the FAO-Indigenous Peoples’ Work plan from 2015 to update and incorporate the concerns of indigenous youth. Additionally, the GIYC members prepared a recommendations document for the upcoming Sixteenth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNFPII) to be held in New York from the April 24 to May 5.

On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), this meeting was particularly timely and relevant. But more than that, it has proven a success.

Indigenous youth representatives had the opportunity to interact with FAO’s technical teams to discuss threats and opportunities, and promote the integration of indigenous peoples – in particular indigenous youth – in FAO’s areas of work. 

In his remarks, the Director-General stated, “We cannot eliminate world hunger without youth in a world in which climate change brings new challenges and uncertainties. We learn – with you – to combine traditional knowledge with new technologies. Resiliency in the face of uncertainty from climate change can benefit from indigenous knowledge and practices.” 

In highlighting the work of FAO, Assistant Director-General Laurent Thomas stressed that, “Indigenous peoples can play a critical role in preserving biodiversity and strengthening the resilience of agriculture and food systems.”

Marcela Villarreal, Director of the Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development Division (OPC) in FAO, spoke of the importance of collaboration with indigenous peoples and insisted that “FAO has grown progressively convinced that it cannot achieve its mandate of eradicating hunger, malnutrition and poverty without working shoulder to shoulder with indigenous peoples.”

GIYC participants also shared their perspectives, explaining the significance of meeting with FAO ahead of their presentation in New York. Atama Katama from Malaysia, and Co-president of the GIYC, said, “I am happy to meet with FAO – it is a good opportunity for us to start working together.”

Buba Balkissou, from Cameroon took the opportunity to reiterate the progressive nature of many indigenous peoples: “Indigenous youth are introducing new methods to mitigate climate change and are advocating for the recognition of customs and rights in all African countries. Indigenous youth can contribute to achieve zero hunger by introducing modern methods.”

By the end of the meeting, the indigenous youth representatives drafted a report, the Rome Declaration, which includes recommendations regarding United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On Friday, 7 April, an open event on The role of Indigenous youth in achieving food security for all: Indigenous youth’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals was held in FAO headquarters in Rome. Dan Gustafson, Deputy Director General -Programme, opened the floor and praised the meeting as a cultural exchange and an opportunity to learn from each other.

“This was a unique event for FAO. It is crucial to recognise indigenous youth’s potential contribution to the achievement of FAO’s Strategic Objectives and the 2030 Agenda,” Dan Gustafson said.  

Jeffrey Campbell, manager of the forest and farm facility, talked about the “continuity, connectivity and creativity” that characterises indigenous peoples’ approach to Madre Tierra, and referred to how learning from indigenous peoples can be conducive to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. He advocated for “a move from for -, to with - and eventually to by indigenous peoples.”

Furthermore, Ida Ophaug, GIYC representative from the Arctic, shared the challenges faced by the people of her region, particularly with regards to climate change and its effects on traditional territories and livelihoods. “As an indigenous youth in the Arctic I am very worried about the future. It is very important to me to be able to tell you this today, because I know that FAO shares the same interests and concerns, and you are all aware of the challenges we face. We are very happy to hear that you are open to cooperate with the indigenous youth.”

The meeting has seen a successful cultural and knowledge exchange with indigenous youth. The first of its kind, but hopefully not the last.  

Watch the video on FAO and the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus working together to achieve Zero Hunger here.

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