CIVICUS discusses the hopes and roles of civil society at the forthcoming COP28 climate summit with Gideon Abraham Sanago, Climate Coordinator with the Pastoralists Indigenous Non-Governmental Organizations’ Forum (PINGOs Forum).
Established in 1994, PINGOs Forum is an advocacy coalition of 53 Indigenous peoples’ organisations working for the rights of marginalised Indigenous pastoralists and hunter-gatherer communities in Tanzania. It was founded by six pastoralists and hunter-gatherers’ organisations promoting a land rights and development agenda.
What environmental issues do you work on?
PINGOs Forum works with Indigenous peoples’ communities across Tanzania to address the impacts the environmental and climate crisis is having on them.
Although it is a global phenomenon, climate change affects communities in different ways and presents a variety of challenges. These include prolonged and severe droughts, floods, biodiversity loss, land conflicts and displacement, and the loss of livestock that communities depend on for their livelihoods. This also leads to the loss of culture and identity as young men migrate towards towns looking for an income-producing job, leaving women, children and older people abandoned at home.
To respond to these challenges, PINGOs Forum supports community initiatives for land conflict resolution, the development of land use plans and the recognition of land rights for Indigenous peoples, as well as for water provision and restocking of agricultural supplies for destitute families. We also build capacity to tackle climate issues and support Indigenous peoples’ participation in national, regional and global climate forums to ensure their voices are heard and the resulting policies respond to their needs.
PINGOs Forum is a member of the Climate Action Network (Tanzania Chapter), the CIVICUS alliance, the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change and other bodies engaging with the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change. We use these platforms for advocacy and campaigning. They have been instrumental for us in being able to voice our concerns and engage in productive dialogue and exchanges.
Have you faced any restrictions or reprisals for the work you do?
Human rights defenders face threats and intimidation when advocating for the rights of Indigenous peoples to land and resources and organising to respond to their violations.
The state of Tanzania does not recognise the existence of Indigenous peoples in the country. Instead, it always refers to them as marginalised groups, forest-dependent communities, forest dwellers and other such terms. This limits the ability of Indigenous peoples to exercise their rights as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, of which Tanzania is a signatory but clearly does not respect.
The UN declaration includes the key right of Indigenous peoples to give free prior and informed consent, which of course the Indigenous peoples of Tanzania have never exercised. Their rights to ownership of land and resources have been repeatedly violated through forceful evictions from their ancestral lands. We have seen examples of this in Loliondo/Ngorongoro and Kimotorok in Simanjiro District.
Another major challenge is access to the media. We believe in the power of media and recognise the pivotal role it plays in addressing the challenges faced by Tanzanian Indigenous peoples. But the media is restricted when it comes to publishing any information coming from Indigenous people’s organisations regarding issues such as land crises, as happened in the case of Loliondo. All media outlets were warned not to publish any information about it.
What priority issues do you expect to see addressed at COP28?
There are several key priorities for Tanzanian Indigenous peoples on the frontline of climate challenges, the first one being funding of loss and damage. One of the key decisions from COP27 was to establish a loss and damage funding mechanism. We would like to see this funding mechanism operationalised with sufficient resources to urgently respond to the challenges faced by Indigenous peoples. We are eager to understand how this mechanism will address economic and non-economic losses and provide compensation for what we have already lost.
More broadly, Indigenous peoples are in dire need of direct access to reliable and flexible funding, including for adaptation measures and to build resilience in the face of the impacts of climate change.
Regarding the carbon market, Indigenous peoples would need to be engaged and the technicalities and political issues around these investment approaches should be clarified. Indigenous peoples should be able to exercise their right to free, prior and informed consent when it comes to carbon credits in their ancestral lands and forests to avoid any rights violations resulting from climate interventions.
All this would require a recognition of the rights and knowledge of Indigenous peoples and their full and effective participation in climate forums at all levels to inform better policy formulation and decision-making processes.
Do you think COP28 will provide enough space for civil society?
We are particularly worried about the fact that COP28’s host country, the United Arab Emirates, restricts civil society movements and campaigns. It is key for civil society and Indigenous peoples’ organisations to be able to exercise their rights to express their views and peacefully demonstrate at any time during the negotiations. Otherwise their perspectives will not be reflected in the outcomes and their concerns will not be addressed.
Civil society and Indigenous peoples’ organisations play a pivotal role as observers at COPs. They hold negotiating parties accountable and make a difference when they are reluctant to take important decisions during the negotiations. During COPs, civil society campaigns, mobilises, develops position papers and issues joint statements to push parties to take urgent actions on agreed points.
What are your expectations concerning its outcomes?
Our main expectation is to have an ambitious COP28 addressing key points of climate change action. We expect the loss and damage financial mechanism to be operationalised in ways that take into consideration the rights of Indigenous peoples and address both the economic and non-economic losses they are experiencing. We expect direct and flexible funding to become accessible to Indigenous peoples, as well as capacity building and the transfer of the required technologies.
We also would like to see a clear definition of adaptation actions and serious emission reduction commitments by developed countries. But above all, we want this to be a COP of actions and not of empty promises – we want to see developed states live up to their commitments, giving vulnerable communities reasons for hope that they will be able to face and survive the impacts of climate change.
Civic space in Tanzania is rated ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.