An indigenous Mura man stands in a deforested area of a non-demarcated indigenous land in the Amazon rainforest near Humaita An indigenous Mura man stands in a deforested area of a non-demarcated indigenous land in the Amazon rainforest near Humaita 

Vatican: Indigenous Peoples crucial in fight against climate change

The Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN upholds the dignity and rights of Indigenous Peoples across the world and on their unique contribution to a range of areas that represent a precious resource for humanity.

By Linda Bordoni

Ways of managing the climate crisis, preventing a catastrophic loss of biodiversity, the sustainable use of plants and of land are all areas in which Indigenous Peoples have much to offer, but their rights must be protected and respected.  

Their unique experience in matters related to the environment and biodiversity constitute “an irreplaceable resource for all humanity”, said the Holy See's Permanent Observer to the United Nations.

Addressing the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia offered “a few thoughts" regarding the role Indigenous Peoples can and should be able to play "in the areas of health and care for the environment.”

First of all, he recalled Pope Francis’ call to Governments “to recognize the Indigenous Peoples of the whole world, with their cultures, languages, traditions, and spirituality, and to respect their dignity and their rights.”

Traditional medicines

Warning against forms of “ideological colonization”, he thus pointed out that this respect must include recognition of the importance and value of traditional medicines for indigenous people whom, he said must also be ensured access to national health care.

Climate Change

Caccia went on to note that “while Indigenous Peoples have a minimal impact on climate change, they are among the first to face its consequences.”

“At the same time, the contribution of Indigenous Peoples is fundamental in the fight against climate change.”

The archbishop noted that by drawing on their traditional knowledge and practice, they are in an extraordinary position to “help enhance the resilience of ecosystems, including by adapting to the impact of climate change in creative ways.”

Giving value to their cultural heritage and traditional knowledge, he said, “helps open up pathways for better environmental management.”


Finally, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer noted that “Indigenous lands make up around twenty per cent of the Earth’s territory and contain eighty per cent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.”

Thus, he said, “Indigenous Peoples are irreplaceable custodians of biodiversity and key partners in its conservation, restoration and sustainable use.”

“Their unique relationship with their lands, is a ‘fundamental expression of their identity’.”

With this in mind, he concluded, the Holy See reiterates that “any effort to achieve the ambitious targets agreed upon in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework must respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, including over their territories.”

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19 April 2023, 14:20