Inga community from Colombia wins Equator prize in Paris

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Indian Country Today Media Network, Paris, France

The Inga Nation from the south of Colombia was recognized for the recovery of 22.3 hectares and the expelled of armed guerrillas, paramilitaries and drug traffickers. 

21 indigenous peoples and local community initiatives from 19 developing countries were chosen from 1461 nominations from across 126 countries.

In a city where everybody dresses in black during this time of the year, the indigenous communities brought color. Dressed with traditional dresses, indigenous communities were highlight during the Equator Prize Award Ceremony that took place on Monday, as part of the activities of the climate change Summit (COP21).

 The event organized by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in a multi-sector partnership was conducted by famous actor and activist Alec Baldwin and by Helen Clark, administrator of UNDP. Equator prize recognizes sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities.

 From Colombia the Wuasikamas from the Inga Nation were recognized for the recovery of 22.3 hectares of ancestral territory through an agreement with the government of Colombia that funded the Inga’s effort to expel armed guerrillas, paramilitaries and drug traffickers. Following the expulsion of these groups, the Inga people set aside the majority of their land as a 17.500hectares sacred area.

They also developed a financially self-sustaining local governance model, and formed the Court of indigenous peoples in reclaiming their ancestral territories and combating drug trafficking.

One of the members of the community talked about the communal efforts Ingas have made to protect nature and about their search for peace in Colombia and highlighted the willingness they have to keep working for the peace, as direct victims of Colombian's conflict.

With the Colombians, 20 other indigenous peoples and local community initiatives from 19 developing countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia were chosen from 1461 nominations from across 126 countries. Each winning group received 10.000 dollars for the protection, restoration and sustainable management of the forests. The prize also acknowledges community based adaptation projects, sustainable agriculture and food security; securing rights to communal lands, territories resources and advocacy for environmental and climate justice.

Between the winners there were projects from Brazil, Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Iran, Papua New Guinea, Belize, Bolivia, Guyana, Honduras, Congo, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania and Uganda.

The emotive ceremony, was full of words of hope and straight coming from the communities that made a call for the protection of mother earth and the recognition of the importance of the rolled played by the people of the forests in protecting human’s life.

During the event, Alec Baldwin talked about the role that community-based action plays in meeting global challenges. “What I have come to realize,” said Baldwin, “is that the change we need is not going to come from governments alone. Leadership is needed at all levels. And there is power and creativity and ingenuity and vision and leadership coming from grassroots movements everywhere”.

He also pointed on the fact that indigenous peoples and local communities around the world are disproportionately impacted by climate change. From natural disasters to resource scarcity, indigenous peoples and local communities are particularly vulnerable and this is affecting their prospects of sustainable development.

In the event there were also representatives from New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, all countries that support the communal initiatives. Also was Kumi Naidoo, director of Greenpeace who talked about the risks taken by environmental activists and denounced the prosecution that threatens the life of many of them, including indigenous leaders.

The ceremony closed with a speech from Jade Goodall, peace messenger of the United Nations and recognized for her work with chimpanzees. Goodall talked about the need to connect head and hearth, like native communities do, to be able to protect nature.

 “We are the guardians of the forests”, the winners insisted during the event. “Protecting the forests is about saving life in the present and in the future”, they said as they asked for recognition of their knowledge and the tools they use to protect the forests.

 “The earth is crying, nature is bleeding today. Let’s not destroy it, let’s protect it. Otherwise, we will destroy ourselves”, they repeated.