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Following the Lead of Youth and Indigenous Peoples at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit

Key takeaways from a powerful week of discussion and action in New York City.

By UUSC Staff on October 1, 2019

As the world continues to wake up to the reality of the climate crisis and the threats it poses to humanity and the planet, UUSC joined thousands of activists, civil society leaders, and government officials at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City last week. We listened to the wisdom of youth and indigenous leaders, strategized with allies, amplified community voices, and shared about our work on climate justice.

From the youth-led Climate Strike rally in Battery Park that drew tens of thousands of protesters, to the panel “Climate Defenders: Indigenous Climate Leadership in North America” that UUSC co-sponsored alongside the National Resources Defense Council and Land Is Life, it was a powerful week of discussion and action.

Four UUSC staff, along with one of our partners from Louisiana, Patricia Ferguson-Bohnee, from the Point-au-Chien Tribe, played an active role in several key events. Here are some highlights from the week.

Convenings of Indigenous Leadership and Youth

Some of the events at the Climate Summit were devoted to preparing for COP 25, the 25th Conference of Parties (COP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held in Santiago, Chile, December 2-13. During the summit, a gathering of indigenous leaders discussed key issues that they will bring to COP 25, including the importance of preserving biodiversity and traditional knowledge, and free and informed consent about government plans involving them and their ancestral lands. A major takeaway, that we strive to uphold and honor in UUSC’s work with frontline communities, is that indigenous peoples must be consulted before plans are implemented and that the right of indigenous peoples to self-determine their movement is centered in how we shape our support.

“Climate Defenders” Panel: Powerful Female Voices

The “Climate Defenders” panel that UUSC co-sponsored was a highlight of our presence at the Climate Summit. Everyone in the audience, both in New York, and watching online from around the world, were moved by the powerful testimony from the four female panelists and a moderator from indigenous groups all across North America, including our partner, Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, Director of the Indian Legal Clinic at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, and member of the Pointe-au-Chien Tribe in Louisiana. If you didn’t catch it live, you should watch the recording.

The panel was introduced by Ta’Kaiya Blaney, a young indigenous activist and singer, who discussed how indigenous people are defending their ancestral land from exploitation, destruction, and imperialism, and emphasized how the voices from the front lines need to be uplifted in these kind of meetings. She sang a song in tribute to the indigenous women on the panel, and those who have been killed and gone missing as a result of the invasion of their land.

We encourage anyone interested in climate justice, and particularly the often-overlooked voices of indigenous women, to listen to the full panel recording and hear their powerful words.

Toward Climate Justice for All

As we work hand in hand with Indigenous communities around the world, we are continually learning from them and challenging ourselves to be better allies.  UUSC is proud to continue our work with indigenous communities, the youth, and mobilizing people from all walks of life to combat the climate crisis and come together toward climate justice solutions for all.

Photo Credit: UUSC


About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!

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