Asia-Pacific Youth Leading Climate Resilience and Solutions for Indigenous Peoples Empowerment

May 2, 2024

The twenty-third session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the largest global annual gathering of Indigenous Peoples, was held from 15-26 April 2024 in the UN Headquarters in New York, under the theme "Enhancing Indigenous Peoples' Rights to Self-determination in the Context of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: emphasizing the Voices of Indigenous Youth. 

Speaking at the Forum, Nina Kantcheva, Senior Policy Adviser, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Engagement of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), shared how young Indigenous people are "seizing the opportunity to mobilize on issues that gravely affect their communities and the environment, such as land degradation, displacement, and climate change." 

Nina Kantcheva also underscored the significant impact of the Youth Empowerment in Climate Action Platform (YECAP) and Youth Co:Lab, co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation, two regional youth portfolio programmes in Asia-Pacific. These initiatives have demonstrated how young people can contribute substantially to addressing climate challenges and developing innovative solutions that empower Indigenous communities. 

Sabba Rani Maharjan, Indigenous YECAP Fellow delivering the Joint Statement on behalf of Asia Indigenous Youth Caucus

Sabba Rani Maharjan, Indigenous YECAP Fellow delivering the Joint Statement on behalf of Asia Indigenous Youth Caucus

In the Asia-Pacific region, YECAP has partnered with the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and UNESCO to help build the capacities of indigenous youth networks, enabling them to participate more effectively in climate change advocacy and policy processes at local, national, regional, and global levels. Moreover, the programme has helped establish a safe space for Indigenous youth trained and equipped with the skills and confidence to implement climate actions.  

Youth Co:Lab has launched the Springboard Elevate Programme, an online fellowship initiative that connects a network of social entrepreneurs who lead impact projects that improve the lives of marginalized communities. These communities include Indigenous Peoples, Persons with Disabilities, LGBTI+ groups, and refugees. The programme's primary goal is to create a space for youth entrepreneurs to learn, co-create, and advocate for an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem.  

With the participation of over 2000 people, the UNPFII Twenty-Third Session emphasized better asserting Indigenous Peoples rights, pursuing economic, social, and cultural development, and funding their governance structures, as stipulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

It put special attention on promoting Indigenous women-led initiatives to strengthen their economic rights and empower Indigenous women and girls to dispel harmful stereotypes that reinforce discrimination.  It also encouraged institutions' collaboration with Indigenous Peoples to develop and prioritize strategies for supporting their initiatives and to acknowledge policy and legal milestones, particularly those concerning land and territorial tenure, social representation, and economic development. 

Overall, the forum offered a valuable platform to discover the important contributions made by Indigenous youth and explore the opportunities that exist and need to be initiated to tackle climate challenges and promote sustainable development. 

The forum can be watched on the UN Web TV, and interpretation in all six official UN languages will be available.