IUCN Update from Tero Mustonen of Snowchange

This blog post is by Dawn Adams, Tapestry Co-President.

Tero Mustonen of Snowchange (of which I am a steering committee member) has sent more reports of his current travels to participate in a number of important meetings. I want to open this brief update with his charge to all of us: “Let us now lead like never before – let’s make our friendships and cooperation the shining beacon of hope in these hard times.”

Last week Tero attended the IUCN World Parks Congress. Organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and hosted by the Australian and New South Wales Governments, the Congress brought together more than 6,000 participants from over 170 countries. The IUCN World Parks Congress is a once-in-a-decade global forum on protected areas. The 2014 session closed with the release of The Promise of Sydney, which sets out an agenda to safeguard the planet’s natural assets. Governments, international organizations, Indigenous leaders, community groups and individuals, representatives from the private sector, and many others have pledged to support this agenda.

Tero was given 4 minutes to speak to ministers and global media during a high-level VIP Plenary event on the 13th, but was actually able to speak for only 2 minutes. He accomplished a great deal in that short time, however! Quoting Tero: “I mentioned at first our work and most recent issues in Northern Russia, and the fact that I’ll arrive to Sakha soon for discussions for 2015. Then I proceeded to identify the urgent issue of the diamond mine in Utsjoki Saami area in Northern Finland that has been issued exploration licenses inside strict nature preserve IUCN category I. Lastly I mentioned that we will launch now international campaign, in early december, with allies from over 79 indigenous and local organisations globally, against Metsahallitus – the State Forestry Agency, who threatens the last old growth forest of Havukkavaara, Selkie . . . [the point being] the failure of them [Metsahallitus] to even negotiate, for the most part, with Saami or us on community conserved old growth. After my speech the head of the Convention of Biological Diversity – CBD from UN and myself had a brief discussion on Metsahallitus …”

On the 15th, Tero co-chaired a long session with the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations from Canada. This two-part session explored inspiring solutions and best practices of sustaining resilient livelihoods of Indigenous and local communities in the context of various external pressures, such as climate change. The session delved into the relationship between maintaining resilient livelihoods of Indigenous and local communities and achieving conservation goals in and around protected areas and landscapes. The session was organized as a traditional talking circle, with each presenter delivering a five-minute opening statement followed by a talking circle-style discussion.

Then Tero traveled to Aotearoa where he met several communities and leaders to continue establishing collaborative relationships. Quoting Tero again: “Darren King and Apanui Skipper, two recognized Maori who lead a lot of the climate change work in here, took me on a special tour spanning ancient Maori fortresses, the Pacific beaches of Paihua, treaty grounds of Waitangi, where the British and the Maori signed their accords, onwards to the Kauri forests, where we saw the largest tree in Aotearoa, a Kauri tree of immense 50 meters! In between we were hosted by the people and community where Wakaiti Dalton, a young Maori woman leader lives – together with her grand mother and aunts she is leading lot of the community work to restore the community and livelihoods for the people. Her grandmother in a quiet and powerful voice told our team: ‘Let s work together to heal our planet.’ Onwards we went to the peak of Toka-Toka, a needle shaped mountain on top of which we bid farewell to the landscapes of the north of the Northern Aotearoa.” He then had extensive meetings with several of the Snowchange steering committee members in that part of the world, including Maori scholar and leader Fiona Cram, who has just published a ground breaking book on Indigenous social research.

Tero is now in Hong Kong (briefly) and then heading to Yakutsk, Sakha, Siberia where he will attend two conferences on UNESCO and the Arcitic, as well as meet with Siberian Snowchange community members to discuss critical issues related to everything from solar panels to nomadic schooling and current politics that are impacting local Indigenous peoples in that region.

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